“Oh, never!” she said. “Never! I shall never try to pry into affairs of State.”
He smiled rather cynically. “That is a very wise resolution,” he said. “I shall tell Bernard that I have married the most discreet woman in the Empire—as well as the most beautiful.”
“Did you marry her for her beauty or for her discretion?” asked Stella.
“Neither,” he said.
“Are you sure?” She leaned her cheek against his shoulder. “It’s no good pretending with me you know, I can see through anything, detect any disguise, so far as you are concerned.”
“Think so?” said Monck.
“Answer my question!” she said.
“I didn’t know you asked one.” His voice was brusque; he pushed his pipe into his mouth without looking at her.
She reached up and daringly removed it. “I asked what you married me for,” she said. “And you suck your horrid pipe and won’t even look at me.”
His arm went round her. He looked down into her eyes and she saw the fiery worship in his own. For a moment its intensity almost frightened her. It was like the red fire of a volcano rushing forth upon her—a fierce, unshackled force. For a space he held her so, gazing at her; then suddenly he crushed her to him, he kissed her burningly till she felt as if caught and consumed by the flame.
“My God!” he said passionately. “Can I put—that—into words?”
She clung to him, but she was trembling. There was that about him at the moment that startled her. She was in the presence of something terrible, something she could not fathom. There was more than rapture in his passion. It was poignant with a fierce defiance that challenged all the world.
She lay against his breast in silence while the storm that she had so unwittingly raised spent itself. Then at last as his hold began to slacken she took courage.
She laid her cheek against his hand. “Ah, don’t love me too much at first, darling,” she said. “Give me the love that lasts!”
“And you think my love will not last?” he said, his voice low and very deep.
She softly kissed the hand she held. “No, I didn’t say—or mean—that. I believe it is the greatest thing that I shall ever possess. But—shall I tell you a secret? There is something in it that frightens me—even though I glory in it.”
“My dear!” he said.
She raised her lips again to his. “Yes, I know. That is foolish. But I don’t know you yet, remember. I have never yet seen you angry with me.”
“You never will,” he said.
“Yes, I shall.” Her eyes were gazing into his, but they saw beyond. “There will come a day when something will come between us. It may be only a small thing, but it will not seem small to you. And you will be angry because I do not see with your eyes. And I think the very greatness of your love will make it harder for us both. You mustn’t worship me, Everard. I am only human. And you will be so bitterly disappointed afterwards when you discover my limitations.”