“True enough,” I said; “only on Earth it is mostly woman’s tongue that breaks the heart, and men must not in return bruise the skin.”
“Why not?” she asked. “You said to my mother the other day that Arga (the fretful child of Esmo’s adoption) deserved to be beaten.”
“Women are supposed,” I answered, “to be amenable to milder influences; and a man must be drunk or utterly brutal before he could deal harshly with a creature so gentle and so fragile as yourself.”
“Don’t spoil me,” she said, with a pretty half-mournful, half-playful glance. “‘A petted bride makes an unhappy wife.’ Surely it is no true kindness to tempt us to count on an indulgence that cannot last.”
“There is among us,” I rejoined, “a saying about ’breaking a butterfly on the wheel’—as if one spoke of driving away the tiny birds that nestle and feed in your flowers with a hammer. To apply your proverbs to yourself would be to realise this proverb of ours. Can you not let me pet and spoil my little flower-bird at least till I have tamed her, and trust me to chastise her as soon as she shall give reason—if I can find a tendril or flower-stem light enough for the purpose?”
“Will you promise to use a hammer when you wish to be rid of her?” said she, glancing up for one moment through her drooping lashes with a look exactly attuned to the mingled archness and pathos of her tone.
CHAPTER XI — A COUNTRY DRIVE.
Like all Martialists, I had been accustomed since my landing to wake with the first light of dawn; but the draught, though its earlier effects were anything but narcotic or stupifying, deepened and prolonged my sleep. It was not till the rays of sunlight came clear and full through the crystal roof of the peristyle, and the window of our bridal chamber, that my eyes unclosed. The first object on which they opened startled me into full waking recollection. Exactly where the sunbeams fell, just within reach of my hand, Eveena stood; the loveliest creature I ever beheld, a miniature type of faultless feminine grace and beauty. By the standard of Terrestrial humanity she was tiny rather than small: so light, so perfect in proportion, form, and features, so absolutely beautiful, so exquisitely delicate, as to suggest the ideal Fairy Queen realised in flesh and blood, rather than any properly human loveliness. In the transparent delicacy of a complexion resembling that of an infant child of the fairest and most tenderly nurtured among the finest races of Europe, in the ideally perfect outline of face and features—the noble but even forehead—the smooth, straight, clearly pencilled eyebrows—the large almond-shaped eyes and drooping lids, with their long, dark, soft fringe—the little mouth and small, white, even regular teeth—the rosy lips, slightly compressed, save when parted in speech, smile, or eager attention—she exhibited in their most perfect