“You are late,” says Arthur Dynecourt in a low tone. There is no anger in it; there is indeed only a desire to show how tedious have been the moments spent apart from her.
“Have you brought your book, or do you mean to go through your part without it?” Florence asks, disdaining to notice his words, or to betray interest in anything except the business that has brought them together.
“I know my part by heart,” he responds, in a strange voice.
“Then begin,” she commands somewhat imperiously; the very insolence of her air only gives an additional touch to her extreme beauty and fires his ardor.
“You desire me to begin?” he asks unsteadily.
“If you wish it.”
“Do you wish it?”
“I desire nothing more intensely than to get this rehearsal over,” she replies impatiently.
“You take no pains indeed to hide your scorn of me,” says Dynecourt bitterly.
“I regret it, if I have at any time treated you with incivility,” returns Florence, with averted eyes and with increasing coldness. “Yet I must always think that, for whatever has happened, you have only yourself to blame.”
“Is it a crime to love you?” he demands boldly.
“Sir,” she exclaims indignantly, and raising her beautiful eyes to his for a moment, “I must request you will never speak to me of love. There is neither sympathy nor common friendliness between us. You are well aware with what sentiments I regard you.”
“But, why am I alone to be treated with contempt?” he asks, with sudden passion. “All other men of your acquaintance are graciously received by you, are met with smiles and kindly words. Upon me alone your eyes rest, when they deign to glance in my direction, with marked disfavor. All the world can see it. I am signaled out from the others as one to be slighted and spurned.”
“Your forget yourself,” says Florence contemptuously. “I have met you here to-day to rehearse our parts for next Tuesday evening, not to listen to any insolent words you may wish to address to me. Let us begin”—opening her book. “If you know your part, go on.”
“I know my part only too well; it is to worship you madly, hopelessly. Your very cruelty only serves to heighten my passion. Florence, hear me!”
“I will not,” she says, her eyes flashing. She waves him back from her as he endeavors to take her hand. “Is it not enough that I have been persecuted by your attentions—attentions most hateful to me—for the past year, but you must now obtrude them upon me here? You compel me to tell you in plain words what my manner must have shown you only too clearly—that you are distasteful to me in every way, that your very presence troubles me, that your touch is abhorrent to me!”
“Ah,” he says, stepping back as she hurls these words at him, and regarding her with a face distorted by passion, “if I were the master here, instead of the poor cousin—if I were Sir Adrian—your treatment of me would be very different!”