'You said . . .' He hesitated. It seemed too bold to say. 'You said that you began to love me. I believe it--but there is something that troubles you and checks your feeling. What is it?'
'Yes--now or never!' thought she. 'He is bound to know of it anyway. But now he will not forsake me. Ah, if he should, it would be terrible!' And she threw a loving glance at his tall, noble, powerful figure. She loved him now more than she had loved the Tsar, and apart from the Imperial dignity would not have preferred the Emperor to him.
'Listen! I cannot deceive you. I have to tell you. You ask what it is? It is that I have loved before.'
She again laid her hand on his with an imploring gesture. He was silent.
'You want to know who it was? It was--the Emperor.'
'We all love him. I can imagine you, a schoolgirl at the Institute . . .'
'No, it was later. I was infatuated, but it passed . . . I must tell you . . .'
'No, it was not simply--' She covered her face with her hands.