What a strange contretemps! Its suddenness left me temporarily speechless; the embarrassment of Duare was only too obvious. Yet it was that unusual paradox, a happy contretemps —for me at least.
I advanced toward her, and there must have been a great deal more in my eyes than I realized, for she shrank back, flushing even more deeply than before.
“Don't touch me!” she whispered. “Don't dare!”
“Have I ever harmed you?” I asked.
That question seemed to bring her confidence. She shook her head. “No, ” she admitted, “you never have—physically. I sent for you to thank you for the service you have already rendered me; but I did not know it was you. I did not know that the Carson they spoke of was the man who—” She stopped there and looked at me appealingly.
“The man who told you in the garden of the jong that he loved you, ” I prompted her.
“Don't!” she cried. “Can it be that you do not realize the offensive- ness, the criminality of such a declaration?”
“Is it a crime to love you?” I asked.
“It is a crime to tell me so, ” she replied with something of haughtiness.