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HOME > Classical Novels > Men of Iron > CHAPTER 18
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 For a little time there was a pause of deep silence, during which the fluttering leaves came drifting down from the broken arbor above.  
It was the Lady Anne who first spoke. “Who art thou, and whence comest thou?” said she, tremulously.
Then Myles gathered himself up sheepishly. “My name is Myles Falworth,” said he, “and I am one of the squires of the body.”
“Oh! aye!” said the Lady Alice, suddenly. “Me thought I knew thy face. Art thou not the young man that I have seen in Lord George's train?”
“Yes, lady,” said Myles, wrapping and twining a piece of the broken vine in and out among his fingers. “Lord George hath often had me of late about his person.”
“And what dost thou do here, sirrah?” said Lady Anne, angrily. “How darest thou come so into our garden?”
“I meant not to come as I did,” said Myles, clumsily, and with a face hot and red. “But I slipped over the top of the wall and fell hastily into the garden. Truly, lady, I meant ye no harm or fright thereby.”
He looked so drolly abashed as he stood before them, with his clothes torn and soiled from the fall, his face red, and his eyes downcast, all the while industriously twisting the piece of clematis in and around his fingers, that Lady Anne's half-frightened anger could not last. She and her cousin exchanged glances, and smiled at one another.
“But,” said she at last, trying to draw her pretty brows together into a frown, “tell me; why didst thou seek to climb the wall?”
“I came to seek a ball,” said Myles, “which I struck over hither from the court beyond.”
“And wouldst thou come into our privy garden for no better reason than to find a ball?” said the young lady.
“Nay,” said Myles; “it was not so much to find the ball, but, in good sooth, I did truly strike it harder than need be, and so, gin I lost the ball, I could do no less than come and find it again, else our sport is done for the day. So it was I came hither.”
The two young ladies had by now recovered from their fright. The Lady Anne slyly nudged her cousin with her elbow, and the younger could not suppress a half-nervous laugh. Myles heard it, and felt his face grow hotter and redder than ever.
“Nay,” said Lady Anne, “I do believe Master Giles—”
“My name be'st Myles,” corrected Myles.
“Very well, then, Master Myles, I say I do believe that thou meanest no harm in coming hither; ne'theless it was ill of thee so to do. An my father should find thee here, he would have thee shrewdly punished for such trespassing. Dost thou not know that no one is permitted to enter this place—no, not even my uncle George? One fellow who came hither to steal apples once had his ears shaven close to his head, and not more than a year ago one of the cook's men who climbed the wall early one morning was shot by the watchman.”
“Aye,” said Myles, “I knew of him who was shot, and it did go somewhat against my stomach to venture, knowing what had happed to him. Ne'theless, an I gat not the ball, how were we to play more to-day at the trap?”
“Marry, thou art a bold fellow, I do believe me,” said the young lady, “and sin thou hast come in the face of such peril to get thy ball, thou shalt not go away empty. Whither didst thou strike it?”
“Over yonder by the cherry-tree,” said Myles, jerking his head in that direction. “An I may go get it, I will trouble ye no more.” As he spoke he made a motion to leave them.
“Stay!” said the Lady Anne, hastily; “remain where thou art. An thou cross the open, some one may haply see thee from the house, and will give the alarm, and thou wilt be lost. I will go get thy ball.”
And so she left Myles and her cousin, crossing the little plots of grass and skirting the rosebushes to the cherry-tree.
When Myles found himself alone with Lady Alice, he knew not where to look or what to do, but twisted the piece of clematis which he still held in and out more industriously than ever.
Lady Alice watched him with dancing eyes for a little while. “Haply thou wilt spoil that poor vine,” said she by-and-by, breaking the silence and laughing, then turning suddenly serious again. “Didst thou hurt thyself by thy fall?”
“Nay,” said Myles, looking up, “such a fall as that was no great matter. Many and many a time I have had worse.”
“Hast thou so?” said the Lady Alice. “Thou didst fright me parlously, and my coz likewise.”
Myles hesitated for a moment, and then blurted out, “Thereat I grieve, for thee I would not fright for all the world.”
The young lady laughed and blushed. “All the world is a great matter,” said she.
“Yea,” said he, “it is a great matter; but it is a greater matter to fright thee, and so I would not do it for that, and more.”
The young lady laughed again, but she did not say anything further, and a space of silence fell so long that by-and-by she forced herself to say, “My cousin findeth not the ball presently.”
“Nay,” said Myles, briefly, and then again neither spoke, until by-and-by the Lady Anne came, bringing the ball. Myles felt a great sense of relief at that coming, and yet was somehow sorry. Then he took the ball, and knew enough to bow his acknowledgment in a manner neither ill nor awkward.
“Didst thou hurt thyself?” asked Lady Anne.
“Nay,” said Myles, giving himself a shake; “seest thou not I be whole, limb and bone? Nay, I have had shrewdly worse falls than that. Once I fell out of an oak-tree down by the river and upon a root, and bethought me I did break a rib or more. And then one time when I was a boy in Crosbey-Dale—that was where I lived before I came hither—I did catch me hold of the blade of the windmill, thinking it was moving slowly, and that I would have a ride i' th' air, and so was like to have had a fall ten thousand times worse than this.”
“Oh, tell us more of that!” said the Lady Anne, eagerly. “I did never hear of such an adventure as that. Come, coz, and sit down here upon the bench, and let us have him tell us all of that happening.”
Now the lads upon the other side of the wall had been whistling furtively for some time, not knowing whether Myles had broken his neck or had come off scot-free from his fall. “I would like right well to stay with ye,” said he, irresolutely, “and would gladly tell ye that and more an ye would have me to do so; but hear ye not my friends call me from beyond? Mayhap they think I break my back, and are calling to see whether I be alive or no. An I might whistle them answer and toss me this ball to them, all would then be well, and they would know that I was not hurt, and so, haply, would go away.”
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