“I have been lonely—lonely all my life,” my Lady Dunstanwolde had once said to her sister, and she had indeed spoken a truth.
Even in her childhood she had felt in some strange way she stood apart from the world about her. Before she had been old enough to reason she had been conscious that she was stronger and had greater power and endurance than any human being about her. Her strength she used in these days in wilful tyranny, and indeed it was so used for many a day when she was older. The time had never been when an eye lighted on her with indifference, or when she could not rule and punish as she willed. As an infant she had browbeaten the women-servants and the stable-boys and grooms; but because of her quick wit and clever tongue, and also because no humour ever made her aught but a creature well worth looking at, they had taken her bullying in good-humour and loved her in their coarse way. She had tyrannised over her father and his companions, and they had adored and boasted of her; but there had not been one among them whom she could have turned to if a softer moment had come upon her and she had felt the need of a friend, nor indeed one whom she did not regard privately with contempt.
A god or goddess forced upon earth and surrounded by mere human beings would surely feel a desolateness beyond the power of common words to express, and a human being endowed with powers and physical gifts so rare as to be out of all keeping with those of its fellows of ordinary build and mental stature must needs be lonely too.
She had had no companion, because she had found none like herself, and none with whom she could have aught in common. Anne she had pitied, being struck by some sense of the unfairness of her lot as compared with her own. John Oxon had moved her, bringing to her her first knowledge of buoyant, ardent youth, and blooming strength and beauty; for Dunstanwolde she had felt gratitude and affection; but than these there had been no others who even distantly had touched her heart.
The night she had given her promise to Dunstanwolde, and had made her obeisance before his kinsman as she had met his deep and leonine eye, she had known that ’twas the only man’s eye before which her own would fall and which held the power to rule her very soul.
She did not think this as a romantic girl would have thought it; it was revealed to her by a sudden tempestuous leap of her heart, and by a shock like terror. Here was the man who was of her own build, whose thews and sinews of mind and body was as powerful as her own—here was he who, had she met him one short year before, would have revolutionised her world.
In the days of her wifehood when she had read in his noble face something of that which he endeavoured to command and which to no other was apparent, the dignity of his self-restraint had but filled her with tenderness more passionate and grateful.
“Had he been a villain and a coward,” was her thought, “he would have made my life a bitter battle; but ’tis me he loves, not himself only, and as I honour him so does he honour me.”