Emma Orczy.

The Heart of a Woman



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The two men understood each other perfectly. He who had committed a crime, and he who was ready to bear its burden, both had done their share for the other's sake.

It was only after the magnificent obsequies of the Earl of Radclyffe that the truth about the murder of the bricklayer's son was made known to the public at large.

It had to be done for Luke's sake. Colonel Harris insisted upon it with all the weight of his fatherly authority. Sir Thomas Ryder did likewise.

For Louisa's sake, too, it had to be. But, twenty-four hours before the publication of the confession in the newspapers, Luke and Louisa had been quietly married by special license, and had gone abroad.

Once more we must think of them as the commonplace, conventional man and woman of the world, who outwardly behaved just like thousands of English men and women of their class behave.

When they came back from their honeymoon – which lasted one year abroad and all the rest of their lives after that – there was not a trace in them, in their appearance, their manner, their mode of life, of the terrible tragedy which had threatened to annihilate honour, life, and love.

"Ah! those English!" murmured the foreign excellencies who graced the English court, "they have no heart, no sentiment! Lord and Lady Radclyffe! They behave just as if he had never been accused of murder! As if his uncle had never been the awful criminal that he was! They are hypocrites, these English, and they have no heart!"

Convention was once more the master! Its giant hands held the strings which made the puppets dance.

But at times his grip would relax, when Luke and Louisa were all alone, no prying eyes to watch, no indifferent gaze to see the unburdening of their hearts. Then Luke would lie at Louisa's feet, for his love was worship, and his passion uncontrolled. His arms would encircle the perfect form that he loved with such intensity, that at times the happiness of loving had in it an exquisite sense of pain. The tragedy of the past was never quite absent from them then: the ghost of a great crime and the shadow of a still greater renunciation threw a mystic halo over their love for each other. And at those times – like Paolo and Francesca – they read no more.

But these English, they have no heart, you know!

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