“My angel! now I know that you love me!” cried Edgar triumphantly, holding her strained to his heart as he pressed her bashful, tremulous little lips, Leam feeling that she had proved her love by the sacrifice of all that she held most dear—by the sacrifice of herself and modesty.
The first kiss for a girl whose love was as strong as fire and as pure—for a girl who had not a weak or sensual fibre in her nature—yes, it was a sacrifice the like of which men do not understand; especially Edgar, loose-lipped, amorous Edgar, with his easy loves, his wide experience, his consequent loss of sensitive perception, and his holding all women as pretty much alike—creatures rather than individuals, and created for man’s pleasure: especially he did not understand how much this little action, which was one so entirely of course to him, cost her—how great the gift, how eloquent of what it included. But Leam, burning with shame, thought that she should never bear to see the sun again; and yet it was for Edgar, and for Edgar she would have done even more than this. “Have you enjoyed yourself, Leam, my dear?” asked Mrs. Corfield as they drove home in the quiet moonlight.
“No—yes,” answered Leam, who wished that the little woman would not talk to her. How could she say that this fiery unrest was enjoyment? The word was so trivial. But indeed what word could compass the strange passion that possessed her?—that mingled bliss and anguish of young love newly born, lately confessed.
“Have you enjoyed yourself, Alick, my boy?” asked the little woman again.
She had had no love-affairs to disturb her with pleasure or with pain, and she was full of the mechanism of the evening, and wanted to talk it over.
“I never enjoy that kind of thing,” answered Alick in a voice that was full of tears.
He had witnessed the scene in the garden, and his heart was sore, both for himself and for her.
“Oh,” said Mrs. Corfield briskly, “it was a pretty sight, and I am sure every one was happy.”
Had she seen Adelaide Birkett sitting before her glass, her face covered in her hands and shedding hot tears like rain—had she seen Leam standing by her open window, letting the cool night-air blow upon her, too feverish and disturbed to rest—she would not have said that every one had been happy at the ball given in honor of Josephine’s marriage. Perhaps of all those immediately concerned Edgar was the most content, for now that he had committed himself he had done with the torment of indecision, and by putting himself finally under the control of circumstances he seemed to have thrown off the strain of responsibility.
So the night passed, and the next day came, bringing toil to the weary, joy to the happy, wealth to the rich, and sorrow to the sad—bringing Edgar to Leam, and Leam to the deeper consciousness and confession of her love.