That this was more than a passing impulse he presently made evident by lifting his hand and pushing her slowly back.
“I do not know what you saw me do,” said he; “but whatever it was, it can make no difference in our relations.”
Her whisper, which had been but a breath before, became scarcely audible.
“I did not pause at the gate you entered,” said she. “I went in after you.”
A gasp of irresistible feeling escaped him, but he did not take his eyes from her face.
“It was a long time before you came out,” she went on, “but previous to that time the shade of a certain window was thrust aside, and—–”
“Hush!” he commanded, in uncontrollable passion, pressing his hand with impulsive energy against her mouth. “Not another word of that, or I shall forget you are a woman or that I have ever loved you.”
Her eyes, which were all she had remaining to plead with, took on a peculiar look of quiet satisfaction, and power. Seeing it, he let his hand fall and for the first time began to regard her with anything but a lover’s eyes.
“I was the only person in sight at that time,” she continued. “You have nothing to fear from the world at large.”
The word made its own echo; she had no need to emphasise it even by a smile. But she watched him as it sunk into his consciousness with an intentness it took all his strength to sustain. Suddenly her bearing and expression changed. The few remains of sweetness in her face vanished, and even the allurement which often lasts when the sweetness is gone, disappeared in the energy which now took possession of her whole threatening and inflexible personality.
“Marry me,” she cried, “or I will proclaim you to be the murderer of Agatha Webb.”
She had seen the death of love in his eyes.
“A devil that understands men”
Frederick Sutherland was a man of finer mental balance than he himself, perhaps, had ever realised. After the first few moments of stupefaction following the astounding alternative which had been given him, he broke out with the last sentence she probably expected to hear:
“What do you hope from a marriage with me, that to attain your wishes you thus sacrifice every womanly instinct?”
She met him on his own ground.
“What do I hope?” She actually glowed with the force of her secret desire. “Can you ask a poor girl like me, born in a tenement house, but with tastes and ambitions such as are usually only given to those who can gratify them? I want to be the rich Mr. Sutherland’s daughter; acknowledged or unacknowledged, the wife of one who can enter any house in Boston as an equal. With a position like that I can rise to anything. I feel that I have the natural power and aptitude. I have felt it since I was a small child.”