"And you never shot at him in return?"
"No; I had no quarrel with him, poor fellow; I just stood where I was, and fired in the air--"
Before he could stop her, Charlotte seized his hand, and kissed it with an hysterical fervor of admiration, which completely deprived him of his presence of mind.
"Why shouldn't I kiss the hand of a hero?" she cried, with tears of enthusiasm sparkling in her eyes. "Nobody but a hero would have given that man his life; nobody but a hero would have pardoned him, while the blood was streaming from the wound that he had inflicted. I respect you, I admire you. Oh, don't think me bold! I can't control myself when I hear of anything noble and good. You will understand me better when we get to be old friends--won't you?"
She spoke in low sweet tones of entreaty. Percy's arm stole softly round her.
"Are we never to be nearer and dearer to each other than old friends?" he asked in a whisper. "I am not a hero--your goodness overrates me, dear Miss Charlotte. My one ambition is to be the happy man who is worthy enough to win _you_. At your own time! I wouldn't distress you, I wouldn't confuse you, I wouldn't for the whole world take advantage of the compliment which your sympathy has paid to me. If it offends you, I won't even ask if I may hope."
She sighed as he said the last words; trembled a little, and silently looked at him.
Percy read his answer in her eyes. Without meaning it on either side their heads drew nearer together; their cheeks, then their lips, touched. She started back from him, and rose to leave the conservatory. At the same moment, the sound of slowly-approaching footsteps became audible on the gravel walk of the garden. Charlotte hurried to the door.