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But this interview with the inimical Quaker had more than strengthened Sir Marmaduke's design to carry his bold scheme more rapidly to its successful issue.
The game which he had played with grave risks for over three months now had begun to be dangerous. The mysterious patriot from France could not afford to see prying enemies at his heels.
Anon when the graceful outline of Lady Sue's figure emerged from out the surrounding gloom, Sir Marmaduke went forward to meet her, and clasped her to him in a passionate embrace.
"My gracious lady ... my beautiful Sue ..." he murmured whilst he covered her hands, her brow, her hair with ardent kisses, "you have come so late--and I have been so weary of waiting ... waiting for you."
He led her through the gardens to where one gigantic elm, grander than its fellows, had thrown out huge gnarled roots which protruded from out the ground. One of these, moss-covered, green and soft, formed a perfect resting place. He drew her down, begging her to sit. She obeyed, scared somewhat as was her wont when she found him so unfettered and violent.
He stretched himself at full length at her feet, extravagant now in his acts and gestures like a man who no longer can hold turbulent passion in check. He kissed the edge of her kirtle, then her cloak and the tips of her little shoes:
"It was cruel to keep me waiting ... gracious lady--it was cruel," he murmured in the intervals between these ardent caresses.
"I am so sorry, Amédé," she repeated, grieving to see him so sorrowful, not a little frightened at his vehemence,--trying to withdraw her hands from his grasp. "I was detained ..."
"Detained," he rejoined harshly, "detained by someone else ... someone who had a greater claim on your time than the poor exile ..."
"Nay! 'tis unkind thus to grieve me," she said with tender reproach as she felt the hot tears gather in her eyes. "You know--as I do--that I am not my own mistress yet."
"Yes! yes! forgive me--my gracious, sweet, sweet lady.... I am mad when you are not nigh me.... You do not know--how could you? ... what torments I endure, when I think of you so beautiful, so exquisite, so adorable, surrounded by other men who admire you ... desire you, mayhap.... Oh! my God! ..."
"But you need have no fear," she protested gently, "you know that I gave my whole heart willingly to you ... my prince ..."
"Nay, but you cannot know," he persisted violently, "sweet, gentle creature that you are, you cannot guess the agonies which a strong man endures when he is gnawed by ruthless insane jealousy ..."
She gave a cry of pain.
"Amédé!" for she felt hurt, deeply wounded by his mistrust of her, when she had so wholly, so fully trusted him.
"I know ... I know," he said with quick transition of tone, fearful that he had offended her, striving to master his impatience, to find words which best pleased her young, romantic temperament, "Nay! but you must think me mad.... Mayhap you despise me," he added with a gentle note of sadness. "Oh, God! ... mayhap you will turn from me now...."
"Yet do I worship you ... my saint ... my divinity ... my Suzanne.... You are more beautiful, more adorable than any woman in the world ... and I am so unworthy."
"You unworthy!" she retorted, laughing gayly through her tears. "You, my prince, my king! ..."
"Say that once more, my Suzanne," he murmured with infinite gentleness, "oh! the exquisite sweetness of your voice, which is like dream-music in mine ears.... Oh! to hold you in my arms thus, for ever ... until death, sweeter than life ... came to me in one long passionate kiss."
She allowed him to put his arms round her now, glad that the darkness hid the blush on her cheeks; thus she loved him, thus she had first learned to love him, ardent, oh, yes! but so gentle, so meek, yet so great and exalted in his selfless patriotism.
"'Tis not of death you should speak, sweet prince," she said, ineffably happy now that she felt him more subdued, more trusting and fond, "rather should you speak of life ... with me, your own Suzanne ... of happiness in the future, when you and I, hand in hand, will work together for that great cause you hold so dear ... the freedom and liberties of France."
"Ah, yes!" he sighed in utter dejection, "when that happy time comes ... but ..."
"You do not trust me?" she asked reproachfully.
"With all my heart, my Suzanne," he replied, "but you are so beautiful, so rich ... and other men ..."
"There are no other men for me," she retorted simply. "I love you."
"Will you prove it to me?"
"How can I?"
"Be mine ... mine absolutely," he urged eagerly with passion just sufficiently subdued to make her pulses throb. "Be my wife ... my princess ... let me feel that no one could come between us...."
"But my guardian would never consent," she protested.
"Surely your love for me can dispense with Sir Marmaduke's consent...."
"A secret marriage?" she asked, terrified at this strange vista which his fiery imagination was conjuring up before her.
"You refuse? ..." he asked hoarsely.
"No! no! ... but ..."
"Then you do not love me, Suzanne."
The coolness in his tone struck a sudden chill to her heart. She felt the clasp of his arms round her relax, she felt rather than saw that he withdrew markedly from her.
"Ah! forgive me! forgive me!" she murmured, stretching her little hands out to him in a pathetic and childlike appeal. "I have never deceived anyone in my life before.... How could I live a lie? ... married to you, yet seemingly a girl.... Whilst in three months...."
She paused in her eagerness, for he had jumped to his feet and was now standing before her, a rigid, statuesque figure, with head bent and arms hanging inert by his side.
"You do not love me, Suzanne," he said with an infinity of sadness, which went straight to her own loving heart, "else you would not dream of thus condemning me to three months of exquisite torture.... I have had my answer.... Farewell, my gracious lady ... not mine, alas! but another man's ... and may Heaven grant that he love you well ... not as I do, for that were impossible...."
His voice had died away in a whisper, which obviously was half-choked with tears. She, too, had risen while he spoke, all her hesitation gone, her heart full of reproaches against herself, and of love for him.
"What do you mean?" she asked trembling.
"That I must go," he replied simply, "since you do not love me...."
Oh! how thankful she was that this merciful darkness enwrapped her so tenderly. She was so young, so innocent and pure, that she felt half ashamed of the expression of her own great love which went out to him in a veritable wave of passion, when she began to fear that she was about to lose him.
"No, no," she cried vehemently, "you shall not go ... you shall not."
Her hands sought his in the gloom, and found them, clung to them with ever-growing ardor; she came quite close to him trying to peer into his face and to let him read in hers all the pathetic story of her own deep love for him.
"I love you," she murmured through her tears. And again she repeated: "I love you. See," she added with sudden determination, "I will do e'en as you wish.... I will follow you to the uttermost ends of the earth.... I ... I will marry you ... secretly ... an you wish."
Welcome darkness that hid her blushes! ... she was so young--so ignorant of life and of the world--yet she felt that by her words, her promise, her renunciation of her will, she was surrendering something to this man, which she could never, never regain.
Did the first thought of fear, or misgiving cross her mind at this moment? It were impossible to say. The darkness which to her was so welcome was--had she but guessed it--infinitely cruel too, for it hid the look of triumph, of rapacity, of satisfied ambition which at her selfless surrender had involuntarily crept into Marmaduke's eyes.
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