164 True Stories of Girl Heroines
case coming before him was granted any space for dis- cussion and hair-splitting.
His own soldiers told the tale fairly enough, admitting the insult, the drunken violence of their dead comrade, and the fact that they had no real right to be in Lady Bridges' house or presence at all. They described the death in detail ; and Mary stood silent listening to all that passed ; but speaking never a word, nor giving one sign of wavering or of fear.
The Colonel's sombre glance rested again and again upon her face ; and, when the accusation was brought to an end, he asked her to state her defence.
" I did it," she answered, speaking fearlessly, " I am going to tell you what your * Lambs ' are like, and you can kill me afterwards in any way you choose. I am not afraid. Your men are cowards and drunkards. I grant they can fight ; but they are cowards in their cups. They insult women and girls ; they make themselves feared and hated and detested wherever they go. Men speak of them with execration, and they will go down to posterity hated and loathed. Mother, don't try and stop me ! I will speak now that I have the chance. Colonel Kirke, have you a mother ? Were you ever asked to stand by and hear her grossly threatened and insulted ? If you had been there, what would you have done ? I am not a man, I am only a weak girl, but I was not going to endure that. I would have killed every man who had sought