‘Oh, yes, I remember everything; because it was so rare to see any except—I mean because I happen to remember. But you seem not to remember, sir, how perilous this place is.’

For she had kept her eyes upon me; large eyes of a softness, a brightness, and a dignity which made me feel as if I must for ever love and yet for ever know myself unworthy. Unless themselves should fill with love, which is the spring of all things. And so I could not answer her, but was overcome with thinking and feeling and confusion. Neither could I look again; only waited for the melody which made every word like a poem to me, the melody of her voice. But she had not the least idea of what was going on with me, any more than I myself had.

‘I think, Master Ridd, you cannot know,’ she said, with her eyes taken from me, ‘what the dangers of this place are, and the nature of the people.’

‘Yes, I know enough of that; and I am frightened greatly, all the time, when I do not look at you.’

She was too young to answer me in the style some maidens would have used; the manner, I mean, which now we call from a foreign word ‘coquettish.’ And more than that, she was trembling from real fear of violence, lest strong hands might be laid on me, and a miserable end of it. And to tell the truth, I grew afraid; perhaps from a kind of sympathy, and because I knew that evil comes more readily than good to us.

Therefore, without more ado, or taking any advantage—although I would have been glad at heart, if needs had been, to kiss her (without any thought of rudeness)—it struck me that I had better go, and have no more to say to her until next time of coming. So would she look the more for me and think the more about me, and not grow weary of my words and the want of change there is in me. For, of course, I knew what a churl I was compared to her birth and appearance; but meanwhile I might improve myself and learn a musical instrument. ‘The wind hath a draw after flying straw’ is a saying we have in Devonshire, made, peradventure, by somebody who had seen the ways of women.

‘Mistress Lorna, I will depart’—mark you, I thought that a powerful word—’in fear of causing disquiet. If any rogue shot me it would grieve you; I make bold to say it, and it would be the death of mother. Few mothers have such a son as me. Try to think of me now and then, and I will bring you some new-laid eggs, for our young blue hen is beginning.’

‘I thank you heartily,’ said Lorna; ‘but you need not come to see me. You can put them in my little bower, where I am almost always—I mean whither daily I repair to read and to be away from them.’

‘Only show me where it is. Thrice a day I will come and stop—’

‘Nay, Master Ridd, I would never show thee—never, because of peril—only that so happens it thou hast found the way already.’

And she smiled with a light that made me care to cry out for no other way, except to her dear heart. But only to myself I cried for anything at all, having enough of man in me to be bashful with young maidens. So I touched her white hand softly when she gave it to me, and (fancying that she had sighed) was touched at heart about it, and resolved to yield her all my goods, although my mother was living; and then grew angry with myself (for a mile or more of walking) to think she would condescend so; and then, for the rest of the homeward road, was mad with every man in the world who would dare to think of having her.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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