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HOME > Classical Novels > Men of Iron > CHAPTER 9
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“How now, messieurs?” said a harsh voice, that fell upon the turmoil like a thunder-clap, and there stood Sir James Lee. Instantly the struggle ceased, and the combatants scrambled to their feet.
The older lads stood silent before their chief, but Myles was deaf and blind and mad with passion, he knew not where he stood or what he said or did. White as death, he stood for a while glaring about him, catching his breath convulsively. Then he screamed hoarsely.
“Who struck me? Who struck me when I was down? I will have his blood that struck me!” He caught sight of Blunt. “It was he that struck me!” he cried. “Thou foul traitor! thou coward!” and thereupon leaped at his enemy like a wild-cat.
“Stop!” cried Sir James Lee, clutching him by the arm.
Myles was too blinded by his fury to see who it was that held him. “I will not stop!” he cried, struggling and striking at the knight. “Let me go! I will have his life that struck me when I was down!”
The next moment he found himself pinned close against the wall, and then, as though his sight came back, he saw the grim face of the old one-eyed knight looking into his.
“Dost thou know who I am?” said a stern, harsh voice.
Instantly Myles ceased struggling, and his arms fell at his side. “Aye,” he said, in a gasping voice, “I know thee.” He swallowed spasmodically for a moment or two, and then, in the sudden revulsion of feeling, burst out sobbing convulsively.
Sir James marched the two off to his office, he himself walking between them, holding an arm of each, the other lads following behind, awe-struck and silent. Entering the office, Sir James shut the door behind him, leaving the group of squires clustered outside about the stone steps, speculating in whispers as to what would be the outcome of the matter.
After Sir James had seated himself, the two standing facing him, he regarded them for a while in silence. “How now, Walter Blunt,” said he at last, “what is to do?”
“Why, this,” said Blunt, wiping his bleeding lip. “That fellow, Myles Falworth, hath been breeding mutiny and revolt ever sin he came hither among us, and because he was thus mutinous I would punish him therefor.”
“In that thou liest!” burst out Myles. “Never have I been mutinous in my life.”
“Be silent, sir,” said Sir James, sternly. “I will hear thee anon.”
“Nay,” said Myles, with his lips twitching and writhing, “I will not be silent. I am friendless here, and ye are all against me, but I will not be silent, and brook to have lies spoken of me.”
Even Blunt stood aghast at Myles's boldness. Never had he heard any one so speak to Sir James before. He did not dare for the moment even to look up. Second after second of dead stillness passed, while Sir James sat looking at Myles with a stern, terrifying calmness that chilled him in spite of the heat of his passion.
“Sir,” said the old man at last, in a hard, quiet voice, “thou dost know naught of rules and laws of such a place as this. Nevertheless, it is time for thee to learn them. So I will tell thee now that if thou openest thy lips to say only one single word more except at my bidding, I will send thee to the black vault of the donjon to cool thy hot spirits on bread and water for a week.” There was something in the measured quietness of the old knight's tone that quelled Myles utterly and entirely. A little space of silence followed. “Now, then, Blunt,” said Sir James, turning to the bachelor, “tell me all the ins and outs of this business without any more underdealing.”
This time Blunt's story, though naturally prejudiced in his own favor, was fairly true. Then Myles told his side of the case, the old knight listening attentively.
“Why, how now, Blunt,” said Sir James, when Myles had ended, “I myself gave the lads leave to go to the river to bathe. Wherefore shouldst thou forbid one of them?”
“I d............
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