“You have had so many friends, such a beautiful life,” he answered.
She smiled at him.
“Dear,” she said, “do you think any of these things are worth a moment’s consideration to a woman against the love of the man she cares for? We are all the same, though some of us do not wear our hearts upon our sleeves. The longing for love is always there, and the women who go hungry for it through life are the women to be pitied. Douglas, I would change places with that simple, dark-eyed little girl you were with this evening if—if I could marry you to-morrow. Is that too bold?”
He started away. A sudden fear wrenched at his heartstrings. He looked at her wildly.
“Do you mean that you will not be my wife—that you care for me, but not enough to marry me?” he cried. She shook her head slowly.
“No, dear,” she said, “for if I were a princess and you were a shopkeeper I would marry you, and be proud of my husband. Don’t think so meanly of me as that. There is another—a more powerful reason.”
“Tell it me,” he begged; “don’t keep me in suspense.”
She thrust her arm through his and led him gently to the sofa.
“Douglas, won’t you trust me? I want to keep my secret for a little while. Listen. It shall not keep us apart, but I cannot be your wife yet, dearly though I would love to be.”
The old mistrust blazed up in the man. Drexley’s cynicism, Strong’s ravings came back to him. He, too, was to be fooled. Her love was a pretence. He was simply a puppet, to yield her amusement and to be thrown aside.
“The truth!” he cried, roughly. “Emily, remember that I have seen men made mad for love of you, have heard them curse your deceit and heartlessness. I’ll forget it all, but you must trust me. Prove to me that you cannot marry me, and I’ll wait, I’ll be your slave, my life shall be yours to do what you will with. But I’ll have the truth. I’ll have no lonely nights when doubts of you creep like hideous phantoms about the room, and Drexley and Strong come mocking me. Oh, forgive me, but you don’t know what solitude is. Be merciful, Emily. Trust me.”
She had turned white. The hands she held out to him trembled.
“Douglas,” she cried, “if you have any love for me at all you must have faith in me too. It shall not be for long. In less than a year you shall know everything, and until then you shall see me when you will, you shall be the dearest person in the world to me.”
“I want the truth,” he pleaded. “Emily, if you send me away you’ll send me into hell. I daren’t have any doubts. They’d drive me mad. Be merciful, tell me everything.”
She was very white, very cold, yet her voice shook with passion.