`They are going to waltz again: it is rather dizzy work to look on and the room is very warm. Shall we walk about a little?'

He took her hand and placed it within his arm, and they walked on into the sitting-room, where the tables were strewn with engravings for the accommodation of visitors who did not want to look at them. But no visitors were here at this moment. They passed on into the conservatory.

`How strange and unreal the trees and flowers look with the lights among them,' said Maggie, in a low voice. `They look as if they belonged to an enchanted land, and would never fade away: - I could fancy they were all made of jewels.'

She was looking at the tier of geraniums as she spoke, and Stephen made no answer; but he was looking at her - and does not a supreme poet blend light and sound into one, calling darkness mute, and light eloquent? Something strangely powerful there was in the light of Stephen's long gaze, for it made Maggie's face turn towards it and look upward at it - slowly, like a flower at the ascending brightness. And they walked unsteadily on, without feeling that they were walking - without feeling anything but that long grave mutual gaze which has the solemnity belonging to all deep human passion. The hovering thought that they must and would renounce each other made this moment of mute confession more intense in its rapture.

But they had reached the end of the conservatory, and were obliged to pause and turn. The change of movement brought a new consciousness to Maggie: she blushed deeply, turned away her head, and drew her arm from Stephen's, going up to some flowers to smell them. Stephen stood motionless and still pale.

`O may I get this rose?' said Maggie, making a great effort to say something, and dissipate the burning sense of irretrievable confession. `I think I am quite wicked with roses - I like to gather them and smell them till they have no scent left.'

Stephen was mute: he was incapable of putting a sentence together, and Maggie bent her arm a little upward towards the large half-opened rose that had attracted her. Who has not felt the beauty of a woman's arm? - the unspeakable suggestions of tenderness that lie in the dimpled elbow and all the varied gently lessening curves down to the delicate wrist with its tiniest, almost imperceptible nicks in the firm softness. A woman's arm touched the soul of a great sculptor two thousand years ago, so that he wrought an image of it for the Parthenon which moves us still as it clasps lovingly the time-worn marble of a headless trunk. Maggie's was such an arm as that - and it had the warm tints of life.

A mad impulse seized on Stephen; he darted towards the arm, and showered kisses on it, clasping the wrist.

But the next moment Maggie snatched it from him and glared at him like a wounded war-goddess, quivering with rage and humiliation.

`How dare you?' - she spoke in a deeply shaken, half-smothered voice. `What right have I given you to insult me?'

She darted from him into the adjoining room and threw herself on the sofa, panting and trembling.

A horrible punishment was come upon her, for the sin of allowing a moment's happiness that was treachery to Lucy, to Philip - to her own better soul. That momentary happiness had been smitten with a blight - a leprosy: Stephen thought more lightly of her than he did of Lucy.

As for Stephen, he leaned back against the framework of the conservatory, dizzy with the conflict of passions - love, rage and confused despair: despair at his want of self-mastery, and despair that he had offended Maggie.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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