“If I’ve made a rotten mistake,” he went on, content on the moment in her silence to misdoubt his own judgment. “If I’ve gone and jumped to this conclusion out of sheer conceit—misreading all I see in your eyes—translating all wrongly what I hear in your silence—you’ll have to forgive me. I’m not trying to rush you into any expression of what you feel.” He conscientiously thought he was not. “In fact, to tell you the honest truth, to me it seems that you—bringing back this bangle—holding from me your reason in doing so; you, stumbling over everything you say, and looking at me as you have done in the last few moments—that it’s you who have dragged these things out of me. All my attitude has been in trying to avoid them, because of what I thought you expected me to be. And now I think differently. Am I right? Am I?” He turned her face to meet his eyes. “Am I?”
She raised her eyes once—let his take them—hold them—keep them. Then the boards of the scaffold slipped away from under her feet—one instant the sensation of dropping—dropping; then oblivion—the noose of Fate drawn tight—the account reckoned. She swayed into his arms and he held her—kissing her hair, kissing her shoulders, her cheeks, her eyes—then, gently putting his hand beneath her chin, he lifted her face upwards, and crushed her lips against her teeth with kisses.
END OF BOOK I
Apsley Manor was one of those residences to be found scattered over the country, which are vaguely described as Tudor—memorials to the cultured taste in England, before the restoration with its sponge of Puritanical Piety wiped out the last traces of that refinement which Normandy had lent. Britain was destined to be great in commerce, and not even the inoculation of half the blood of France could ever make her people great in art as well.
It would be difficult to say the exact date when Apsley Manor was built. Certain it was that Elizabeth, in one of her progresses—the resort of a clever woman to fill a needy purse—had stayed there on her way to Oxford. The room, the bed even in which she was supposed to have slept, still remain there. Each owner, as he parted with the property, exacted a heavy premium upon that doubtful relic of history. None of them wished to remove it from the room where it had so many romantic associations; but they one and all had used it as a lever to raise the price of the property—if only a hundred pounds—beyond that which they had, in the first case, paid for it themselves. Once, in fact, the hangings had been taken down and the bed itself lifted from the ground before the very eyes of the intended purchaser; but that had been too much for him. He had given in. There is England’s greatness! Can it be wondered—much as we pose to despise them—that we are the only nation in Europe which has given shelter to the tribes of Israel?