“Dear Geoffrey, you don’t think I’m very selfish, do you?” she questioned wistfully.
“No—never that!” he answered, keeping his gaze averted.
“If?” said he.
“If it is hard for you—” the soft voice faltered.
“If you really think I’m—cruel and—silly, you—needn’t wait—any longer—if you wish—”
His arms were about her, drawing her near, clasping her ever closer, and she held him away no more, but—beholding her wistful eyes, the plaintive droop of her vivid mouth, and all the voiceless pleading of her, he loosed her and turned away.
“I love you so much—Hermione, so much, that your will shall be my will.”
She rose, and leaning against the carved mantel stared down into the fire; when at last she spoke, there was a note in her voice he had never heard before,
“Geoffrey, dear, this world is a very bad world for a lonely girl, and sometimes a very hateful world, and I have been lonely nearly all my life—and I didn’t think there were such men as you; I didn’t think any man could love so unselfishly. All my life I shall—treasure the recollection of this hour—yes, always! always!”
Then she turned and, ere he knew, was on her knees before him, had twined soft arms about his neck, and was looking up at him through shining tears.
“Yes, I’m—crying a little! I don’t do it often, dear—tears don’t easily come with me. But now I’m crying because—oh, because I’m so proud—so proud to have won such a wonderful love. Good night—good night! Oh, break your word for once—kiss me, my husband!”
So while she knelt to him thus, he kissed her until she sighed and stirred in his embrace. Then she rose and hand in hand they crossed the room and he opened the door; for a blissful moment they stood there silent in the shadows, but when he would have kissed her again she laughed at him through her tears and fled from him up the wide stairway.
HOW SPIKE GOT EVEN
A clock in the hall without struck midnight, but Ravenslee sat on long after the silvery chime had died away, his chin sunk on broad chest, his eyes staring blindly at the fading embers, lost in profound but joyful meditation; once he turned to look where she had stood beside the mantel, and once he reached out to touch the thrice-blessed chair that had held her.
The curtains stirred and rustled at the open window behind him, but he sat looking into the flickering fire, seeing there pictures of the future, and the future was full of a happiness beyond words, for in every picture Hermione moved.
All at once he started and glanced swiftly around, his lounging attitude changing to one of watchful alertness, for he had heard a sound that drew rapidly nearer—the hiss and pant of breath drawn in quick gasps. Silently he arose and turned to see the curtains swing apart and a shapeless something stagger forward and fall heavily. Then he reached out to the switch beside the hearth, and the room was flooded with brilliant light; the figure kneeling just inside the swaying curtains uttered a strangled cry and threw up a hand before his face, a hand dark with spattering blood.