The Earl, gripping his staff behind his back, and with his head a little bent, was looking keenly at the lad from under his shaggy gray brows. "Well," said he, as Myles stopped, "thou hast gone too far now to draw back. Say thy say to the end. Why wouldst thou rather be in thy father's stead than in mine?"
"Thou shalt finish thy speech, or else show thyself a coward. Though thy father is ruined, thou didst say I am--what?"
Myles keyed himself up to the effort, and then blurted out, "Thou art attainted with shame."
A long breathless silence followed.
"Myles Falworth," said the Earl at last (and even in the whirling of his wits Myles wondered that he had the name so pat)--"Myles Falworth, of all the bold, mad, hare-brained fools, thou art the most foolish. How dost thou dare say such words to me? Dost thou not know that thou makest thy coming punishment ten times more bitter by such a speech?"
"Aye!" cried Myles, desperately; "but what else could I do? An I did not say the words, thou callest me coward, and coward I am not."
"By 'r Lady!" said the Earl, "I do believe thee. Thou art a bold, impudent varlet as ever lived--to beard me so, forsooth! Hark'ee; thou sayst I think naught of mine old comrade. I will show thee that thou dost belie me. I will suffer what thou hast said to me for his sake, and for his sake will forgive thee thy coming hither--which I would not do in another case to any other man. Now get thee gone straightway, and come hither no more. Yonder is the postern-gate; mayhap thou knowest the way. But stay! How camest thou hither?"
Myles told him of the spikes he had driven in the wall, and the Earl listened, stroking his beard. When the lad had ended, he fixed a sharp look upon him. "But thou drove not those spikes alone," said he; "who helped thee do it?"
In the afternoon we paid our respects to the governor —
first time that he had been surprised there he apologized