‘Thou knewest it, and didst not betray me! Oh Dorothy!’ murmured Scudamore. ‘Thou art a very angel of light, Dorothy.’
He seized her hand, and but for the possible eyes upon them, he would have flung himself at her feet.
Dorothy, however, would not yet lay aside the part she had assumed as moral physician—surgeon rather.
’But notwithstanding all this, cousin Rowland, when trouble came upon the young lady, what comfort was there for her in thee? Never hadst thou loved her, although I doubt not thou didst vow and swear thereto an hundred times.’
Rowland was silent. He began to fear her.
’Or what love thou hadst was of such sort that thou didst encourage in her that which was evil, and then let her go like a haggard hawk. Thou marvellest, forsooth, that I should be so careless of thy merits! Tell me, cousin, what is there in thee that I should love? Can there be love for that which is nowise lovely? Thou wilt doubtless say in thy heart, “She is but a girl, and how then should she judge concerning men and their ways?” But I appeal to thine own conscience, Rowland, when I ask thee—is this well? And if a maiden truly loved thee, it were all one. Thou wouldst but carry thyself the same to her—if not to-day, then to-morrow, or a year hence.’
‘Not if she were good, Dorothy, like thee,’ he murmured.
‘Not if thou wert good, Rowland, like Him that made thee.’
‘Wilt thou not teach me then to be good like thee, Dorothy?’
’Thou must teach thyself to be good like the Rowland thou knowest in thy better heart, when it is soft and lowly.’
’Wouldst thou then love me a little, Dorothy, if I vowed to be thy scholar, and study to be good? Give me some hope to help me in the hard task.’
‘He that is good is good for goodness’ sake, Rowland. Yet who can fail to love that which is good in king or knave?’
’Ah! but do not mock me, Dorothy: such is not the love I would have of thee.’
’It is all thou ever canst have of me, and methinks it is not like thou wilt ever have it, for verily thou art of nature so light that any wind may blow thee into the Dead Sea.’
From a saint it was enough to anger any sinner.
‘I see!’ cried Scudamore. ’For all thy fine reproof, thou too canst spurn a heart at thy feet. I will lay my life thou lovest the round-head, and art but a traitress for all thy goodness.’
’I am indeed traitress enough to love any roundhead gentleman better than a royalist knave,’ said Dorothy; and turning from him she sought the grand staircase.
The winter passed, with much running to and fro, in foul weather and fair; and still the sounds of war came no nearer to Raglan, which lay like a great lion in a desert that the hunter dared not arouse. The whole of Wales, except a castle or two, remained subject to the king; and this he owed in great measure to the influence and devotion of the Somersets, his obligation to whom he seemed more and more bent on acknowledging.