“Oh! what can I do for you?” she cried.
“Nothing, if you do not love me,” he was replying mournfully, when, “Yes! yes!” rushed to his lips; “marry me: marry me to-morrow. You have loved me. ‘I am never to leave you!’ Can you forget the night when you said it? Emilia! Marry me and you will love me again. You must. This man, whoever he is—Ah! why am I such a brute! Come! be mine! Let me call you my own darling! Emilia!—or say quietly ‘you have nothing to hope for:’ I shall not reproach you, believe me.”
He looked resigned. The abrupt transition had drawn her eyes to his. She faltered: “I cannot be married.” And then: “How could I guess that you felt in this way?”
“Who told me that I should?” said he. “Your words have come true. You predicted that I should fly from ‘that woman,’ as you called her, and come to you. See! here it is exactly as you willed it. You—you are changed. You throw your magic on me, and then you are satisfied, and turn elsewhere.”
Emilia’s conscience smote her with a verification of this charge, and she trembled, half-intoxicated for the moment, by the aspect of her power. This filled her likewise with a dangerous pity for its victim; and now, putting out both hands to him, her chin and shoulders raised entreatingly, she begged the victim to spare her any word of marriage.
“But you go, you run away from me—I don’t know where you are or what you are doing,” said Wilfrid. “And you leave me to that woman. She loves the Austrians, as you know. There! I will ask nothing—only this: I will promise, if I quit the Queen’s service for good, not to wear the white uniform—”
“Oh!” Emilia breathed inward deeply, scarce noticing the ‘if’ that followed; nodding quick assent to the stipulation before she heard the nature of it. It was, that she should continue in England.
“Your word,” said Wilfrid; and she pledged it, and did not think she was granting much in the prospect of what she gained.
“You will, then?” said he.
“Yes, I will.”
“On your honour?”
These reiterated questions were simply pretexts for steps nearer to the answering lips.
“And I may see you?” he went on.
“Wherever you are staying? And sometimes alone? Alone!—”
“Not if you do not know that I am to be respected,” said Emilia, huddled in the passionate fold of his arms. He released her instantly, and was departing, wounded; but his heart counselled wiser proceedings.
“To know that you are in England, breathing the same air with me, near me! is enough. Since we are to meet on those terms, let it be so. Let me only see you till some lucky shot puts me out of your way.”
This ‘some lucky shot,’ which is commonly pointed at themselves by the sentimental lovers, with the object of hitting the very centre of the hearts of obdurate damsels, glanced off Emilia’s, which was beginning to throb with a comprehension of all that was involved in the word she had given.