There seemed a halo around her now. Deroulede felt that she had never been so beautiful and to him so unattainable. Something told him then, that at this moment she was as far away from him, as if she were an inhabitant of another, more ethereal planet.
When she saw him coming towards her, she put a finger to her lips, and whispered:
“Sh! sh! the papers are destroyed, burned.”
“And I owe my safety to you!”
He had said it with his whole soul, an infinity of gratitude filled his heart, a joy and pride in that she had cared for his safety.
But at his words she had grown paler than she was before. Her eyes, large, dilated, and dark, were fixed upon him with an intensity of gaze which almost startled him. He thought that she was about to faint, that the emotions of the past half hour had been too much for her overstrung nerves. He took her hand, and gently dragged her into the living-room.
She sank into a chair, as if utterly weary and exhausted, and he, forgetting his danger, forgetting the world and all else besides, knelt at her feet, and held her hands in his.
She sat bolt upright, her great eyes still fixed upon him. At first it seemed as if she could not be satiated with looking at her; he felt as if he had never, never really seen her. She had been a dream of beauty to him ever since that awful afternoon when he had held her, half fainting, in his arms, and had dragged her under the shelter of his roof.
From that hour he had worshipped her: she had cast over him the magic spell of her refinement, her beauty, that aroma of youth and innocence which makes such a strong appeal to the man of sentiment.
He had worshipped her and not tried to understand. He would have deemed it almost sacrilege to pry into the mysteries of her inner self, of that second nature in her which at times mad her silent, and almost morose, and cast a lurid gloom over her young beauty.
And though his love for her had grown in intensity, it had remained as heaven born as he deemed her to be—the love of a mortal for a saint, the ecstatic adoration of a St Francis for his Madonna.
Sir Percy Blakeney had called Deroulede an idealist. He was that, in the strictest sense, and Juliette had embodied all that was best in his idealism.
It was for the first time to-day, that he had held her hand just for a moment longer than mere conventionality allowed. The first kiss on her finger-tips had sent the blood rushing wildly to his heart; but he still worshipped her, and gazed upon her as upon a divinity.
She sat bolt upright in the chair, abandoning her small, cold hands to his burning grasp.
His very senses ached with the longing to clasp her in his arms, to draw her to him, and to feel her pulses beat closer against his. It was almost torture now to gaze upon her beauty—that small, oval face, almost like a child’s, the large eyes which at times had seemed to be blue but which now appeared to be a deep, unfathomable colour, like the tempestuous sea.