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Page:Harris Dickson--The black wolf's breed.djvu/207

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THE FLIGHT FROM SCEAUX

"I care not. Love for such a woman would make of Truth a liar, and of Jove a fool. Think, Placide, think of her, Celeste, in the Bastille, the irons cutting into her delicate hands, those hands which I have so fondly held within my own—the cold stones for her bed. Or, worse: The block, the headsman and the jeering rabble. Have you no feeling, man? Suppose there was some woman whom you loved—a guilty love, I grant—but so strong, so deep, so overpowering, you could not master it? Suppose she were threatened, would you not protect her even if you lost your life; yea, bartered away your honor?"

A pale little tearful face thrust itself before me as he spoke, and I knew my own weak heart. I confess his pleading staggered me, and I hesitated. He came closer; all the love and fear of a strong and desperate man wove itself into his words.

"Could you only have seen her two hours ago when you left her chamber; have heard her sobs, felt the tremble of her heart when she threw herself, just as when a child she used to do, into my arms pleading for protection! Those dispatches will ruin her. She so calm, so proud, so brave to all the world, wept like a terrified baby upon my breast. Placide, I'd die and go to hell to save her. She so cold and pure, her very name is a reproach to this flock of butterfly women. This woman loves me, loves me even though that love be what men call dishonor. Bah! I hate the word. Her father never sold her heart. No, that was mine, forever mine. Had I but foreseen this I'd have left you rotting in Bertrand's dungeon. No, no.