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- St. George and St. Michael - 3/94 -
which we have not met than that in which we met first! No, dear Dorothy----'
'It is not our meeting, Richard; and if you would but think as honestly as you speak, you would not require to lay upon me the burden of explanation. It is this foolish way we have got into of late--kissing hands--and--and--always meeting by the old sun-dial, or in some other over-quiet spot. Why do you not come to the house? My mother would give you the same welcome as any time these last--how many years, Richard?'
'Are you quite sure of that, Dorothy?'
'Well--I did fancy she spoke with something more of ceremony the last time you met. But, consider, she has seen so much less of you of late. Yet I am sure she has all but a mother's love in her heart towards you. For your mother was dear to her as her own soul.'
'I would it were so, Dorothy! For then, perhaps, your mother would not shrink from being my mother too. When we are married, Dorothy--'
'Married!' exclaimed the girl. 'What of marrying, indeed!' And she turned sideways from him with an indignant motion. 'Richard,' she went on, after a marked and yet but momentary pause, for the youth had not had time to say a word, 'it has been very wrong in me to meet you after this fashion. I know it now, for see what such things lead to! If you knew it, you have done me wrong.'
'Dearest Dorothy!' exclaimed the youth, taking her hand again, of which this time she seemed hardly aware, 'did you not know from the very vanished first that I loved you with all my heart, and that to tell you so would have been to tell the sun that he shines warm at noon in midsummer? And I did think you had a little--something for me, Dorothy, your old playmate, that you did not give to every other acquaintance. Think of the houses we have built and the caves we have dug together--of our rabbits, and urchins, and pigeons, and peacocks!'
'We are children no longer,' returned Dorothy. 'To behave as if we were would be to keep our eyes shut after we are awake. I like you, Richard, you know; but why this--where is the use of all this--new sort of thing? Come up with me to the house, where master Herbert is now talking to my mother in the large parlour. The good man will be glad to see you.'
'I doubt it, Dorothy. He and my father, as I am given to understand, think so differently in respect of affairs now pending betwixt the parliament and the king, that--'
'It were more becoming, Richard, if the door of your lips opened to the king first, and let the parliament follow.'
'Well said!' returned the youth with a smile. 'But let it be my excuse that I speak as I am wont to hear.'
The girl's hand had lain quiet in that of the youth, but now it started from it like a scared bird. She stepped two paces back, and drew herself up.
'And you, Richard?' she said, interrogatively.
'What would you ask, Dorothy?' returned the youth, taking a step nearer, to which she responded by another backward ere she replied.
'I would know whom you choose to serve--whether God or Satan; whether you are of those who would set at nought the laws of the land----'
'Insist on their fulfilment, they say, by king as well as people' interrupted Richard.
'They would tear their mother in pieces----'
'Their mother!' repeated Richard, bewildered.
'Their mother, the church,' explained Dorothy.
'Oh!' said Richard. 'Nay, they would but cast out of her the wolves in sheep's clothing that devour the lambs.'
The girl was silent. Anger glowed on her forehead and flashed from her grey eyes. She stood one moment, then turned to leave him, but half turned again to say scornfully--
'I must go at once to my mother! I knew not I had left her with such a wolf as master Herbert is like to prove!'
'Master Herbert is no bishop, Dorothy!'
'The bishops, then, are the wolves, master Heywood?' said the girl, with growing indignation.
'Dear Dorothy, I am but repeating what I hear. For my own part, I know little of these matters. And what are they to us if we love one another?'
'I tell you I am a child no longer,' flamed Dorothy.
'You were seventeen last St. George's Day, and I shall be nineteen next St. Michael's.'
'St. George for merry England!' cried Dorothy.
'St. Michael for the Truth!' cried Richard.
'So be it. Good-bye, then,' said the girl, going.
'What DO you mean, Dorothy?' said Richard; and she stood to hear, but with her back towards him, and, as it were, hovering midway in a pace. 'Did not St. Michael also slay his dragon? Why should the knights part company? Believe me, Dorothy, I care more for a smile from you than for all the bishops in the church, or all the presbyters out of it.'
'You take needless pains to prove yourself a foolish boy, Richard; and if I go not to my mother at once, I fear I shall learn to despise you--which I would not willingly.'
'Despise me! Do you take me for a coward then, Dorothy?'
'I say not that. I doubt not, for the matter of swords and pistols, you are much like other male creatures; but I protest I could never love a man who preferred my company to the service of his king.'
She glided into the alley and sped along its vaulted twilight, her white dress gleaming and clouding by fits as she went.
The youth stood for a moment petrified, then started to overtake her, but stood stock-still at the entrance of the alley, and followed her only with his eyes as she went.
When Dorothy reached the house, she did not run up to her room that she might weep unseen. She was still too much annoyed with Richard to regret having taken such leave of him. She only swallowed down a little balloonful of sobs, and went straight into the parlour, where her mother and Mr. Herbert still sat, and resumed her seat in the bay window. Her heightened colour, an occasional toss of her head backwards, like that with which a horse seeks ease from the bearing- rein, generally followed by a renewal of the attempt to swallow something of upward tendency, were the only signs of her discomposure, and none of them were observed by her mother or her guest. Could she have known, however, what feelings had already begun to rouse themselves in the mind of him whose boyishness was an offence to her, she would have found it more difficult to keep such composure.
Dorothy's was a face whose forms were already so decided that, should no softening influences from the central regions gain the ascendancy, beyond a doubt age must render it hard and unlovely. In all the roundness and freshness of girlhood, it was handsome rather than beautiful, beautiful rather than lovely. And yet it was strongly attractive, for it bore clear indication of a nature to be trusted. If her grey eyes were a little cold, they were honest eyes, with a rare look of steadfastness; and if her lips were a little too closely pressed, it was clearly from any cause rather than bad temper. Neither head, hands, nor feet were small, but they were fine in form and movement; and for the rest of her person, tall and strong as Richard was, Dorothy looked further advanced in the journey of life than he.
She needed hardly, however, have treated his indifference to the politics of the time with so much severity, seeing her own acquaintance with and interest in them dated from that same afternoon, during which, from lack of other employment, and the weariness of a long morning of slow, dismal rain, she had been listening to Mr. Herbert as he dwelt feelingly on the arrogance of puritan encroachment, and the grossness of presbyterian insolence both to kingly prerogative and episcopal authority, and drew a touching picture of the irritant thwartings and pitiful insults to which the gentle monarch was exposed in his attempts to support the dignity of his divine office, and to cast its protecting skirt over the defenceless church; and if it was with less sympathy that he spoke of the fears which haunted the captive metropolitan, Dorothy at least could detect no hidden sarcasm in the tone in which he expressed his hope that Laud's devotion to the beauty of holiness might not result in the dignity of martyrdom, as might well be feared by those who were assured that the whole guilt of Strafford lay in his return to his duty, and his subsequent devotion to the interests of his royal master: to all this the girl had listened, and her still sufficiently uncertain knowledge of the affairs of the nation had, ere the talk was over, blossomed in a vague sense of partizanship. It was chiefly her desire after the communion of sympathy with Richard that had led her into the mistake of such a hasty disclosure of her new feelings.
But her following words had touched him--whether to fine issues or not remained yet poised on the knife-edge of the balancing will. His first emotion partook of anger. As soon as she was out of sight a spell seemed broken, and words came.
'A boy, indeed, mistress Dorothy!' he said. 'If ever it come to what certain persons prophesy, you may wish me in truth, and that for the sake of your precious bishops, the boy you call me now. Yes, you are right, mistress, though I would it had been another who told me so! Boy indeed I am--or have been--without a thought in my head but of her. The sound of my father's voice has been but as the wind of the winnowing fan. In me it has found but chaff. If you will have me take a side, though, you will find me so far worthy of you that I shall take the side that seems to me the right one, were all the fair Dorothies of the universe on the other. In very truth I should
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