Mary Bridges 165
to attack her. Whether I killed him by an open pass at him, or whether he ran upon his own sword, I do not know- -I do not care. I stood there to save my mother and my sister from outrage. You can condemn me to death for it, if you will. I am not afraid ! "
There was deathly silence in the hall for a few seconds after those words were spoken. Then Colonel Kirke's voice rang out firm and clear :
" Bring me the sword with which this deed was done!"
The sword was brought. The Colonel took it in his hands and looked upon it. There was the stain of blood upon the shining blade.
Lady Bridges gasped when she saw him turn towards Mary. Was he about to slay her child before her very eyes ?
Straight and tall towered the terrible Colonel before Mary ; he then did a very strange thing a thing so strange that those who witnessed it drew their breath in silent amaze. He slightly bent the knee, and placed the naked sword very gently in Mary's hands.
" Mistress Mary Bridges," he said, in that voice which had caused so many to tremble, and which had of late given so many fearful orders of merciless savagery, " this sword is yours. Take it ; and take with it the full acquittal of this court. The act that