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England; I know that I have sacrificed all claim to your affection since, as in all probability your brother will tell you; but now I feel too surely, that if I lose you, I am miserable for life; and, oh Mary though you may resent some parts of my conduct, I am sure that now you cannot doubt, no, not for a moment doubt, that I love you.” Mary's steps vacillated; Charles's arm glided round her waist, to support her; and leaning her face upon his shoulder, she slightly returned the pressure of the hand that clasped her own. “Tell me, tell me, dearest Mary,” he exelaimed, “may I hope?” “Hope, Charles " replied Mary, raising her blushing face and tearful eyes; “can you doubt it?. After all you have done for me—owing you, as I do, life, and perhaps more than life, can you suppose I would hesitate?” She was his own; all his fears were ehanged into hopes; his cup of joy was
filled to overflowing, and he could have thrown himself at her feet, and adored her. Great joys like great sorrows are silent, and for a moment he remained without uttering a word, gazing upon her in that speechless delight more eloquent than any expression that language could supply; and if Mary felt happy herself, the rapture she saw sparkling in Charles's eyes, communicated additional pleasure to her boSOIY).
Charles thanked her again and again; but even that moment of happiness had made him fastidious, and he was not content to owe her love to gratitude—“Nay, dearest Mary,” he said, after the first tumult of his joy was over, “you say, owing me what you do; but do not place it to that account; make me happy completely, and let me believe that I do not owe your eonsent to any thing but the same
unbiassed affection I bear to you.” Mary had no affectation or reserve; but the first person of the present indicative of the the first verb we are taught to conjugate at school—“Amo–I love,” is a very difficult sentence for a woman to pronounce. At length, however, Charles teased her out of a confession that she did not think she could have made; and then, with the usual encroaching spirit of mankind, he must needs also know the cause of that alteration in her manner towards him, which, for the last month, had given him
so much uneasiness. “Well, I will tell you at once, Charles,” she answered, smiling at the eagerness of his questions, “for I know you will not rest till you hear it all explained. The truth was this; as long as I thought you had no other feelings towards me than the mere common affection of relations, I felt no difficulty in my conduct; but when I considered what had passed in the mountains—the warmth of your language, and your devotion in my defence, I became embarrassed—I did not know what your feelings were; I believed you were attached
tached to me, but was not sure of it, and did not know how to model my behaviour towards you. I thought too, very often, that you were hurt at the coldness this produced. But what could I do? It was fully as distressing to me as to you, I can assure you. But now, Charles, you have teased me into telling you much more than I intended, so in return, you shall explain what you meant when you said you would not suffer yourself to love me in England.” “I will tell you all, Mary,” he answered, “exactly as it is; but I scarcely dare—so you must promise to forgive me beforehand.” “You need not fear, Charles,” answered Mary; “besides, I am all curiosity to hear, because there have been a great many things take place which puzzled me not a little. I saw plainly that I was kept in the dark about something, but I did not choose to ask any questions, for I was afraid afraid of getting myself into a scrape by my curiosity, like Bluebeard's wives.” The confession he had to make was a very painful one for Charles, but he forced himself to do it fully and openly; and entering into all the particulars, he told her that they had been designed for each other by their family from very early years, and that he had long ago been informed of the circumstance. “I can conceive the rest, Charles,” said Mary, stopping him; “I suppose you, with the true obstinacy of a free agent, wished very much to hate poor Mary Burton, because you were told to love her.” “No, no, Mary; not to hate you,” he replied—“ that was impossible; but I wished very much not to love you—only I could not help it; but the truth was, I always loved you, though I would not allow myself to believe it. I had no other motive really for going to Ilfracombe but to see you; and if I had not been an idiot, my feelings, when I beheld you in dan