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She loved him with that rare love that will urge a woman to the last sacrifice a man may ask; a love that gives and gives, and seeks nothing in return; that impels a woman to follow the man at his bidding, be his way through the world cast in places never so rugged; cleaving to him where all besides shall have abandoned him; and, however dire his lot, asking of God no greater blessing than that of sharing it.
And to such a love as this Crispin was blind - blind to the very possibility of its existence; so blind that he laughed to scorn the idea of a puny milksop being jealous of him. And so, while she sat, her soul all mastered by her discovery, her face white. and still for very awe of it, he to whom this wealth was given, pursued the odious task of wooing her for another.
"You have observed - you must have observed this insensate jealousy," he was saying, "and how do you allay it? You do not. On the contrary, you excite it at every turn. You are exciting it now by having - and I dare swear for no other purpose - lured me to walk with you, to sit here with you and preach your duty to you. And when, through jealousy, he shall have flown to fresh absurdities, shall you regret your conduct and the fruits it has borne? Shall you pity the lad, and by kindness induce him to be wiser? No. You will mock and taunt him into yet worse displays. And through these displays, which are - though you may not have bethought you of it - of your own contriving, you will conclude that he is no fit mate for you, and there will be heart-burnings, and years hence perhaps another Tavern Knight, whose name will not be Crispin Galliard."
She had listened with bent head; indeed, so deeply rapt by her discovery, that she had but heard the half of what he said. Now, of a sudden, she looked up, and meeting his glance:
"Is - is it a woman's fault that you are as you are?"
"No, it is not. But how does that concern the case of Kenneth?"
"It does not. I was but curious. I was not thinking of Kenneth."
He stared at her, dumfounded. Had he been talking of Kenneth to her with such eloquence and such fervour, that she should calmly tell him as he paused that it was not of Kenneth she had been thinking?
"You will think of him, Cynthia?" he begged. "You will bethink you too of what I have said, and by being kinder and more indulgent with this youth you shall make him grow into a man you may take pride in. Deal fairly with him, child, and if anon you find you cannot truly love him, then tell him so. But tell him kindly and frankly, instead of using him as you are doing."
She was silent a moment, and in their poignancy her feelings went very near to anger. Presently:
"I would, Sir Crispin, you could hear him talk of you," said she.
"He talks ill, not a doubt of it, and like enough he has good cause."
"Yet you saved his life."
The words awoke Crispin, the philosopher of love, to realities. He recalled the circumstances of his saving Kenneth, and the price the boy was to pay for that service; and it suddenly came to him that it was wasted breath to plead Kenneth's cause with Cynthia, when by his own future actions he was, himself, more than likely to destroy the boy's every hope of wedding her. The irony of his attitude smote him hard, and he rose abruptly. The sun hung now a round, red globe upon the very brink of the sea.
"Hereafter he may have little cause to thank me," muttered he. "Come, Mistress Cynthia, it grows late."
She rose in mechanical obedience, and together they retraced their steps in silence, save for the stray word exchanged at intervals touching matters of no moment.
But he had not advocated Kenneth's cause in vain, for all that he little recked what his real argument had been, what influences he had evoked to urge her to make her peace with the lad. A melancholy listlessness of mind possessed her now. Crispin did not see, never would see, what was in her heart, and it might not be hers to show him. The life that might have signified was not to be lived, and since that was so it seemed to matter little what befell.
It was thus that when on the morrow her father returned to the subject, she showed herself tractable and docile out of her indifference, and to Gregory she appeared not averse to listen to what he had to advance in the boy's favour. Anon Kenneth's own humble pleading, allied to his contrite and sorrowful appearance, were received by her with that same indifference, as also with indifference did she allow him later to kiss her hand and assume the flattering belief that he was rehabilitated in her favour.
But pale grew Mistress Cynthia's cheeks, and sad her soul. Wistful she waxed, sighing at every turn, until it seemed to her - as haply it hath seemed to many a maid - that all her life must she waste in vain sighs over a man who gave no single thought to her.
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The Tavern Knight -by- Rafael SabatiniBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.