He saw the exaltation in her beautiful face as he spoke, and wild joy seized him. Then he saw the sudden droop of her whole body and the light die out of her eyes, and in a voice of anguish he implored her:
“Darling, darling! Won’t you listen to what I say to you? Won’t you answer me, and come with me?”
“No, Hector,” she said, and her voice was so low he had to bend closer to hear.
He clasped her to his side, he covered her face with kisses, murmuring the tenderest love-words.
She did not resist him or seek to escape from his sheltering, strong arms. This was the end of her living life, why should she rob herself of a last joy?
She laid her head on his shoulder, and there she whispered in a voice he hardly recognized, so dominated it was by sorrow and pain: “It must be good-bye, beloved; we must not meet. Ah! never any more. I have been meaning to say this to you all the day. I cannot bear it either. Oh, we must part, and it must end; but oh, not—not in that way!”
He tried to persuade her, he pleaded with her, drew pictures of their happiness that surely would be, talked of Italy and eternal summer and exquisite pleasure and bliss.
And all the time he felt her quiver in his arms and respond to each thought, as her imagination took fire at the beautiful pictures of love and joy. But nothing shook her determination.
At last she said: “Dearest, if I were different perhaps, stronger and braver, I could go away and live with you like that, and keep it all a glorious thing; but I am not—only a weak creature, and the memory of my broken word, and Josiah’s sorrow, and your mother’s anguish, would kill all joy. We could have blissful moments of forgetfulness, but the great ghost of remorse would chase for me all happiness away. Dearest, I love you so; but oh, I could not live, haunted like that; I should just—die.”
Then he knew all hope was over, and the mad passion went out of him, and his arms dropped to his sides as if half life had fled. She looked up in his face in fear at its ghastly whiteness.
And at this moment, through the parted willows, there appeared the sullen, mocking eyes of Morella Winmarleigh.
She pushed the bushes aside, and, followed by Lord Wensleydown, she came towards the summer-house.
Her slow senses had taken in the scene. Hector was evidently very unhappy, she thought, and that hateful woman had been teasing him, no doubt.
Thus her banal mind read the tragedy of these two human lives.
Morella Winmarleigh had been taking an evening stroll with Lord Wensleydown. They had come upon the two in the summer-house quite by accident, but now they had caught them they would stick to them, and make their walk as tiresome as possible, they both decided to themselves.
After very great emotion such as Hector and Theodora had been experiencing, to have this uncongenial and hateful pair as companions was impossible to bear.