CHAPTER XX—A noble marriage
When the duke came back from France, and to pay his first eager visit to his bride that was to be, her ladyship’s lacqueys led him not to the Panelled Parlour, but to a room which he had not entered before, it being one she had had the fancy to have remodelled and made into a beautiful closet for herself, her great wealth rendering it possible for her to accomplish changes without the loss of time the owners of limited purses are subjected to in the carrying out of plans. This room she had made as unlike the Panelled Parlour as two rooms would be unlike one another. Its panellings were white, its furnishings were bright and delicate, its draperies flowered with rosebuds tied in clusters with love-knots of pink and blue; it had a large bow-window, through which the sunlight streamed, and it was blooming with great rose-bowls overrunning with sweetness.
From a seat in the morning sunshine among the flowers and plants in the bow-window, there rose a tall figure in a snow-white robe—a figure like that of a beautiful stately girl who was half an angel. It was my lady, who came to him with blushing cheeks and radiant shining eyes, and was swept into his arms in such a passion of love and blessed tenderness as Heaven might have smiled to see.
“My love! my love!” he breathed. “My life! my life and soul!”
“My Gerald!” she cried. “My Gerald—let me say it on your breast a thousand times!”
“My wife!” he said—“so soon my wife and all my own until life’s end.”
“Nay, nay,” she cried, her cheek pressed to his own, “through all eternity, for Love’s life knows no end.”
As it had seemed to her poor lord who had died, so it seemed to this man who lived and so worshipped her—that the wonder of her sweetness was a thing to marvel at with passionate reverence. Being a man of greater mind and poetic imagination than Dunstanwolde, and being himself adored by her, as that poor gentleman had not had the good fortune to be, he had ten thousand-fold the power and reason to see the tender radiance of her. As she was taller than other women, so her love seemed higher and greater, and as free from any touch of earthly poverty of feeling as her beauty was from any flaw. In it there could be no doubt, no pride; it could be bounded by no limit, measured by no rule, its depths sounded by no plummet.
His very soul was touched by her great longing to give to him the feeling, and to feel herself, that from the hour that she had become his, her past life was a thing blotted out.
“I am a new created thing,” she said; “until you called me ‘Love’ I had no life! All before was darkness. ’Twas you, my Gerald, who said, ’Let there be light, and there was light.’”
“Hush, hush, sweet love,” he said. “Your words would make me too near God’s self.”
“Sure Love is God,” she cried, her hands upon his shoulders, her face uplifted. “What else? Love we know; Love we worship and kneel to; Love conquers us and gives us Heaven. Until I knew it, I believed naught. Now I kneel each night and pray, and pray, but to be pardoned and made worthy.”