Corinne awoke and was dizzied to find that she remembered all of her life once again. As she looked into Eric’s face, she thought of all the kind things he had done for her and was not at all angry at him that he had taken away her memories. But when she sat up and looked at Richard, she simply remembered the afternoon before Eric had rescued her and felt resentment towards her.
‘How can he appear so concerned?’ she wondered. ‘Didn’t he tell me that he would rather walk a thousand miles than ride home with me?’
“Hello,” she said coolly.
“Oh, Corinne,” he whispered, his face pale, his expression distraught.
He pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly. She did not return the hug. When he let go, she calmly slid away from him, next to Eric where she felt much warmer and less irritated.
Richard swallowed nervously.
“Corinne, ... I ... I’ve come to realise that how I behaved was wrong,” he told her. “I should never have ... never have hidden my feelings from you. I can rectify that - I want to show that I can be a better person. If only you would return to Dachshund Manor, my lady, ... I would change.”
Corinne was unconvinced.
“Richard, you asked me to marry you saying you were in love with me. But I don’t think you are. You don’t treat me in the right manner. And I think you know that, don’t you? You have never treated me as a lover should. With Eric, I’ve seen what true love is. And you don’t have it. If I returned to Dachshund Manor, I am not certain I would be happy.”
Richard looked anguished.
“Corinne, you must - I cannot enjoy my life without you. I know I scarcely show it, but ... having you in the manor makes me profoundly happy. And I will change. I promise I will change.”
He gazed into her eyes, pleading with her wordlessly.
Corinne looked away.
“You’ve never dared to court me, Richard. Ever. And that is what I want. Courtship. And you do not love me, Richard. Do you not recall what you said to me the last afternoon we saw each other?”
“I do love you,” he cried passionately. “When we get to the manor, I shall tell you all - you’ll see why I have acted how I have acted. And then once I have confessed every single one of my feelings, I will be able to change! I will have to change. Corinne, my love, can’t you see what I’m willing to do for you? To do for us?”
“I do not believe you!” she retorted, a tear in her eye. “How can you love me - how can you even come here and show concern - when... when... when the last thing that you said to me was that you would rather walk a thousand miles than ride to Dachshund Manor with me?”
Eric hugged her. She welcomed his arms around her.
Richard stared, agonised.
“I should not have said that. I can tell you, Corinne. I can tell you when we return ... why exactly I said that. Why I told you it had cost me everything to declare my true feelings for you? Do you not remember my declaration?”
“I more remember the part where you said it cost you everything. And I remember what you said before that - that you were only capable of hating me.” Corinne felt wildly triumphant. “See! You even said yourself that day that you could not feel love for me.”
“Corinne, please!” Richard implored. He looked like he was fighting tears.
“Leave me alone, Richard,” she said calmly. “Return to the manor and do not come back to me.”
She thought about her life at the manor, and added, “I shall collect my belongings at a later time. Tell Mother that I will come for her too.”
“Corinne, no,” Richard whispered. “Please don’t do this to me. I love you! I have been so scared - so tortured by my haunted imagination! I imagined your kidnapper harming you in the most frightening ways. Please come home.”
“I am not hurt,” she told him. “You can feel relief now. And my home more feels like Eric’s cottage now.”
Richard tried to move closer to her. She stood up and stepped backwards. Eric shot Richard a warning glance before standing up too. Richard remained on the floor, head bowed, his frame trembling slightly.
She had a sudden idea of how she could make it clear to him that she was not returning with him. Going into Eric’s bedroom, she picked up the engagement ring she had taken off the night before. She returned to the living room and placed the ring upon the floor where Richard could see it.
Richard’s entire body stiffened. Only the rise and fall of his chest could be seen.
“Corinne,” he said, his tone bleak and hopeless. “You don’t mean this.”
“I do, Richard,” she told him, hoping he’d leave quickly. She had caught a glance of Eric’s warm, heart-melting eyes and found that their effect on her had intensified.
He looked up into her eyes, his own wide and vulnerable.
“No. This is not the sort of thing that you would do.”
“Richard, I am no longer in love with you. I thought you would have realised by now.”
Richard shook his head stubbornly.
“Look,” Eric said, his tone kind. “It will only hurt more if you stay, my lord. Shall we fetch your stallion?”
“I do not want your sympathy, Stag.”
Eric sighed quietly.
“You still need to leave, my lord.”
“You need to hang.”
Corinne sighed in exasperation.
“No, Richard. You will not hang him. He has made me happy. That is not a crime.”
“He kidnapped you. That is.”
“Well, perhaps I’d have desired it anyway.”
“It does not matter what you feel now, Corinne.”
“Are you really going to do this?” Corinne asked angrily. “Take the life of the man I am in love with because I refuse to return to Dachshund Manor with you? You cannot possess me, Richard. If you kill Eric, I shall only hate you. Is that what you want?”
Richard shook his head, but it was not an answer.
“You’ve grown so cold, Corinne. So heartless and cold.”
“I wouldn’t be cold if it weren’t for you,” she whispered.
Richard looked up at her once more and rose to his feet, looking all at once destroyed and furious.
“I do not see why everyone loves you, Corinne. I really do not.”
It was a pathetic attempt at hurting her feelings and he knew it. Without another word, he spun on his heel and stormed out of the door. A minute later, the sound of his stallion’s hooves could be heard on the path outside the cottage.
Corinne hugged Eric tightly, tears coming to her eyes. But why should she cry? Everything she had said had been the truth. She was no longer in love with Richard.
And that was when she realised. They were tears of relief.
Corinne let them fall, feeling as though a massive weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She stood straight and proud and she kissed Eric.
Eric seemed surprised but he kissed her in return. He held her to him and she wrapped her arms around him and she kissed him as she realised she had wanted to ever since the morning she had watched him wake up. Her fingers luxuriated in the feel of his soft hair and her lips luxuriated in the movement against Eric’s and her heart luxuriated in all of the sweet sensations that she felt that she more than deserved. Goodbye to you, Richard.