A half-circle of high-banked greensward, studded with old park-trees, hung round the roar of the water; distant enough from the white-twisting fall to be mirrored on a smooth-heaved surface, while its out-pushing brushwood below drooped under burdens of drowned reed-flags that caught the foam. Keen scent of hay, crossing the dark air, met Emilia as she entered the river-meadow. A little more, and she saw the white weir-piles shining, and the grey roller just beginning to glisten to the moon. Eastward on her left, behind a cedar, the moon had cast off a thick cloud, and shone through the cedar-bars with a yellowish hazy softness, making rosy gold of the first passion of the tide, which, writhing and straining on through many lights, grew wide upon the wonderful velvet darkness underlying the wooded banks. With the full force of a young soul that leaps from beauty seen to unimagined beauty, Emilia stood and watched the picture. Then she sat down, hushed, awaiting her lover.
Wilfrid, as it chanced, was ten minutes late. She did not hear his voice till he had sunk on his knee by her side.
“What a reverie!” he said half jealously. “Isn’t it lovely here?”
Emilia pressed his hand, but without turning her face to him, as her habit was. He took it for shyness, and encouraged her with soft exclamations and expansive tenderness.
“I wish I had not come here!” she murmured.
“Tell me why?” He folded his arm about her waist.
“Why did you let me wait?” said she.
Wilfrid drew out his watch; blamed the accident that had detained him, and remarked that there were not many minutes to witness against him.
She appeared to throw off her moodiness. “You are here at last. Let me hold your hand, and think, and be quite silent.”
“You shall hold my hand, and think, and be quite silent, my own girl! if you will tell me what’s on your mind.”
Emilia thought it enough to look in his face, smiling.
“Has any one annoyed you?” he cried out.
“Then receive the command of your lord, that you kiss him.”
“I will kiss him,” said Emilia; and did so.
The salute might have appeased an imperious lord, but was not so satisfactory to an exacting lover. He perceived, however, that, whether as lover or as lord, he must wait for her now, owing to her having waited for him: so, he sat by her, permitting his hand to be softly squeezed, and trying to get at least in the track of her ideas, while her ear was turned to the weir, and her eyes were on the glowing edges of the cedar-tree.
Finally, on one of many deep breaths, she said: “It’s over. Why were you late? But, never mind now. Never let it be long again when I am expecting you. It’s then I feel so much at his mercy. I mean, if I am where I hear falling water; sometimes thunder.”
Wilfrid masked his complete mystification with a caressing smile; not without a growing respect for the only person who could make him experience the pangs of conscious silliness. You see, he was not a coxcomb.