There, in her arms, among the flowers and in the sweetness of the sun, he lived again the past, telling her of the days when, knowing his danger, he had held himself aloof, declining to come to her lord’s house with the familiarity of a kinsman, because the pang of seeing her often was too great to bear; and relating to her also the story of the hours when he had watched her and she had not known his nearness or guessed his pain, when she had passed in her equipage, not seeing him, or giving him but a gracious smile. He had walked outside her window at midnight sometimes, too, coming because he was a despairing man, and could not sleep, and returning homeward, having found no rest, but only increase of anguish. “Sometimes,” he said, “I dared not look into your eyes, fearing my own would betray me; but now I can gaze into your soul itself, for the midnight is over—and joy cometh with the morning.”
As he had spoken, he had caressed softly with his hand her cheek and her crown of hair, and such was his great gentleness that ’twas as if he touched lovingly a child; for into her face there had come that look which it would seem that in the arms of the man she loves every true woman wears—a look which is somehow like a child’s in its trusting, sweet surrender and appeal, whatsoever may be her stateliness and the splendour of her beauty.
Yet as he touched her cheek so and her eyes so dwelt on him, suddenly her head fell heavily upon his breast, hiding her face, even while her unwreathing arms held more closely.
“Oh! those mad days before!” she cried—“Oh! those mad, mad days before!”
“Nay, they are long passed, sweet,” he said, in his deep, noble voice, thinking that she spoke of the wildness of her girlish years—“and all our days of joy are yet to come.”
“Yes, yes,” she cried, clinging closer, yet with shuddering, “they were before—the joy—the joy is all to come.”
CHAPTER XV—In which Sir John Oxon finds again a trophy he had lost
His Grace of Osmonde went back to France to complete his business, and all the world knew that when he returned to England ’twould be to make his preparations for his marriage with my Lady Dunstanwolde. It was a marriage not long to be postponed, and her ladyship herself was known already to be engaged with lacemen, linen-drapers, toyshop women, and goldsmiths. Mercers awaited upon her at her house, accompanied by their attendants, bearing burdens of brocades and silks, and splendid stuffs of all sorts. Her chariot was to be seen standing before their shops, and the interest in her purchases was so great that fashionable beauties would contrive to visit the counters at the same hours as herself, so that they might catch glimpses of what she chose. In her own great house all was repressed excitement; her women were enraptured at being allowed the mere handling and laying away of the glories of her wardrobe; the lacqueys held themselves with greater state, knowing that they were soon to be a duke’s servants; her little black Nero strutted about, his turban set upon his pate with a majestic cock, and disdained to enter into battle with such pages of his own colour as wore only silver collars, he feeling assured that his own would soon be of gold.