11. The Meeting
Had Stephen been better acquainted with men and women, she would have been more
satisfied with herself for being the first at the tryst. The conventional idea, in the minds of
most women and of all men, is that a woman should never be the first. But real women,
those in whom the heart beats strong, and whose blood can leap, know better. These are
the commanders of men. In them sex calls to sex, all unconsciously at first; and men
answer to their call, as they to men's.
Two opposite feelings strove for dominance as Stephen found herself on the hilltop,
alone. One a feeling natural enough to any one, and especially to a girl, of relief that a
dreaded hour had been postponed; the other of chagrin that she was the first.
After a few moments, however, one of the two militant thoughts became dominant: the
feeling of chagrin. With a pang she thought if she had been a man and summoned for
such a purpose, how she would have hurried to the trysting-place; how the flying of her
feet would have vied with the quick rapturous beating of her heart! With a little sigh and
a blush, she remembered that Leonard did not know the purpose of the meeting; that he
was a friend almost brought up with her since boy and girl times; that he had often been
summoned in similar terms and for the most trivial of social purposes.
For nearly half an hour Stephen sat on the rustic seat under the shadow of the great oak,
looking, half unconscious of its beauty and yet influenced by it, over the wide landscape
stretched at her feet.
In spite of her disregard of conventions, she was no fool; the instinct of wisdom was
strong within her, so strong that in many ways it ruled her conscious efforts. Had any one
told her that her preparations for this interview were made deliberately with some of the
astuteness that dominated the Devil when he took Jesus to the top of a high mountain and
showed him all the kingdoms of the earth at His feet, she would have, and with truth,
denied it with indignation. Nevertheless it was a fact that she had, in all unconsciousness,
chosen for the meeting a spot which would evidence to a man, consciously or
unconsciously, the desirability for his own sake of acquiescence in her views and wishes.
For all this spreading landscape was her possession, which her husband would share. As
far as the eye could reach was within the estate which she had inherited from her father
and her uncle.
The half-hour passed in waiting had in one way its advantages to the girl: though she was
still as high strung as ever, she acquired a larger measure of control over herself. The
nervous tension, however, was so complete physically that all her faculties were acutely
awake; very early she became conscious of a distant footstep.
To Stephen's straining ears the footsteps seemed wondrous slow, and more wondrous
regular; she felt instinctively that she would have liked to have listened to a more hurried
succession of less evenly- marked sounds. But notwithstanding these thoughts, and the