Once at least in a man’s life, if only for a brief space, he reverences the saint in the woman he desires. He may love and pursue again and again, but she who has power to hold him back, who can make him tremble instead of woo, who can make him silent when he feels eloquent, and restrained when most impassioned, has won from him what never again can be given.
It was an easier matter to win him than Vera thought.
A week later Sir John Kynaston sat alone by his library fire, after breakfast, and owned to himself that he had fallen hopelessly and helplessly in love with Vera Nevill.
This was all the more remarkable because Sir John was not a very young man, and that he was, moreover, not of a nature to do things rashly or impulsively.
He was, on the contrary, of a slow and hesitating disposition. He was in the habit of weighing his words and his actions before he spoke or acted, his mind was tardy to take in new thoughts and new ideas, and he was cautious and almost sluggish in taking any steps in a strange and unaccustomed direction.
Nevertheless, in this matter of Vera, he had succumbed to his fate with all the uncalculating blindness of a boy in his teens.
Vera was like no other woman he had ever seen; she was as far removed above common young-ladyhood as Raphael’s Madonnas are beyond and above Greuze’s simpering maidens; there could be no other like her—she was a queen, a goddess among women.
From the very first moment that he had caught sight of her on the terrace outside his house her absolute mastery over him had begun. Her rare beauty, her quiet smile, her slow, indolent movements, the very tones of her rich, low voice, all impressed him in a strange and wonderful manner. She seemed to him to be the incarnation of everything that was pure and elevated in womanhood. To have imagined that such a one as she could have thought of his wealth or his position would have been the rankest blasphemy in his eyes.
He raised her up on a pedestal of his own creating, and then he fell down before her and adored her.
John Kynaston had but little knowledge of women. Shy and retiring in manner—somewhat suspicious and distrustful also—he had kept out of their way through life. Once, in very early manhood, he had been deceived; he had become engaged to a girl whom he afterwards discovered to have accepted him only for his money and his name, whilst her heart really belonged to another and a poorer man. He had shaken himself free of her, with horror and disgust, and had sworn to himself that he would never be so betrayed again. Since then he had been suspicious—and not without just cause—of the young ladies who had smiled upon him, and of their mothers, who had pressed him with gracious invitations to their houses. He was a rich man, but he did not mean to be loved for his wealth; he said to himself that, sooner than be so, he would die unmarried and leave to Maurice the task of keeping up the old name and the old family.