“But how did you unlock the springs?”
“Ah! those might have baffled me if you had trusted to them. You made a double mistake when you left Enva on guard.... You don’t think I tempted her to disobey? Eager as I was for release, I could not have been so doubly false. She did it unconsciously. It is time to put her out of pain.”
“Does she know me so little as to think I could mean to torture her by suspense? Besides, even she must have seen that you had secured her pardon.”
“Or my own punishment,” Eveena answered.
“Spare me such words, Eveena, unless you mean to make me yet more ashamed of the compulsion I did employ. I never spoke, I never thought”——
“Forgive me, dearest. Will it vex you to find how clearly your flower-bird has learned to read your will through your eyes? When I refused to obey, and you felt yourself obliged to compel, your first momentary thought was to threaten, your next that I should not believe you. When you laid your hand upon my shoulder, thus, it was no gesture of anger or menace. You thought of the only promise I must believe, and you dropped the thought as quickly as your hand. You would not speak the word you might have to keep. Nay, dearest, what pains you so? You gave me no pain, even when you called another to enforce your command. Yet surely you know that that must have tried my spirit far more than anything else you could do. You did well. Do you think that I did not appreciate your imperious anxiety for me; that I did not respect your resolution to do what you thought right, or feel how much it cost you? If anything in the ways of love like yours could pain me, it would be the sort of reserved tenderness that never treats me as frankly and simply as” ... “There was no need to name either of those so dearly loved, so lately—and, alas! so differently—lost. Trusting the loyalty of my love so absolutely in all else, can you not trust it to accept willingly the enforcement of your will ... as you have enforced it on all others you have ruled, from the soldiers of your own world to the rest of your household? Ah! the light breaks through the mist. Before you gave Enva her charge you said to me in her presence, ‘Forgive me what you force upon me;’ as if I, above all, were not your own to deal with as you will. Dearest, do you so wrong her who loves you, and is honoured by your love, as to fancy that any exertion of your authority could make her feel humbled in your eyes or her own?”
It was impossible to answer. Nothing would have more deeply wounded her simple humility, so free from self-consciousness, as the plain truth; that as her character unfolded, the infinite superiority of her nature almost awed me as something—save for the intense and occasionally passionate tenderness of her love—less like a woman than an angel.