Her heart was beating to suffocate her, yet she was strong and unrelenting.

`When was I in a fearful state?' he asked.

`When you first came to me. I had to take pity on you. But it was never love.'

It was that statement `It was never love,' which sounded in his ears with madness.

`Why must you repeat it so often, that there is no love?' he said in a voice strangled with rage.

`Well you don't think you love, do you?' she asked.

He was silent with cold passion of anger.

`You don't think you can love me, do you?' she repeated almost with a sneer.

`No,' he said.

`You know you never have loved me, don't you?'

`I don't know what you mean by the word `love,' he replied.

`Yes, you do. You know all right that you have never loved me. Have you, do you think?'

`No,' he said, prompted by some barren spirit of truthfulness and obstinacy.

`And you never will love me,' she said finally, `will you?'

There was a diabolic coldness in her, too much to bear.

`No,' he said.

`Then,' she replied, `what have you against me!'

He was silent in cold, frightened rage and despair. `If only I could kill her,' his heart was whispering repeatedly. `If only I could kill her -- I should be free.'

It seemed to him that death was the only severing of this Gordian knot.

`Why do you torture me?' he said.

She flung her arms round his neck.

`Ah, I don't want to torture you,' she said pityingly, as if she were comforting a child. The impertinence made his veins go cold, he was insensible. She held her arms round his neck, in a triumph of pity. And her pity for him was as cold as stone, its deepest motive was hate of him, and fear of his power over her, which she must always counterfoil.

`Say you love me,' she pleaded. `Say you will love me for ever -- won't you -- won't you?'

But it was her voice only that coaxed him. Her senses were entirely apart from him, cold and destructive of him. It was her overbearing will that insisted.

`Won't you say you'll love me always?' she coaxed. `Say it, even if it isn't true -- say it Gerald, do.'

`I will love you always,' he repeated, in real agony, forcing the words out.

She gave him a quick kiss.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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