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Percy Greg
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 490 pages of information about Across the Zodiac.
by a doubt of its possible endurance which rendered it as touching as attractive.  Never was the sleep even of the poet of the Midsummer Night’s Dream visited by a lovelier vision—­especially lovely as the soft rose blush suffused her cheeks under my gaze of admiration and delight.  Springing up, I caught her with both hands and drew her on my knee.  Some minutes passed before either of us cared to speak.  Probably as she rested her head on my arm and looked into my eyes, each read the other’s character more truly and clearly than words the most frank and open could ever enable us to do.  I had taught her last night a few substitutes in the softest tongue I knew for those words of natural tenderness in which her language is signally deficient:  taught her to understand them, certainly not to use them, for it was long before I could even induce her to address me by name.

“My father bade me yesterday,” she said at last, “ask you in future to wear the dress of our people.  Not that you will be the less an object of attention and wonder, but that in retaining a distinction which depends entirely on your own choice, you will seem intentionally to prefer your own habits to ours.”

“I comply of course,” I observed.  “Naturally the dress of every country is best suited to its own conditions.  Yet I should have thought that a preference for my own world, even were it wholly irrational, might seem at least natural and pardonable.”

“People don’t,” she answered simply, “like any sign of individual fancy or opinion.  They don’t like any one to show that he thinks them wrong even on a matter of taste.”

“I fear, then, carissima, that I must be content with unpopularity.  I may wear the costume of your people; but their thought, their conduct, their inner and outer life, as your father reports them, and as thus far I have seen them, are to me so unnatural, that the more I resemble them externally the more my unlikeness in all else is likely to attract notice.  I am sorry for this, because women are by nature prone to judge even their nearest and dearest by the standard of fashion, and to exact from men almost as close a conformity to that standard as they themselves display.  I fear you will have to forgive many heresies in my conduct as well as in my thoughts.”

“You cannot suppose,” she answered earnestly—­she seemed incapable of apprehending irony or jest,—­“that I should wish you more like others than you are.  Whatever may happen hereafter, I shall always feel myself the happiest of women in having belonged to one who cares for something beside himself, and holds even life cheaper than love.”  “I hope so, carissima.  But in that matter there was scarcely more of love than of choice.  What I did for you I must have done no less for Zevle [her sister].  If I had feared death as much as the Regent does, I could not have returned alive and alone.  My venture into infinite space involved possibilities of horror more appalling than the mere terrors of death.  You asked of me as my one bridal gift leave to share its perils.  How unworthy of you should I be, if I did not hold the possession of Eveena, even for the two years of her promise, well worth dying for!”

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