The girl let her velvet cap fall on the ground, and sank her face between her hands. Her whole body was shaken with emotion.
“Go—go,” she cried, starting to her feet and standing before him, “call out your lances and ride home this night. Never look more upon the face of such a thing as Sybilla de Thouars. I bid you! I warn you! I command you! I thought I had been of stone, but now when I see you, and hear your words, I cannot do that which is laid upon me to do.”
William of Douglas smiled.
“I cannot go,” he said simply, “I love you. Moreover, I will not go—I am Earl of Douglas.”
The girl clasped her hands helplessly.
“Not if I tell you that I have deceived you, led you on?” she said. “Not if I swear that I am the slave of a power so terrible that there are no words in any language to tell the least of the things I have suffered?”
The Earl shook his head. The girl suddenly stamped her foot in anger. “Go—go, I tell you,” she cried; “stay not a day in this accursed place, wherein no true word is spoken and no loyal deed done, save those which come forth from your own true heart.”
“Nay,” said William Douglas, with his eyes on hers, “it is too late, Sybil. I have kissed the red of your lips. Your head hath lain on my breast. My whole soul is yours. I cannot now go back, even if I would. The boy I have been, I can be no more for ever.”
The girl rose from the stone on which she had been sitting. There was a new smile in her eyes. She held out her hands to the youth who stood so erect and proud before her. “Well, at the worst, William Douglas,” she said, “you may never live to wear a white head, but at least you shall touch the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, taste the fruitage and smell the blossoms thereof more than a hundred greybeards. I had not thought that earth held anywhere such a man, or that aught but blackness and darkness remained this side of hell for one so desolate as I. I have bid you leave me. I have told you that which, were it known, would cost me my life. But since you will not go,—since you are strong enough to stand unblenching in the face of doom,—you shall not lose all without a price.”
She opened her arms wide, and her eyes were glorious.
“I love you,” she said, her lips thrilling towards him, “I love you, love you, as I never thought to love any man upon this earth.”
THE GABERLUNZIE MAN
The next morning the Chancellor came down early from his chamber, and finding Earl Douglas already waiting in the courtyard, he rubbed his hands and called out cheerfully: “We shall be more lonely to-day, but perhaps even more gay. For there are many things men delight in which even the fairest ladies care not for, fearing mayhap some invasion of their dominions.”
“What mean you, my Lord Chancellor?” said the Douglas to his host, eagerly scanning the upper windows meanwhile.