“Forgive me, sweet lady,” he said quite gently, as he rose from his knees. “I said more than I had any right to say. I entreat you to forgive the poor, presuming peasant who hath dared to raise his eyes to the fairy princess of his dreams. I pray you to try and forget all that hath happened to-night beneath the shadows of these elms—and only to remember one thing: that my life—my lonely, humble, unimportant life—is yours ... to serve or help you, to worship or comfort you if need be ... and that there could be no greater happiness for me than to give it for your sweet sake.”
He bowed very low, until his hand could reach the hem of her kirtle, which he then raised to his lips. She was infinitely sorry for him; all her anger against him had vanished.
He was very reluctant to go, for this portion of the park was some distance from the house. But she had commanded and he quite understood that she wished to be alone: love such as that which he felt for his sweet lady is ever watchful, yet ever discreet. Was it not natural that she did not care to look on him after he had angered her so?
She seemed impatient too, and although her feelings towards him had softened, she repeated somewhat nervously: “I pray you go! Good master, I would be alone.”
Lambert hesitated a while longer, he looked all round him as if suspicious of any marauders that might be lurking about. The hour was not very late, and had she not commanded him to go?
Nor would he seem to pry on her movements. Having once made up his mind to obey, he did so without reserve. Having kissed the hem of her kirtle he turned towards the house.
He meant to keep on the tiny footpath, which she would be bound to traverse after him, when she returned. He felt sure that something would warn him if she really needed his help.
The park and woodland were still: only the mournful hooting of an owl, the sad sighing of the wind in the old elms broke the peaceful silence of this summer’s night.
THE STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES
Sue waited—expectant and still—until the last sound of the young man’s footsteps had died away in the direction of the house.
Then with quick impulsive movements she ran to the gate; her hands sought impatiently in the dark for the primitive catch which held it to. A large and rusty bolt! she pulled at it—clumsily, for her hands were trembling. At last the gate flew open; she was out in the woods, peering into the moonlit thicket, listening for that most welcome sound, the footsteps of the man she loved.
“My prince!” she exclaimed, for already he was beside her—apparently he had lain in wait for her, and now held her in his arms.
“My beautiful and gracious lady,” he murmured in that curiously muffled voice of his, which seemed to endow his strange personality with additional mystery.