If you're anything like me, you keep going back to your favorite passages from certain books. I even keep tabs or bookmarks in my favorite books of all time, so that I can give a quick read to the swoony parts whenever...
life gets too much to handle.
(I really hope I'm not the only one who does that. Anyone? I mean the part where they say the words and give the looks and finally -finally- admit their true feelings...Ugh.)
Anyway, whether it's Heathcliff, Mr. Darcy or Edward Rochester that has stolen your heart, this is a little bit of romance to brighten up all our lives. Love makes everything better, doesn't it? Especially bookish love.
Here's hoping it will make these bitterly cold February days a little warmer.
Oh, and a heads up: Not every love declaration ends in a happily-ever-after (as shown above). But sometimes even the pain is delicious... Don't you agree?
1. You're my best friend
Whatever his motive might have been, Laurie studied to some purpose that year, for he graduated with honor, and gave the Latin oration with the grace of a Phillips and the eloquence of a Demosthenes, so his friends said. They were all there, his grandfather—oh, so proud—Mr. and Mrs. March, John and Meg, Jo and Beth, and all exulted over him with the sincere admiration which boys make light of at the time, but fail to win from the world by any after-triumphs.
"I've got to stay for this confounded supper, but I shall be home early tomorrow. You'll come and meet me as usual, girls?" Laurie said, as he put the sisters into the carriage after the joys of the day were over. He said 'girls', but he meant Jo, for she was the only one who kept up the old custom. She had not the heart to refuse her splendid, successful boy anything, and answered warmly...
"I'll come, Teddy, rain or shine, and march before you, playing 'Hail the conquering hero comes' on a jew's-harp."
Laurie thanked her with a look that made her think in a sudden panic, "Oh, deary me! I know he'll say something, and then what shall I do?"
Evening meditation and morning work somewhat allayed her fears, and having decided that she wouldn't be vain enough to think people were going to propose when she had given them every reason to know what her answer would be, she set forth at the appointed time, hoping Teddy wouldn't do anything to make her hurt his poor feelings. A call at Meg's, and a refreshing sniff and sip at the Daisy and Demijohn, still further fortified her for the tête-a-tête, but when she saw a stalwart figure looming in the distance, she had a strong desire to turn about and run away.
"Where's the jew's-harp, Jo?" cried Laurie, as soon as he was within speaking distance.
"I forgot it." And Jo took heart again, for that salutation could not be called lover-like.
She always used to take his arm on these occasions, now she did not, and he made no complaint, which was a bad sign, but talked on rapidly about all sorts of faraway subjects, till they turned from the road into the little path that led homeward through the grove. Then he walked more slowly, suddenly lost his fine flow of language, and now and then a dreadful pause occurred. To rescue the conversation from one of the wells of silence into which it kept falling, Jo said hastily, "Now you must have a good long holiday!"
"I intend to."
Something in his resolute tone made Jo look up quickly to find him looking down at her with an expression that assured her the dreaded moment had come, and made her put out her hand with an imploring, "No, Teddy. Please don't!"
"I will, and you must hear me. It's no use, Jo, we've got to have it out, and the sooner the better for both of us," he answered, getting flushed and excited all at once.
"Say what you like then. I'll listen," said Jo, with a desperate sort of patience.
Laurie was a young lover, but he was in earnest, and meant to 'have it out', if he died in the attempt, so he plunged into the subject with characteristic impetuousity, saying in a voice that would get choky now and then, in spite of manful efforts to keep it steady...
"I've loved you ever since I've known you, Jo, couldn't help it, you've been so good to me. I've tried to show it, but you wouldn't let me. Now I'm going to make you hear, and give me an answer, for I can't go on so any longer."
"I wanted to save you this. I thought you'd understand..." began Jo, finding it a great deal harder than she expected.
"I know you did, but the girls are so queer you never know what they mean. They say no when they mean yes, and drive a man out of his wits just for the fun of it," returned Laurie, entrenching himself behind an undeniable fact.
"I don't. I never wanted to make you care for me so, and I went away to keep you from it if I could."
"I thought so. It was like you, but it was no use. I only loved you all the more, and I worked hard to please you, and I gave up billiards and everything you didn't like, and waited and never complained, for I hoped you'd love me, though I'm not half good enough..." Here there was a choke that couldn't be controlled, so he decapitated buttercups while he cleared his 'confounded throat'.
"You, you are, you're a great deal too good for me, and I'm so grateful to you, and so proud and fond of you, I don't know why I can't love you as you want me to. I've tried, but I can't change the feeling, and it would be a lie to say I do when I don't."
"Really, truly, Jo?"
He stopped short, and caught both her hands as he put his question with a look that she did not soon forget.
"Really, truly, dear."
They were in the grove now, close by the stile, and when the last words fell reluctantly from Jo's lips, Laurie dropped her hands and turned as if to go on, but for once in his life the fence was too much for him. So he just laid his head down on the mossy post, and stood so still that Jo was frightened.
"Oh, Teddy, I'm sorry, so desperately sorry, I could kill myself if it would do any good! I wish you wouldn't take it so hard, I can't help it. You know it's impossible for people to make themselves love other people if they don't," cried Jo inelegantly but remorsefully, as she softly patted his shoulder, remembering the time when he had comforted her so long ago.
"They do sometimes," said a muffled voice from the post. "I don't believe it's the right sort of love, and I'd rather not try it," was the decided answer.
There was a long pause, while a blackbird sung blithely on the willow by the river, and the tall grass rustled in the wind. Presently Jo said very soberly, as she sat down on the step of the stile, "Laurie, I want to tell you something."
He started as if he had been shot, threw up his head, and cried out in a fierce tone, "Don't tell me that, Jo, I can't bear it now!"
"Tell what?" she asked, wondering at his violence.
"That you love that old man."
"What old man?" demanded Jo, thinking he must mean his grandfather.
"That devilish Professor you were always writing about. If you say you love him, I know I shall do something desperate;" and he looked as if he would keep his word, as he clenched his hands with a wrathful spark in his eyes.
Jo wanted to laugh, but restrained herself and said warmly, for she too, was getting excited with all this, "Don't swear, Teddy! He isn't old, nor anything bad, but good and kind, and the best friend I've got, next to you. Pray, don't fly into a passion. I want to be kind, but I know I shall get angry if you abuse my Professor. I haven't the least idea of loving him or anybody else."
"But you will after a while, and then what will become of me?"
"You'll love someone else too, like a sensible boy, and forget all this trouble."
"I can't love anyone else, and I'll never forget you, Jo, Never! Never!" with a stamp to emphasize his passionate words.
"What shall I do with him?" sighed Jo, finding that emotions were more unmanagable than she expected. "You haven't heard what I wanted to tell you. Sit down and listen, for indeed I want to do right and make you happy," she said, hoping to soothe him with a little reason, which proved that she knew nothing about love.
Seeing a ray of hope in that last speech, Laurie threw himself down on the grass at her feet, leaned his arm on the lower step of the stile, and looked up at her with an expectant face. Now that arrangement was not conducive to calm speech or clear thought on Jo's part, for how could she say hard things to her boy while he watched her with eyes full of love and longing, and lashes still wet with the bitter drop or two her hardness of heart had wrung from him? She gently turned his head away, saying, as she stroked the wavy hair which had been allowed to grow for her sake—how touching that was, to be sure! "I agree with Mother that you and I are not suited to each other, because our quick tempers and strong wills would probably make us very miserable, if we were so foolish as to..." Jo paused a little over the last word, but Laurie uttered it with a rapturous expression.
"Marry—no we shouldn't! If you loved me, Jo, I should be a perfect saint, for you could make me anything you like."
"No, I can't. I've tried and failed, and I won't risk our happiness by such a serious experiment. We don't agree and we never shall, so we'll be good friends all our lives, but we won't go and do anything rash."
"Yes, we will if we get the chance," muttered Laurie rebelliously.
"Now do be reasonable, and take a sensible view of the case," implored Jo, almost at her wit's end.
"I won't be reasonable. I don't want to take what you call 'a sensible view'. It won't help me, and it only makes it harder. I don't believe you've got any heart."
"I wish I hadn't."
There was a little quiver in Jo's voice, and thinking it a good omen, Laurie turned round, bringing all his persuasive powers to bear as he said, in the wheedlesome tone that had never been so dangerously wheedlesome before, "Don't disappoint us, dear! Everyone expects it. Grandpa has set his heart upon it, your people like it, and I can't get on without you. Say you will, and let's be happy. Do, do!"
Not until months afterward did Jo understand how she had the strength of mind to hold fast to the resolution she had made when she decided that she did not love her boy, and never could. It was very hard to do, but she did it, knowing that delay was both useless and cruel.
"I can't say 'yes' truly, so I won't say it at all. You'll see that I'm right, by-and-by, and thank me for it..." she began solemnly.
"I'll be hanged if I do!" and Laurie bounced up off the grass, burning with indignation at the very idea.
"Yes, you will!" persisted Jo. "You'll get over this after a while, and find some lovely accomplished girl, who will adore you, and make a fine mistress for your fine house. I shouldn't. I'm homely and awkward and odd and old, and you'd be ashamed of me, and we should quarrel—we can't help it even now, you see—and I shouldn't like elegant society and you would, and you'd hate my scribbling, and I couldn't get on without it, and we should be unhappy, and wish we hadn't done it, and everything would be horrid!"
"Anything more?" asked Laurie, finding it hard to listen patiently to this prophetic burst.
"Nothing more, except that I don't believe I shall ever marry. I'm happy as I am, and love my liberty too well to be in a hurry to give it up for any mortal man."
"I know better!" broke in Laurie. "You think so now, but there'll come a time when you will care for somebody, and you'll love him tremendously, and live and die for him. I know you will, it's your way, and I shall have to stand by and see it," and the despairing lover cast his hat upon the ground with a gesture that would have seemed comical, if his face had not been so tragic.
"Yes, I will live and die for him, if he ever comes and makes me love him in spite of myself, and you must do the best you can!" cried Jo, losing patience with poor Teddy. "I've done my best, but you won't be reasonable, and it's selfish of you to keep teasing for what I can't give. I shall always be fond of you, very fond indeed, as a friend, but I'll never marry you, and the sooner you believe it the better for both of us—so now!"
That speech was like gunpowder. Laurie looked at her a minute as if he did not quite know what to do with himself, then turned sharply away, saying in a desperate sort of tone, "You'll be sorry some day, Jo."
"Oh, where are you going?" she cried, for his face frightened her.
"To the devil!" was the consoling answer.
For a minute Jo's heart stood still, as he swung himself down the bank toward the river, but it takes much folly, sin or misery to send a young man to a violent death, and Laurie was not one of the weak sort who are conquered by a single failure. He had no thought of a melodramatic plunge, but some blind instinct led him to fling hat and coat into his boat, and row away with all his might, making better time up the river than he had done in any race. Jo drew a long breath and unclasped her hands as she watched the poor fellow trying to outstrip the trouble which he carried in his heart.
"That will do him good, and he'll come home in such a tender, penitent state of mind, that I shan't dare to see him," she said, adding, as she went slowly home, feeling as if she had murdered some innocent thing, and buried it under the leaves. "Now I must go and prepare Mr. Laurence to be very kind to my poor boy. I wish he'd love Beth, perhaps he may in time, but I begin to think I was mistaken about her. Oh dear! How can girls like to have lovers and refuse them? I think it's dreadful."
Being sure that no one could do it so well as herself, she went straight to Mr. Laurence, told the hard story bravely through, and then broke down, crying so dismally over her own insensibility that the kind old gentleman, though sorely disappointed, did not utter a reproach. He found it difficult to understand how any girl could help loving Laurie, and hoped she would change her mind, but he knew even better than Jo that love cannot be forced, so he shook his head sadly and resolved to carry his boy out of harm's way, for Young Impetuosity's parting words to Jo disturbed him more than he would confess.
When Laurie came home, dead tired but quite composed, his grandfather met him as if he knew nothing, and kept up the delusion very successfully for an hour or two. But when they sat together in the twilight, the time they used to enjoy so much, it was hard work for the old man to ramble on as usual, and harder still for the young one to listen to praises of the last year's success, which to him now seemed like love's labor lost. He bore it as long as he could, then went to his piano and began to play. The windows were open, and Jo, walking in the garden with Beth, for once understood music better than her sister, for he played the 'Sonata Pathetique', and played it as he never did before.
"That's very fine, I dare say, but it's sad enough to make one cry. Give us something gayer, lad," said Mr. Laurence, whose kind old heart was full of sympathy, which he longed to show but knew not how.
Laurie dashed into a livelier strain, played stormily for several minutes, and would have got through bravely, if in a momentary lull Mrs. March's voice had not been heard calling, "Jo, dear, come in. I want you."
Just what Laurie longed to say, with a different meaning! As he listened, he lost his place, the music ended with a broken chord, and the musician sat silent in the dark.
"I can't stand this," muttered the old gentleman. Up he got, groped his way to the piano, laid a kind hand on either of the broad shoulders, and said, as gently as a woman, "I know, my boy, I know."
No answer for an instant, then Laurie asked sharply, "Who told you?"
"Then there's an end of it!" And he shook off his grandfather's hands with an impatient motion, for though grateful for the sympathy, his man's pride could not bear a man's pity.
"Not quite. I want to say one thing, and then there shall be an end of it," returned Mr. Laurence with unusual mildness. "You won't care to stay at home now, perhaps?"
"I don't intend to run away from a girl. Jo can't prevent my seeing her, and I shall stay and do it as long as I like," interrupted Laurie in a defiant tone.
"Not if you are the gentleman I think you. I'm disappointed, but the girl can't help it, and the only thing left for you to do is to go away for a time. Where will you go?"
"Anywhere. I don't care what becomes of me," and Laurie got up with a reckless laugh that grated on his grandfather's ear.
"Take it like a man, and don't do anything rash, for God's sake. Why not go abroad, as you planned, and forget it?"
"But you've been wild to go, and I promised you should when you got through college."
"Ah, but I didn't mean to go alone!" and Laurie walked fast through the room with an expression which it was well his grandfather did not see.
"I don't ask you to go alone. There's someone ready and glad to go with you, anywhere in the world."
"Who, Sir?" stopping to listen.
Laurie came back as quickly as he went, and put out his hand, saying huskily, "I'm a selfish brute, but—you know—Grandfather—"
"Lord help me, yes, I do know, for I've been through it all before, once in my own young days, and then with your father. Now, my dear boy, just sit quietly down and hear my plan. It's all settled, and can be carried out at once," said Mr. Laurence, keeping hold of the young man, as if fearful that he would break away as his father had done before him.
"Well, sir, what is it?" and Laurie sat down, without a sign of interest in face or voice.
"There is business in
that needs looking after. I meant you
should attend to it, but I can do it better myself, and things here will get on
very well with Brooke to manage them. My partners do almost everything, I'm
merely holding on until you take my place, and can be off at any time." London
"But you hate traveling, Sir. I can't ask it of you at your age," began Laurie, who was grateful for the sacrifice, but much preferred to go alone, if he went at all.
The old gentleman knew that perfectly well, and particularly desired to prevent it, for the mood in which he found his grandson assured him that it would not be wise to leave him to his own devices. So, stifling a natural regret at the thought of the home comforts he would leave behind him, he said stoutly, "Bless your soul, I'm not superannuated yet. I quite enjoy the idea. It will do me good, and my old bones won't suffer, for traveling nowadays is almost as easy as sitting in a chair."
A restless movement from Laurie suggested that his chair was not easy, or that he did not like the plan, and made the old man add hastily, "I don't mean to be a marplot or a burden. I go because I think you'd feel happier than if I was left behind. I don't intend to gad about with you, but leave you free to go where you like, while I amuse myself in my own way. I've friends in
London and , and should like to visit them.
Meantime you can go to Paris Italy,
where you will, and enjoy pictures, music, scenery, and adventures to your
heart's content." Switzerland
Now, Laurie felt just then that his heart was entirely broken and the world a howling wilderness, but at the sound of certain words which the old gentleman artfully introduced into his closing sentence, the broken heart gave an unexpected leap, and a green oasis or two suddenly appeared in the howling wilderness. He sighed, and then said, in a spiritless tone, "Just as you like, Sir. It doesn't matter where I go or what I do."
"It does to me, remember that, my lad. I give you entire liberty, but I trust you to make an honest use of it. Promise me that, Laurie."
"Anything you like, Sir."
"Good," thought the old gentleman. "You don't care now, but there'll come a time when that promise will keep you out of mischief, or I'm much mistaken."
Being an energetic individual, Mr. Laurence struck while the iron was hot, and before the blighted being recovered spirit enough to rebel, they were off. During the time necessary for preparation, Laurie bore himself as young gentleman usually do in such cases. He was moody, irritable, and pensive by turns, lost his appetite, neglected his dress and devoted much time to playing tempestuously on his piano, avoided Jo, but consoled himself by staring at her from his window, with a tragic face that haunted her dreams by night and oppressed her with a heavy sense of guilt by day. Unlike some sufferers, he never spoke of his unrequited passion, and would allow no one, not even Mrs. March, to attempt consolation or offer sympathy. On some accounts, this was a relief to his friends, but the weeks before his departure were very uncomfortable, and everyone rejoiced that the 'poor, dear fellow was going away to forget his trouble, and come home happy'. Of course, he smiled darkly at their delusion, but passed it by with the sad superiority of one who knew that his fidelity like his love was unalterable.
When the parting came he affected high spirits, to conceal certain inconvenient emotions which seemed inclined to assert themselves. This gaiety did not impose upon anybody, but they tried to look as if it did for his sake, and he got on very well till Mrs. March kissed him, with a whisper full of motherly solicitude. Then feeling that he was going very fast, he hastily embraced them all round, not forgetting the afflicted Hannah, and ran downstairs as if for his life. Jo followed a minute after to wave her hand to him if he looked round. He did look round, came back, put his arms about her as she stood on the step above him, and looked up at her with a face that made his short appeal eloquent and pathetic.
"Oh, Jo, can't you?"
"Teddy, dear, I wish I could!"
That was all, except a little pause. Then Laurie straightened himself up, said, "It's all right, never mind," and went away without another word. Ah, but it wasn't all right, and Jo did mind, for while the curly head lay on her arm a minute after her hard answer, she felt as if she had stabbed her dearest friend, and when he left her without a look behind him, she knew that the boy Laurie never would come again.
2. On the steps
A few minutes later she was sitting, wrapped in cozy furs, near Sir Percy Blakeney on the box-seat of his magnificent coach, and the four splendid bays had thundered down the quiet street.
The night was warm in spite of the gentle breeze which fanned Marguerite's burning cheeks. Soon
houses were left behind, and rattling over old Hammersmith
Bridge, Sir Percy was driving his bays
rapidly towards . Richmond
The river wound in and out in its pretty delicate curves, looking like a silver serpent beneath the glittering rays of the moon. Long shadows from overhanging trees spread occasional deep palls right across the road. The bays were rushing along at breakneck speed, held but slightly back by Sir Percy's strong, unerring hands.
These nightly drives after balls and suppers in
London were a source of perpetual delight to Marguerite,
and she appreciated her husband's eccentricity keenly, which caused him to
adopt this mode of taking her home every night, to their beautiful home by the
river, instead of living in a stuffy
house. He loved driving his spirited horses along the lonely, moonlit roads,
and she loved to sit on the box-seat, with the soft air of an English late
summer's night fanning her face after the hot atmosphere of a ball or
supper-party. The drive was not a long one—less than an hour, sometimes, when
the bays were very fresh, and Sir Percy gave them full rein. London
To-night he seemed to have a very devil in his fingers, and the coach seemed to fly along the road, beside the river. As usual, he did not speak to her, but stared straight in front of him, the ribbons seeming to lie quite loosely in his slender, white hands. Marguerite looked at him tentatively once or twice; she could see his handsome profile, and one lazy eye, with its straight fine brow and drooping heavy lid.
The face in the moonlight looked singularly earnest, and recalled to Marguerite's aching heart those happy days of courtship, before he had become the lazy nincompoop, the effete fop, whose life seemed spent in card and supper rooms.
But now, in the moonlight, she could not catch the expression of the lazy blue eyes; she could only see the outline of the firm chin, the corner of the strong mouth, the well-cut massive shape of the forehead; truly, nature had meant well by Sir Percy; his faults must all be laid at the door of that poor, half-crazy mother, and of the distracted heart-broken father, neither of whom had cared for the young life which was sprouting up between them, and which, perhaps, their very carelessness was already beginning to wreck.
Marguerite suddenly felt intense sympathy for her husband. The moral crisis she had just gone through made her feel indulgent towards the faults, the delinquencies, of others.
How thoroughly a human being can be buffeted and overmastered by Fate, had been borne in upon her with appalling force. Had anyone told her a week ago that she would stoop to spy upon her friends, that she would betray a brave and unsuspecting man into the hands of a relentless enemy, she would have laughed the idea to scorn.
Yet she had done these things; anon, perhaps the death of that brave man would be at her door, just as two years ago the Marquis de St. Cyr had perished through a thoughtless words of hers; but in that case she was morally innocent—she had meant no serious harm—fate merely had stepped in. But this time she had done a thing that obviously was base, had done it deliberately, for a motive which, perhaps, high moralists would not even appreciate.
As she felt her husband's strong arm beside her, she also felt how much more he would dislike and despise her, if he knew of this night's work. Thus human beings judge of one another, with but little reason, and no charity. She despised her husband for his inanities and vulgar, unintellectual occupations; and he, she felt, would despise her still worse, because she had not been strong enough to do right for right's sake, and to sacrifice her brother to the dictates of her conscience.
Buried in her thoughts, Marguerite had found this hour in the breezy summer night all too brief; and it was with a feeling of keen disappointment, that she suddenly realised that the bays had turned into the massive gates of her beautiful English home.
Sir Percy Blakeney's house on the river has become a historic one: palatial in its dimensions, it stands in the midst of exquisitely laid-out gardens, with a picturesque terrace and frontage to the river. Built in Tudor days, the old red brick of the walls looks eminently picturesque in the midst of a bower of green, the beautiful lawn, with its old sun-dial, adding the true note of harmony to its foregrounds, and now, on this warm early autumn night, the leaves slightly turned to russets and gold, the old garden looked singularly poetic and peaceful in the moonlight.
With unerring precision, Sir Percy had brought the four bays to a standstill immediately in front of the fine Elizabethan entrance hall; in spite of the late hour, an army of grooms seemed to have emerged from the very ground, as the coach had thundered up, and were standing respectfully round.
Sir Percy jumped down quickly, then helped Marguerite to alight. She lingered outside a moment, whilst he gave a few orders to one of his men. She skirted the house, and stepped on to the lawn, looking out dreamily into the silvery landscape. Nature seemed exquisitely at peace, in comparison with the tumultuous emotions she had gone through: she could faintly hear the ripple of the river and the occasional soft and ghostlike fall of a dead leaf from a tree.
All else was quiet round her. She had heard the horses prancing as they were being led away to their distant stables, the hurrying of servant's feet as they had all gone within to rest: the house also was quite still. In two separate suites of apartments, just above the magnificent reception-rooms, lights were still burning, they were her rooms, and his, well divided from each other by the whole width of the house, as far apart as their own lives had become. Involuntarily she sighed—at that moment she could really not have told why.
She was suffering from unconquerable heartache. Deeply and achingly she was sorry for herself. Never had she felt so pitiably lonely, so bitterly in want of comfort and of sympathy. With another sigh she turned away from the river towards the house, vaguely wondering if, after such a night, she could ever find rest and sleep.
Suddenly, before she reached the terrace, she heard a firm step upon the crisp gravel, and the next moment her husband's figure emerged out of the shadow. He too, had skirted the house, and was wandering along the lawn, towards the river. He still wore his heavy driving coat with the numerous lapels and collars he himself had set in fashion, but he had thrown it well back, burying his hands as was his wont, in the deep pockets of his satin breeches: the gorgeous white costume he had worn at Lord Grenville's ball, with its jabot of priceless lace, looked strangely ghostly against the dark background of the house.
He apparently did not notice her, for, after a few moments pause, he presently turned back towards the house, and walked straight up to the terrace.
He already had one foot on the lowest of the terrace steps, but at her voice he started, and paused, then looked searchingly into the shadows whence she had called to him.
She came forward quickly into the moonlight, and, as soon as he saw her, he said, with that air of consummate gallantry he always wore when speaking to her,—
"At your service, Madame!" But his foot was still on the step, and in his whole attitude there was a remote suggestion, distinctly visible to her, that he wished to go, and had no desire for a midnight interview.
"The air is deliciously cool," she said, "the moonlight peaceful and poetic, and the garden inviting. Will you not stay in it awhile; the hour is not yet late, or is my company so distasteful to you, that you are in a hurry to rid yourself of it?"
"Nay, Madame," he rejoined placidly, "but 'tis on the other foot the shoe happens to be, and I'll warrant you'll find the midnight air more poetic without my company: no doubt the sooner I remove the obstruction the better your ladyship will like it."
He turned once more to go.
"I protest you mistake me, Sir Percy," she said hurriedly, and drawing a little closer to him; "the estrangement, which alas! has arisen between us, was none of my making, remember."
"Begad! you must pardon me there, Madame!" he protested coldly, "my memory was always of the shortest."
He looked her straight in the eyes, with that lazy nonchalance which had become second nature to him. She returned his gaze for a moment, then her eyes softened, as she came up quite close to him, to the foot of the terrace steps.
"Of the shortest, Sir Percy! Faith! how it must have altered! Was it three years ago or four that you saw me for one hour in
, on your way to the
East? When you came back two years later you had not forgotten me." Paris
She looked divinely pretty as she stood there in the moonlight, with the fur-cloak sliding off her beautiful shoulders, the gold embroidery on her dress shimmering around her, her childlike blue eyes turned up fully at him.
He stood for a moment, rigid and still, but for the clenching of his hand against the stone balustrade of the terrace.
"You desired my presence, Madame," he said frigidly. "I take it that it was not with the view to indulging in tender reminiscences."
His voice certainly was cold and uncompromising: his attitude before her, stiff and unbending. Womanly decorum would have suggested Marguerite should return coldness for coldness, and should sweep past him without another word, only with a curt nod of her head: but womanly instinct suggested that she should remain—that keen instinct, which makes a beautiful woman conscious of her powers long to bring to her knees the one man who pays her no homage. She stretched out her hand to him.
"Nay, Sir Percy, why not? the present is not so glorious but that I should not wish to dwell a little in the past."
He bent his tall figure, and taking hold of the extreme tip of the fingers which she still held out to him, he kissed them ceremoniously.
"I' faith, Madame," he said, "then you will pardon me, if my dull wits cannot accompany you there."
Once again he attempted to go, once more her voice, sweet, childlike, almost tender, called him back.
"Your servant, Madame."
"Is it possible that love can die?" she said with sudden, unreasoning vehemence. "Methought that the passion which you once felt for me would outlast the span of human life. Is there nothing left of that love, Percy . . . which might help you . . . to bridge over that sad estrangement?"
His massive figure seemed, while she spoke thus to him, to stiffen still more, the strong mouth hardened, a look of relentless obstinacy crept into the habitually lazy blue eyes.
"With what object, I pray you, Madame?" he asked coldly.
"I do not understand you."
"Yet 'tis simple enough," he said with sudden bitterness, which seemed literally to surge through his words, though he was making visible efforts to suppress it, "I humbly put the question to you, for my slow wits are unable to grasp the cause of this, your ladyship's sudden new mood. Is it that you have the taste to renew the devilish sport which you played so successfully last year? Do you wish to see me once more a love-sick suppliant at your feet, so that you might again have the pleasure of kicking me aside, like a troublesome lap-dog?"
She had succeeded in rousing him for the moment: and again she looked straight at him, for it was thus she remembered him a year ago.
"Percy! I entreat you!" she whispered, "can we not bury the past?"
"Pardon me, Madame, but I understood you to say that your desire was to dwell in it."
"Nay! I spoke not of THAT past, Percy!" she said, while a tone of tenderness crept into her voice. "Rather did I speak of a time when you loved me still! and I . . . oh! I was vain and frivolous; your wealth and position allured me: I married you, hoping in my heart that your great love for me would beget in me a love for you . . . but, alas! . . ."
The moon had sunk low down behind a bank of clouds. In the east a soft grey light was beginning to chase away the heavy mantle of the night. He could only see her graceful outline now, the small queenly head, with its wealth of reddish golden curls, and the glittering gems forming the small, star-shaped, red flower which she wore as a diadem in her hair.
"Twenty-four hours after our marriage, Madame, the Marquis de St. Cyr and all his family perished on the guillotine, and the popular rumour reached me that it was the wife of Sir Percy Blakeney who helped to send them there."
"Nay! I myself told you the truth of that odious tale."
"Not till after it had been recounted to me by strangers, with all its horrible details."
"And you believed them then and there," she said with great vehemence, "without a proof or question—you believed that I, whom you vowed you loved more than life, whom you professed you worshipped, that I could do a thing so base as these STRANGERS chose to recount. You thought I meant to deceive you about it all—that I ought to have spoken before I married you: yet, had you listened, I would have told you that up to the very morning on which St. Cyr went to the guillotine, I was straining every nerve, using every influence I possessed, to save him and his family. But my pride sealed my lips, when your love seemed to perish, as if under the knife of that same guillotine. Yet I would have told you how I was duped! Aye! I, whom that same popular rumour had endowed with the sharpest wits in
I was tricked into doing this thing, by men who knew how to play upon my love
for an only brother, and my desire for revenge. Was it unnatural?" France
Her voice became choked with tears. She paused for a moment or two, trying to regain some sort of composure. She looked appealingly at him, almost as if he were her judge. He had allowed her to speak on in her own vehement, impassioned way, offering no comment, no word of sympathy: and now, while she paused, trying to swallow down the hot tears that gushed to her eyes, he waited, impassive and still. The dim, grey light of early dawn seemed to make his tall form look taller and more rigid. The lazy, good-natured face looked strangely altered. Marguerite, excited, as she was, could see that the eyes were no longer languid, the mouth no longer good-humoured and inane. A curious look of intense passion seemed to glow from beneath his drooping lids, the mouth was tightly closed, the lips compressed, as if the will alone held that surging passion in check.
Marguerite Blakeney was, above all, a woman, with all a woman's fascinating foibles, all a woman's most lovable sins. She knew in a moment that for the past few months she had been mistaken: that this man who stood here before her, cold as a statue, when her musical voice struck upon his ear, loved her, as he had loved her a year ago: that his passion might have been dormant, but that it was there, as strong, as intense, as overwhelming, as when first her lips met his in one long, maddening kiss. Pride had kept him from her, and, woman-like, she meant to win back that conquest which had been hers before. Suddenly it seemed to her that the only happiness life could ever hold for her again would be in feeling that man's kiss once more upon her lips.
"Listen to the tale, Sir Percy," she said, and her voice was low, sweet, infinitely tender. "Armand was all in all to me! We had no parents, and brought one another up. He was my little father, and I, his tiny mother; we loved one another so. Then one day—do you mind me, Sir Percy? the Marquis de St. Cyr had my brother Armand thrashed—thrashed by his lacqueys—that brother whom I loved better than all the world! And his offence? That he, a plebeian, had dared to love the daughter of the aristocrat; for that he was waylaid and thrashed . . . thrashed like a dog within an inch of his life! Oh, how I suffered! his humiliation had eaten into my very soul! When the opportunity occurred, and I was able to take my revenge, I took it. But I only thought to bring that proud marquis to trouble and humiliation. He plotted with
against his own country. Chance gave me knowledge of this; I spoke of it, but I
did not know—how could I guess?—they trapped and duped me. When I realised what
I had done, it was too late." Austria
"It is perhaps a little difficult, Madame," said Sir Percy, after a moment of silence between them, "to go back over the past. I have confessed to you that my memory is short, but the thought certainly lingered in my mind that, at the time of the Marquis' death, I entreated you for an explanation of those same noisome popular rumours. If that same memory does not, even now, play me a trick, I fancy that you refused me ALL explanation then, and demanded of my love a humiliating allegiance it was not prepared to give."
"I wished to test your love for me, and it did not bear the test. You used to tell me that you drew the very breath of life but for me, and for love of me."
"And to probe that love, you demanded that I should forfeit mine honour," he said, whilst gradually his impassiveness seemed to leave him, his rigidity to relax; "that I should accept without murmur or question, as a dumb and submissive slave, every action of my mistress. My heart overflowing with love and passion, I ASKED for no explanation—I WAITED for one, not doubting—only hoping. Had you spoken but one word, from you I would have accepted any explanation and believed it. But you left me without a word, beyond a bald confession of the actual horrible facts; proudly you returned to your brother's house, and left me alone . . . for weeks . . . not knowing, now, in whom to believe, since the shrine, which contained my one illusion, lay shattered to earth at my feet."
She need not complain now that he was cold and impassive; his very voice shook with an intensity of passion, which he was making superhuman efforts to keep in check.
"Aye! the madness of my pride!" she said sadly. "Hardly had I gone, already I had repented. But when I returned, I found you, oh, so altered! wearing already that mask of somnolent indifference which you have never laid aside until . . . until now."
She was so close to him that her soft, loose hair was wafted against his cheek; her eyes, glowing with tears, maddened him, the music in her voice sent fire through his veins. But he would not yield to the magic charm of this woman whom he had so deeply loved, and at whose hands his pride had suffered so bitterly. He closed his eyes to shut out the dainty vision of that sweet face, of that snow-white neck and graceful figure, round which the faint rosy light of dawn was just beginning to hover playfully.
"Nay, Madame, it is no mask," he said icily; "I swore to you . . . once, that my life was yours. For months now it has been your plaything . . . it has served its purpose."
But now she knew that the very coldness was a mask. The trouble, the sorrow she had gone through last night, suddenly came back into her mind, but no longer with bitterness, rather with a feeling that this man who loved her, would help her bear the burden.
"Sir Percy," she said impulsively, "Heaven knows you have been at pains to make the task, which I had set to myself, difficult to accomplish. You spoke of my mood just now; well! we will call it that, if you will. I wished to speak to you . . . because . . . because I was in trouble . . . and had need . . . of your sympathy."
"It is yours to command, Madame."
"How cold you are!" she sighed. "Faith! I can scarce believe that but a few months ago one tear in my eye had set you well-nigh crazy. Now I come to you . . . with a half-broken heart . . . and . . . and . . ."
"I pray you, Madame," he said, whilst his voice shook almost as much as hers, "in what way can I serve you?"
"Percy!—Armand is in deadly danger. A letter of his . . . rash, impetuous, as were all his actions, and written to Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, has fallen into the hands of a fanatic. Armand is hopelessly compromised . . . to-morrow, perhaps he will be arrested . . . after that the guillotine . . . unless . . . oh! it is horrible!" . . . she said, with a sudden wail of anguish, as all the events of the past night came rushing back to her mind, "horrible! . . . and you do not understand . . . you cannot . . . and I have no one to whom I can turn . . . for help . . . or even for sympathy . . ."
Tears now refused to be held back. All her trouble, her struggles, the awful uncertainty of Armand's fate overwhelmed her. She tottered, ready to fall, and leaning against the tone balustrade, she buried her face in her hands and sobbed bitterly.
At first mention of
Armand St. Just's name and of the peril
in which he stood, Sir Percy's face had become a shade more pale; and the look
of determination and obstinacy appeared more marked than ever between his eyes.
However, he said nothing for the moment, but watched her, as her delicate frame
was shaken with sobs, watched her until unconsciously his face softened, and
what looked almost like tears seemed to glisten in his eyes.
"And so," he said with bitter sarcasm, "the murderous dog of the revolution is turning upon the very hands that fed it? . . . Begad, Madame," he added very gently, as Marguerite continued to sob hysterically, "will you dry your tears? . . . I never could bear to see a pretty woman cry, and I . . ."
Instinctively, with sudden overmastering passion at the sight of her helplessness and of her grief, he stretched out his arms, and the next, would have seized her and held her to him, protected from every evil with his very life, his very heart's blood. . . . But pride had the better of it in this struggle once again; he restrained himself with a tremendous effort of will, and said coldly, though still very gently,—
"Will you not turn to me, Madame, and tell me in what way I may have the honour to serve you?"
She made a violent effort to control herself, and turning her tear-stained face to him, she once more held out her hand, which he kissed with the same punctilious gallantry; but Marguerite's fingers, this time, lingered in his hand for a second or two longer than was absolutely necessary, and this was because she had felt that his hand trembled perceptibly and was burning hot, whilst his lips felt as cold as marble.
"Can you do aught for Armand?" she said sweetly and simply. "You have so much influence at court . . . so many friends . . ."
"Nay, Madame, should you not seek the influence of your French friend, M. Chauvelin? His extends, if I mistake not, even as far as the Republican Government of
"I cannot ask him, Percy. . . . Oh! I wish I dared to tell you . . . but . . . but . . . he has put a price on my brother's head, which . . ."
She would have given worlds if she had felt the courage then to tell him everything . . . all she had done that night—how she had suffered and how her hand had been forced. But she dared not give way to that impulse . . . not now, when she was just beginning to feel that he still loved her, when she hoped that she could win him back. She dared not make another confession to him. After all, he might not understand; he might not sympathise with her struggles and temptation. His love still dormant might sleep the sleep of death.
Perhaps he divined what was passing in her mind. His whole attitude was one of intense longing—a veritable prayer for that confidence, which her foolish pride withheld from him. When she remained silent he sighed, and said with marked coldness—
"Faith, Madame, since it distresses you, we will not speak of it. . . . As for Armand, I pray you have no fear. I pledge you my word that he shall be safe. Now, have I your permission to go? The hour is getting late, and . . ."
"You will at least accept my gratitude?" she said, as she drew quite close to him, and speaking with real tenderness.
With a quick, almost involuntary effort he would have taken her then in his arms, for her eyes were swimming in tears, which he longed to kiss away; but she had lured him once, just like this, then cast him aside like an ill-fitting glove. He thought this was but a mood, a caprice, and he was too proud to lend himself to it once again.
"It is too soon, Madame!" he said quietly; "I have done nothing as yet. The hour is late, and you must be fatigued. Your women will be waiting for you upstairs."
He stood aside to allow her to pass. She sighed, a quick sigh of disappointment. His pride and her beauty had been in direct conflict, and his pride had remained the conqueror. Perhaps, after all, she had been deceived just now; what she took to be the light of love in his eyes might only have been the passion of pride or, who knows, of hatred instead of love. She stood looking at him for a moment or two longer. He was again as rigid, as impassive, as before. Pride had conquered, and he cared naught for her. The grey light of dawn was gradually yielding to the rosy light of the rising sun. Birds began to twitter; Nature awakened, smiling in happy response to the warmth of this glorious October morning. Only between these two hearts there lay a strong, impassable barrier, built up of pride on both sides, which neither of them cared to be the first to demolish.
He had bent his tall figure in a low ceremonious bow, as she finally, with another bitter little sigh, began to mount the terrace steps.
The long train of her gold-embroidered gown swept the dead leaves off the steps, making a faint harmonious sh—sh—sh as she glided up, with one hand resting on the balustrade, the rosy light of dawn making an aureole of gold round her hair, and causing the rubies on her head and arms to sparkle. She reached the tall glass doors which led into the house. Before entering, she paused once again to look at him, hoping against hope to see his arms stretched out to her, and to hear his voice calling her back. But he had not moved; his massive figure looked the very personification of unbending pride, of fierce obstinacy.
Hot tears again surged to her eyes, as she would not let him see them, she turned quickly within, and ran as fast as she could up to her own rooms.
Had she but turned back then, and looked out once more on to the rose-lit garden, she would have seen that which would have made her own sufferings seem but light and easy to bear—a strong man, overwhelmed with his own passion and his own despair. Pride had given way at last, obstinacy was gone: the will was powerless. He was but a man madly, blindly, passionately in love, and as soon as her light footsteps had died away within the house, he knelt down upon the terrace steps, and in the very madness of his love he kissed one by one the places where her small foot had trodden, and the stone balustrade there, where her tiny hand had rested last.
-from The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy
3. He is my soul
He entered, vociferating oaths dreadful to hear; and caught me in the act of stowing his son away in the kitchen cupboard. Hareton was impressed with a wholesome terror of encountering either his wild beast's fondness or his madman's rage; for in one he ran a chance of being squeezed and kissed to death, and in the other of being flung into the fire, or dashed against the wall; and the poor thing remained perfectly quiet wherever I chose to put him.
`There, I've found it out at last!' cried Hindley, pulling me back by the skin of my neck, like a dog. `By heaven and hell, you've sworn between you to murder that child! I know how it is, now, that he is always out of my way. But, with the help of Satan, I shall make you swallow the carving-knife, Nelly! You needn't laugh; for I've just crammed Kenneth, head downmost, in the Blackhorse marsh; and two is the same as one-and I want to kill some of you: I shall have no rest till I do!'
`But I don't like the carving-knife, Mr Hindley,' I answered: `it has been cutting red herrings. I'd rather be shot, if you please.'
`You'd rather be damned!' he said; `and so you shall. No law in
can hinder a man from
keeping his house decent, and mine's abominable! open your mouth.' England
He held the knife in his hand, and pushed its point between my teeth: but, for my part, I was never much afraid of his vagaries. I spat out, and affirmed it tasted detestably-I would not take it on any account.
`Oh!' said he, releasing me, `I see that hideous little villain is not Hareton: I beg your pardon, Nell. If it be, he deserves flaying alive for not running to welcome me, and for screaming as if I were a goblin. Unnatural cub, come hither! I'll teach thee to impose on a good-hearted, deluded father. Now, don't you think the lad would be handsomer cropped? It makes a dog fiercer, and I love something fierce-get me a scissors-something fierce and trim! Besides, it's infernal affectation-devilish conceit it is, to cherish our ears-we're asses enough without them. Hush, child, hush! Well then, it is my darling! wisht, dry thy eyes-there's a joy; kiss me. What! it won't? Kiss me, Hareton! Damn thee, kiss me! By God, as if 1 would rear such a monster! As sure as I'm living, I'll break the brat's neck.'
Poor Hareton was squalling and kicking in his father's arms with all his might, and redoubled his yells when he carried him upstairs and lifted him over the banister. I cried out that he would frighten the child into fits, and ran to rescue him. As I reached them, Hindley leant forward on the rails to listen to a noise below; almost forgetting what he had in his hands. `Who is that?' he asked, hearing someone approaching the stair's foot. I leant forward also, for the purpose of signing to Heathcliff, whose step I recognized, not to come farther; and, at the instant when my eye quitted Hareton, he gave a sudden spring, delivered himself from the careless grasp that held him, and fell.
There was scarcely time to experience a thrill of horror before we saw that the little wretch was safe. Heathcliff arrived underneath just at the critical moment; by a natural impulse, he arrested his descent, and setting him on his feet, looked up to discover the author of the accident. A miser who has parted with a lucky lottery ticket for five shillings, and finds next day he has lost in the bargain five thousand pounds, could not show a blanker countenance than he did on beholding the figure of Mr Earnshaw above. It expressed, plainer than words could do, the intense anguish at having made himself the instrument of thwarting his own revenge. Had it been dark, I dare say, he would have tried to remedy the mistake by smashing Hareton's skull on the steps; but we witnessed his salvation; and I was presently below with my precious charge pressed to my heart. Hindley descended more leisurely, sobered and abashed.
`It is your fault, Ellen,' he said; `you should have kept him out of sight: you should have taken him from me! Is he injured anywhere?'
`Injured!' I cried angrily; `if he's not killed, he'll be an idiot! Oh! I wonder his mother does not rise from her grave to see how you use him. You're worse than a heathen-treating your own flesh and blood in that manner!'
He attempted to touch the child, who, on finding himself with me, sobbed off his terror directly. At the first finger his father laid on him, however, he shrieked again louder than before, and struggled as if he would go into convulsions.
`You shall not meddle with him!' I continued. `He hates you-they all hate you-that's the truth! A happy family you have: and a pretty state you're come to!'
`I shall come to a prettier, yet, Nelly,' laughed the misguided man, recovering his hardness. `At present, convey yourself and him away. And, hark you, Heathcliff! clear you too, quite from my reach and hearing. I wouldn't murder you tonight; unless, perhaps, I set the house on fire: but that's as my fancy goes.
While saying this he took a pint bottle of brandy from the dresser, and poured some into a tumbler.
`Nay, don't!' I entreated. `Mr Hindley, do take warning. Have mercy on this unfortunate boy, if you care nothing for yourself!'
`Anyone will do better for him than I shall,' he answered.
`Have mercy on your own soul!' I said, endeavouring to snatch the glass from his hand.
`Not I! On the contrary, I shall have great pleasure in sending it to perdition to punish its Maker,' exclaimed the blasphemer. `Here's to its hearty damnation!'
He drank the spirits and impatiently bade us go; terminating his command with a sequel of horrid imprecations, too bad to repeat or remember.
`It's a pity he cannot kill himself with drink,' observed Heathcliff, muttering an echo of curses back when the door was shut. `He's doing his very utmost; but his constitution defies him. Mr Kenneth says he would wager his mare, that he'll outlive any man on this side Gimmerton, and go to the grave a hoary sinner; unless some happy chance out of the common course befall him.'
I went into the kitchen, and sat down to lull my little lamb to sleep. Heathcliff, as I thought, walked through to the barn. It turned out afterwards that he only got as far as the other side the settle, when he flung himself on a bench by the wall, removed from the fire, and remained silent.
I was rocking Hareton on my knee, and humming a song that began:
It was far in the night, and the bairnies grat,
The mither beneath the mools heard that-
The mither beneath the mools heard that-
when Miss Cathy, who had listened to the hubbub from her room, put her head in, and whispered:
`Are you alone, Nelly?'
`Yes, miss,' I replied.
She entered and approached the hearth. I, supposing she was going to say something, looked up. The expression of her face seemed disturbed and anxious. Her lips were half asunder, as if she meant to speak, and she drew a breath; but it escaped in a sigh instead of a sentence. I resumed my song; not having forgotten her recent behaviour.
`Where's Heathcliff?' she said, interrupting me.
`About his work in the stable,' was my answer.
He did not contradict me; perhaps he had fallen into a doze. There followed another long pause, during which I perceived a drop or two trickle from Catherine's cheek to the flags. Is she sorry for her shameful conduct? I asked myself. That will be a novelty: but she may come to the point as she will-I shan't help her! No, she felt small trouble regarding any subject, save her own concerns.
`Oh, dear!' she cried at last. `I'm very unhappy!'
`A pity,' observed
I. `You're hard to please: so many
friends and so few cares, and can't make yourself content!'
`Nelly, will you keep a secret for me?' she pursued, kneeling down by me, and lifting her winsome eyes to my face with that sort of look which turns off bad temper, even when one has all the right in the world to indulge it.
`Is it worth keeping?' I inquired, less sulkily.
`Yes, and it worries me, and I must let it out! I want to know what I should do. Today, Edgar Linton has asked me to marry him, and I've given him an answer. Now, before I tell you whether it was a consent or denial, you tell me which it ought to have been.'
`Really, Miss Catherine, how can I know?' I replied. `To be sure, considering the exhibition you performed in his presence this afternoon, I might say it would be wise to refuse him: since he asked you after that, he must either be hopelessly stupid or a venturesome fool.'
`If you talk so, I won't tell you any more,' she returned peevishly, rising to her feet. `I accepted him, Nelly. Be quick, and say whether I was wrong!'
`You accepted him! then what good is it discussing the matter? You have pledged your word, and cannot retract.'
`But, say whether I should have done so-do!' she exclaimed in an irritated tone; chafing her hands together, and frowning.
`There are many things to be considered before that question can be answered properly,' I said sententiously. `First and fore-most, do you love Mr Edgar?'
`Who can help it? Of course I do,' she answered.
Then I put her through the following catechism: for a girl of twenty-two it was not injudicious.
`Why do you love him, Miss Cathy?'
`Nonsense, I do-that's sufficient.'
`By no means; you must say why?'
`Well, because he is handsome, and pleasant to be with.'
`Bad!' was my commentary.
`And because he is young and cheerful.'
`And because he loves me.'
`Indifferent, coming there.'
`And he will be rich, and I shall like to be the greatest woman of the neighbourhood, and I shall be proud of having such a husband.'
`Worst of all. And now, say how you love him?'
`As everybody loves-You're silly, Nelly.'
`Not at all-Answer.'
`I love the ground under his feet, and the air over his head, and everything he touches, and every word he says. I love all his looks, and all his actions, and him entirely and altogether. There now!'
`Nay; you are making a jest of it; it is exceedingly ill-natured! It's no jest to me!' said the young lady, scowling, and turning her face to the fire.
`I'm very far from jesting, Miss Catherine,' I replied. `You love Mr Edgar because he is handsome, and young, and cheerful, and rich, and loves you. The last, however, goes for nothing: you would love him without that, probably; and with it you wouldn't, unless he possessed the four former attractions.'
`No, to be sure not: I should only pity him-hate him, perhaps, if he were ugly, and a clown.'
`But there are several other handsome, rich young men in the world: handsomer, possibly, and richer than he is. What should hinder you from loving them?'
`If there be any, they are out of my way! I've seen none like Edgar.'
`You may see some; and he won't always be handsome, and young, and may not always be rich.'
`He is now; and I have only to do with the present. I wish you would speak rationally.'
`Well, that settles it: if you have only to do with the present, marry Mr Linton.'
`I don't want your permission for that-I shall marry him: and yet you have not told me whether I'm right.'
`Perfectly right; if people be right to marry only for the present. And now, let us hear what you are unhappy about. Your brother will be pleased; the old lady and gentleman will not object, I think; you will escape from a disorderly, comfortless home into a wealthy, respectable one; and you love Edgar, and Edgar loves you. All seems smooth and easy: where is the obstacle?'
`Here! and here!' replied Catherine, striking one hand on her forehead, and the other on her breast: `in whichever place the soul lives. In my soul and in my heart, I'm convinced I'm wrong!'
`That's very strange! I cannot make it out.'
`It's my secret. But if you will not mock at me, I'll explain it: I can't do it distinctly: but I'll give you a feeling of how I feel.'
She seated herself by me again: her countenance grew sadder and graver, and her clasped hands trembled.
`Nelly, do you never dream queer dreams?' she said, suddenly, after some minutes' reflection.
`Yes, now and then,' I answered.
`And so do I. I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind. And this is one; I'm going to tell it-but take care not to smile at any part of it.'
`Oh! don't, Miss Catherine!' I cried. `We're dismal enough without conjuring up ghosts and visions to perplex us. Come, come, be merry and like yourself! Look at little Hareton! he's dreaming nothing dreary. How sweetly he smiles in his sleep!'
`Yes; and how sweetly his father curses in his solitude! You remember him, I dare say, when he was just such another as that chubby thing: nearly as young and innocent. However, Nelly, I shall oblige you to listen: it's not long; and I've no power to be merry tonight.'
`I won't hear it, I won't hear it!' I repeated hastily.
I was superstitious about dreams then, and am still; and Catherine had an unusual gloom in her aspect, that made me dread something from which I might shape a prophecy, and foresee a fearful catastrophe. She was vexed, but she did not proceed. Apparently taking up another subject, she recommenced in a short time.
`If I were in heaven, Nelly, I should be extremely miserable.'
`Because you are not fit to go there,', I answered. `All sinners would be miserable in heaven.'
`But it is not for that. I dreamt once that I was there.'
`I tell you I won't hearken to your dreams, Miss Catherine! I'll go to bed,' I interrupted again.
She laughed, and held me down; for I made a motion to leave my chair.
`This is nothing,' cried she: `I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy. That will do to explain my secret, as well as the other. I've no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn't have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.'
Ere this speech ended, I became sensible of Heathcliff's presence. Having noticed a slight movement, I turned my head, and saw him rise from the bench, and steal out noiselessly. He had listened till he heard Catherine say it would degrade her to marry him, and then he stayed to hear no further. My companion, sitting on the ground, was prevented by the back of the settle from remarking his presence or departure; but I started, and bade her hush!
`Why?' she asked, gazing nervously round.
`Joseph is here,' I answered, catching opportunely the roll of his cart-wheels up the road; `and Heathcliff will come in with him. I'm not sure whether he were not at the door this moment.'
`Oh, he couldn't overhear me at the door!' said she. `Give me Hareton, while you get the supper, and when it is ready ask me to sup with you. I want to cheat my uncomfortable conscience, and be convinced that Heathcliff has no notion of these things. He has not, has he? He does not know what being in love is?'
`I see no reason that he should not know, as well as you,' I returned; `and if you are his choice, he will be the most unfortunate creature that ever was born! As soon as you become Mrs Linton, he loses friend, and love, and all! Have you considered how you'll bear the separation, and how he'll be deserted in the world? Because, Miss Catherine--'
`He quite deserted! we separated!' she exclaimed, with an accent of indignation. `Who is to separate us, pray? They'll meet the fate of
Not as long as I live, Ellen: for no mortal creature. Every Linton on the face
of the earth might melt into nothing, before I could consent to forsake
Heathcliff. Oh, that's not what I intend-that's not what I mean! I shouldn't be
Mrs Linton were such a price demanded! He'll be as much to me as he has been
all his lifetime. Edgar must shake off his antipathy, and tolerate him, at
least. He will, when he learns my true feelings towards him. Nelly, I see now,
you think me a selfish wretch; but did it never strike you that if Heathcliff
and I married, we should be beggars? whereas, if I marry Linton, I can aid
Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother's power.'
`With your husband's money, Miss Catherine?' I asked. `You'll find him not so pliable as you calculate upon: and, though I'm hardly a judge, I think that's the worst motive you've given yet for being the wife of young Linton.'
`It is not,' retorted she; `it is the best! The others were the satisfaction of my whims: and for Edgar's sake, too, to satisfy him. This is for the sake of one who comprehends in his person my feelings to Edgar and myself. I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is or should be an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He's always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don't talk of our separation again: it is impracticable; and--'
She paused, and hid her face in the folds of my gown; but I jerked it forcibly away. I was out of patience with her folly!
`If I can make any sense of your nonsense, miss,' I said, `it only goes to convince me that you are ignorant of the duties you undertake in marrying; or else that you are a wicked, unprincipled girl. But trouble me with no more secrets: I'll not promise to keep them.'
`You'll keep that?' she asked eagerly.
`No, I'll not promise,' I repeated.
She was about to insist, when the entrance of Joseph finished our conversation; and Catherine removed her seat to a corner, and nursed Hareton, while I made the supper. After it was cooked, my fellow-servant and I began to quarrel who should carry some to Mr Hindley; and we didn't settle it till all was nearly cold. Then we came to the agreement that we would let him ask, if he wanted any; for we feared particularly to go into his presence when he had been some time alone.
`Und hah isn't that nowt comed in frough th' field, be this time? What is he abaht? girt eedle seeght!' demanded the old man, looking round for Heathcliff.
`I'll call him,' I replied. `He's in the barn, I've no doubt.'
I went and called, but got no answer. On returning, I whispered to Catherine that he had heard a good part of what she said, I was sure; and told how I saw him quit the kitchen just as she complained of her brother's conduct regarding him. She jumped up in a fine fright, flung Hareton on to the settle, and ran to seek for her friend herself; not taking leisure to consider why she was so flurried, or how her talk would have affected him. She was absent such a while that Joseph proposed we should wait no longer. He cunningly conjectured they were staying away in order to avoid hearing his protracted blessing. They were `ill eneugh for ony fahl manners', he affirmed. And on their behalf he added that night a special prayer to the usual quarter of an hour's supplication before meat, and would have tacked another to the end of the grace, had not his young mistress broken in upon him with a hurried command that he must run down the road, and wherever Heathcliff had rambled, find and make him re-enter directly!
`I want to speak to him, and I must, before I go upstairs,' she said. `And the gate is open: he is somewhere out of hearing; for he would not reply, though I shouted at the top of the fold as loud as I could.'
Joseph objected at first; she was too much in earnest, however, to suffer contradiction; and at last he placed his hat on his head, and walked grumbling forth. Meantime, Catherine paced up and down the floor, exclaiming:
`I wonder where he is-I wonder where he can be? What did I say, Nelly? I've forgotten. Was he vexed at my bad humour this afternoon? Dear! tell me what I've said to grieve him? I do wish he'd come. I do wish he would!'
`What a noise for nothing!' I cried, though rather uneasy myself. `What a trifle scares you! It's surely no great cause of alarm that Heathcliff should take a moonlight saunter on the moors, or even lie too sulky to speak to us in the hay-loft. I'll engage he's lurking there. See if I don't ferret him out!'
I departed to renew my search; its result was disappointment, and Joseph's quest ended in the same.
`Yon lads gets war un war!' observed he on re-entering. `He's left th' yate ut t' full swing, and Miss's pony has trodden dahn two rigs uh corn, un plottered through, raight o'er intuh t' meadow! Hahsomdiver, t' maister 'ull play t' devil tomorn, and he'll do weel. He's patience itsseln wi' sich careless, offald craters-patience itsseln he is! Bud he'll nut be soa allus-yah's see, all on ye! Yah mum'nt drive him aht uf his heead for nowt!'
`Have you found Heathcliff, you ass?' interrupted Catherine. `Have you been looking for him, as I ordered?'
`Aw sud more likker look for th' horse,' he replied. `It 'ud be tuh more sense. Bud, Aw can look for norther horse nur man uf a neeght loike this-as black as t' chimbley! und Hathecliff's noan t' chap to coom at maw whistle-happen he'll be less hard uh hearing wi' ye!'
It was a very dark evening for summer: the clouds appeared inclined to thunder, and I said we had better all sit down; the approaching rain would be certain to bring him home without further trouble. However, Catherine would not be persuaded into tranquillity. She kept wandering to and fro, from the gate to the door, in a state of agitation which permitted no repose; and at length took up a permanent situation on one side of the wall, near the road: where, heedless of my expostulations and the growling thunder, and the great drops that began to plash around her, she remained, calling at intervals, and then listening, and then crying outright. She beat Hareton, or any child, at a good passionate fit of crying.
About midnight, while we still sat up, the storm came rattling over the Heights in full fury. There was a violent wind, as well as thunder, and either one or the other split a tree off at the corner of the building: a huge bough fell across the roof, and knocked down a portion of the east chimney-stack, sending a clatter of stones and soot into the kitchen fire. We thought a bolt had fallen in the middle of us; and Joseph swung on to his knees beseeching the Lord to remember the patriarchs Noah and
Lot, and, as in former
times, spare the righteous, though He smote the ungodly. I felt some sentiment
that it must be a judgment on us also. The Jonah, in my mind, was Mr Earnshaw;
and I shook the handle of his den that I might ascertain if he were yet living.
He replied audibly enough, in a fashion which made my companion vociferate,
more clamorously than before, that a wide distinction might be drawn between
saints like himself and sinners like his master. But the uproar passed away in
twenty minutes, leaving us all unharmed; excepting Cathy, who got thoroughly drenched
for her obstinacy in refusing to take shelter, and standing bonnetless and
shawl-less to catch as much water as she could with her hair and clothes. She
came in and lay down on the settle, all soaked as she was, turning her face to
the back, and putting her hands before it.
`Well, miss!' I exclaimed, touching her shoulder; `you are not bent on getting your death, are you? Do you know what o'clock it is? Half past twelve. Come, come to bed! there's no use waiting longer on that foolish boy: he'll be gone to Gimmetton, and he'll stay there now. He guesses we shouldn't wait for him till this late hour: at least, he guesses that only Mr Hindley would be up; and he'd rather avoid having the door opened by the master.
`Nay, nay, he's noan at Gimmerton,' said Joseph. `Aw's niver wonder, bud he's at t' bothom uf a bog-hoile. This visitation worn't for nowt, and I wod hev ye to look out, miss-yah muh be t' next. Thank Hiven for all! All warks togither for gooid to them as is chozzen, and piked out fro' th' rubbidge! Yah knaw whet t' Scripture ses.' And he began quoting several texts, referring us to the chapters and verses where we might find them.
I, having vainly begged the wilful girl to rise and remove her wet things, left him preaching and her shivering, and betook myself to bed with little Hareton, who slept as fast as if everyone had been sleeping round him. I heard Joseph read on a while afterwards; then I distinguished his slow step on the ladder, and then I dropped asleep.
Coming down somewhat later than usual, I saw, by the sunbeams piercing the chinks of the shutters, Miss Catherine still seated near the fireplace. The house door was ajar, too; light entered from its unclosed windows; Hindley had come out, and stood on the kitchen hearth, haggard and drowsy.
`What ails you, Cathy?' he was saying when I entered: `you look as dismal as a drowned whelp. Why are you so damp and pale, child?'
`I've been wet,' she answered reluctantly' `and I'm cold, that's all.'
`Oh, she is naughty!' I cried, perceiving the master to be tolerably sober. `She got steeped in the shower of yesterday evening, and there she has sat the night through, and I couldn't prevail on her to stir.'
Mr Earnshaw stared at us in surprise. `The night through,' he repeated. `What kept her up? not fear of the thunder, surely? That was over hours since.'
Neither of us wished to mention Heathcliff's absence, as long as we could conceal it; so I replied, I didn't know how she took it into her head to sit up; and she said nothing. The morning was fresh and cool; I threw back the lattice, and presently the room filled with sweet scents from the garden; but Catherine called peevishly to me, `Ellen, shut the window. I'm starving!' And her teeth chattered as she shrunk closer to the almost extinguished embers.
`She's ill,' said Hindley, taking her wrist; `I suppose that's the reason she would not go to bed. Damn it! I don't want to be troubled with more sickness here. What took you into the rain!'
`Running after t' lads, as usuald!' croaked Joseph, catching an opportunity, from our hesitation, to thrust in his evil tongue. `If I war yah, maister, I'd just slam t' boards i' their faces all on 'em, gentle and simple! Never a day ut yah're off, but yon cat o' Linton comes sneaking hither; and Miss Nelly, shoo's a fine lass! shoo sits watching for ye i' t' kitchen; and as yah're in at one door, he's out at t'other; and, then, wer grand lady goes a coorting of her side! It's bonny behaviour, lurking amang t' fields, after twelve o' t' night, wi' that fahl, flaysome divil of a gipsy, Heathcliff! They think I'm blind; but I'm noan: nowt ut t' soart!-I seed young Linton boath coming and going, and I seed yah' (directing his discourse to me), `yah gooid fur nowt, slattenly witch! nip up and bolt into th' house, t' minute yah heard t' maister's horse fit clatter up t' road.'
`Silence, eavesdropper!' cried Catherine; `none of your insolence before me! Edgar Linton came yesterday by chance, Hindley; and it was I who told him to be off: because I knew you would not like to have met him as you were.
`You lie, Cathy, no doubt,' answered her brother, `and you are a confounded simpleton! But never mind Linton at present: tell me, were you not with Heathcliff last night? Speak the truth, now. You need not be afraid of harming him: though I hate him as much as ever, he did me a good turn a short time since, that will make my conscience tender of breaking his neck. To prevent it, I shall send him about his business, this very morning; and after he's gone, I'd advise you all to look sharp: I shall only have the more humour for you.
`I never saw Heathcliff last night,' answered Catherine, beginning to sob bitterly: `and if you do turn him out of doors, I'll go with him. But, perhaps, you'll never have an opportunity: perhaps he's gone.' Here she burst into uncontrollable grief, and the remainder of her words were inarticulate.
Hindley lavished on her a torrent of scornful abuse, and bade her get to her room immediately, or she shouldn't cry for nothing! I obliged her to obey; and I shall never forget what a scene she acted when we reached her chamber: it terrified me. I thought she was going mad, and I begged Joseph to run for the doctor. It proved the commencement of delirium: Mr Kenneth, as soon as he saw her, pronounced her dangerously ill; she had a fever. He bled her, and he told me to let her live on whey and water gruel, and take care she did not throw herself downstairs or out of the window; and then he left: for he had enough to do in the parish, where two or three miles was the ordinary distance between cottage and cottage.
Though I cannot say I made a gentle nurse, and Joseph and the master were no better; and though our patient was as wearisome and headstrong as a patient could be, she weathered it through. Old Mrs Linton paid us several visits, to be sure, and set things to rights, and scolded and ordered us all; and when Catherine was convalescent, she insisted on conveying her to Thrushcross Grange: for which deliverance we were very grateful. But the poor dame had reason to repent of her kindness: she and her husband both took the fever, and died within a few days of each other.
Our young lady returned to us, saucier and more passionate, and haughtier than ever. Heathcliff had never been heard of since the evening of the thunder-storm; and one day I had the misfortune, when she had provoked me exceedingly, to lay the blame of his disappearance on her: where indeed it belonged, as she well knew. From that period, for several months, she ceased to hold any communication with me, save in the relation of a mere servant. Joseph fell under a ban also: he would speak his mind, and lecture her all the same as if she were a little girl; and she esteemed herself a woman, and our mistress, and thought that her recent illness gave her a claim to be treated with consideration. Then the doctor had said that she would not bear crossing much; she ought to have her own way; and it was nothing less than murder in her eyes for anyone to presume to stand up and contradict her. From Mr Earnshaw and his companions she kept aloof; and tutored by Kenneth, and serious threats of a fit that often attended her rages, her brother allowed her whatever she pleased to demand, and generally avoided aggravating her fiery temper. He was rather too indulgent in humouring her caprices; not from affection, but from pride: he wished earnestly to see her bring honour to the family by an alliance with the Lintons, and as long as she let.him alone she might trample us like slaves, for aught he cared! Edgar Linton, as multitudes have been before and will be after him, was infatuated; and believed himself th,e happiest man alive on the day he led her to Gimmerton Chapel, three years subsequent to his father's death.
Much against my inclination, I was persuaded to leave
and accompany her here. Little Hareton was nearly five years old, and I had
just begun to teach him his letters. We made a sad parting; but Catherine's
tears were more powerful than ours. When I refused to go, and when she found
her entreaties did not move me, she went lamenting to her husband and brother.
The former offered me munificent wages; the latter ordered me to pack up: he
wanted no women in the house, he said, now that there was no mistress; and as
to Hareton, the curate should take him in hand, by and by. And so I had but one
choice left: to do as I was ordered. I told the master he got rid of all decent
people only to run to ruin a little faster; I kissed Hareton goodbye; and
since then he has been a stranger: and it's very queer to think it, but I've no
doubt he has completely forgotten all about Ellen Dean, and that he was ever
more than all the world to her, and she to him! Wuthering Heights
At this point of the housekeeper's story, she chanced to glance towards the timepiece over the chimney; and was in amazement on seeing the minute hand measure half past one. She would not hear of staying a second longer: in truth, I felt rather disposed to defer the sequel of her narrative, myself. And now that she is vanished to her rest, and I have meditated for another hour or two, I shall summon courage to go, also, in spite of aching laziness of head and limbs.
by Emily Brontë Wuthering Heights
4. Love Letter
One day only had passed since Anne's conversation with Mrs Smith; but a keener interest had succeeded, and she was now so little touched by Mr Elliot's conduct, except by its effects in one quarter, that it became a matter of course the next morning, still to defer her explanatory visit in Rivers Street. She had promised to be with the Musgroves from breakfast to dinner. Her faith was plighted, and Mr Elliot's character, like the Sultaness Scheherazade's head, must live another day.
She could not keep her appointment punctually, however; the weather was unfavourable, and she had grieved over the rain on her friends' account, and felt it very much on her own, before she was able to attempt the walk. When she reached the White Hart, and made her way to the proper apartment, she found herself neither arriving quite in time, nor the first to arrive. The party before her were, Mrs Musgrove, talking to Mrs Croft, and Captain Harville to Captain Wentworth; and she immediately heard that Mary and Henrietta, too impatient to wait, had gone out the moment it had cleared, but would be back again soon, and that the strictest injunctions had been left with Mrs Musgrove to keep her there till they returned. She had only to submit, sit down, be outwardly composed, and feel herself plunged at once in all the agitations which she had merely laid her account of tasting a little before the morning closed. There was no delay, no waste of time. She was deep in the happiness of such misery, or the misery of such happiness, instantly. Two minutes after her entering the room, Captain Wentworth said-
"We will write the letter we were talking of, Harville, now, if you will give me materials."
Materials were at hand, on a separate table; he went to it, and nearly turning his back to them all, was engrossed by writing.
Mrs Musgrove was giving Mrs Croft the history of her eldest daughter's engagement, and just in that inconvenient tone of voice which was perfectly audible while it pretended to be a whisper. Anne felt that she did not belong to the conversation, and yet, as Captain Harville seemed thoughtful and not disposed to talk, she could not avoid hearing many undesirable particulars; such as, "how Mr Musgrove and my brother Hayter had met again and again to talk it over; what my brother Hayter had said one day, and what Mr Musgrove had proposed the next, and what had occurred to my sister Hayter, and what the young people had wished, and what I said at first I never could consent to, but was afterwards persuaded to think might do very well," and a great deal in the same style of open-hearted communication: minutiae which, even with every advantage of taste and delicacy, which good Mrs Musgrove could not give, could be properly interesting only to the principals. Mrs Croft was attending with great good-humour, and whenever she spoke at all, it was very sensibly. Anne hoped the gentlemen might each be too much self-occupied to hear.
"And so, ma'am, all these thing considered," said Mrs Musgrove, in her powerful whisper, "though we could have wished it different, yet, altogether, we did not think it fair to stand out any longer, for Charles Hayter was quite wild about it, and Henrietta was pretty near as bad; and so we thought they had better marry at once, and make the best of it, as many others have done before them. At any rate, said I, it will be better than a long engagement."
"That is precisely what I was going to observe," cried Mrs Croft. "I would rather have young people settle on a small income at once, and have to struggle with a few difficulties together, than be involved in a long engagement. I always think that no mutual-"
"Oh! dear Mrs Croft," cried Mrs Musgrove, unable to let her finish her speech, "there is nothing I so abominate for young people as a long engagement. It is what I always protested against for my children. It is all very well, I used to say, for young people to be engaged, if there is a certainty of their being able to marry in six months, or even in twelve; but a long engagement-"
"Yes, dear ma'am," said Mrs Croft, "or an uncertain engagement, an engagement which may be long. To begin without knowing that at such a time there will be the means of marrying, I hold to be very unsafe and unwise, and what I think all parents should prevent as far as they can."
Anne found an unexpected interest here. She felt its application to herself, felt it in a nervous thrill all over her; and at the same moment that her eyes instinctively glanced towards the distant table, Captain Wentworth's pen ceased to move, his head was raised, pausing, listening, and he turned round the next instant to give a look, one quick, conscious look at her.
The two ladies continued to talk, to re-urge the same admitted truths, and enforce them with such examples of the ill effect of a contrary practice as had fallen within their observation, but Anne heard nothing distinctly; it was only a buzz of words in her ear, her mind was in confusion.
Captain Harville, who had in truth been hearing none of it, now left his seat, and moved to a window, and Anne seeming to watch him, though it was from thorough absence of mind, became gradually sensible that he was inviting her to join him where he stood. He looked at her with a smile, and a little motion of the head, which expressed, "Come to me, I have something to say;" and the unaffected, easy kindness of manner which denoted the feelings of an older acquaintance than he really was, strongly enforced the invitation. She roused herself and went to him. The window at which he stood was at the other end of the room from where the two ladies were sitting, and though nearer to Captain Wentworth's table, not very near. As she joined him, Captain Harville's countenance re-assumed the serious, thoughtful expression which seemed its natural character.
"Look here," said he, unfolding a parcel in his hand, and displaying a small miniature painting, "do you know who that is?"
"Certainly: Captain Benwick."
"Yes, and you may guess who it is for. But," (in a deep tone,) "it was not done for her. Miss Elliot, do you remember our walking together at Lyme, and grieving for him? I little thought then-but no matter. This was drawn at the
Cape. He met with a clever young German artist at the Cape, and in compliance with a promise to my poor sister,
sat to him, and was bringing it home for her; and I have now the charge of
getting it properly set for another! It was a commission to me! But who else
was there to employ? I hope I can allow for him. I am not sorry, indeed, to
make it over to another. He undertakes it;" (looking towards Captain
Wentworth,) "he is writing about it now." And with a quivering lip he
wound up the whole by adding, "Poor Fanny! she would not have forgotten
him so soon!"
"No," replied Anne, in a low, feeling voice. "That I can easily believe."
"It was not in her nature. She doted on him."
"It would not be the nature of any woman who truly loved."
Captain Harville smiled, as much as to say, "Do you claim that for your sex?" and she answered the question, smiling also, "Yes. We certainly do not forget you as soon as you forget us. It is, perhaps, our fate rather than our merit. We cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us. You are forced on exertion. You have always a profession, pursuits, business of some sort or other, to take you back into the world immediately, and continual occupation and change soon weaken impressions."
"Granting your assertion that the world does all this so soon for men (which, however, I do not think I shall grant), it does not apply to Benwick. He has not been forced upon any exertion. The peace turned him on shore at the very moment, and he has been living with us, in our little family circle, ever since."
"True," said Anne, "very true; I did not recollect; but what shall we say now, Captain Harville? If the change be not from outward circumstances, it must be from within; it must be nature, man's nature, which has done the business for Captain Benwick."
"No, no, it is not man's nature. I will not allow it to be more man's nature than woman's to be inconstant and forget those they do love, or have loved. I believe the reverse. I believe in a true analogy between our bodily frames and our mental; and that as our bodies are the strongest, so are our feelings; capable of bearing most rough usage, and riding out the heaviest weather."
"Your feelings may be the strongest," replied Anne, "but the same spirit of analogy will authorise me to assert that ours are the most tender. Man is more robust than woman, but he is not longer lived; which exactly explains my view of the nature of their attachments. Nay, it would be too hard upon you, if it were otherwise. You have difficulties, and privations, and dangers enough to struggle with. You are always labouring and toiling, exposed to every risk and hardship. Your home, country, friends, all quitted. Neither time, nor health, nor life, to be called your own. It would be hard, indeed" (with a faltering voice), "if woman's feelings were to be added to all this."
"We shall never agree upon this question," Captain Harville was beginning to say, when a slight noise called their attention to Captain Wentworth's hitherto perfectly quiet division of the room. It was nothing more than that his pen had fallen down; but Anne was startled at finding him nearer than she had supposed, and half inclined to suspect that the pen had only fallen because he had been occupied by them, striving to catch sounds, which yet she did not think he could have caught.
"Have you finished your letter?" said Captain Harville.
"Not quite, a few lines more. I shall have done in five minutes."
"There is no hurry on my side. I am only ready whenever you are. I am in very good anchorage here," (smiling at Anne,) "well supplied, and want for nothing. No hurry for a signal at all. Well, Miss Elliot," (lowering his voice,) "as I was saying we shall never agree, I suppose, upon this point. No man and woman, would, probably. But let me observe that all histories are against you-all stories, prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman's inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men."
"Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything."
"But how shall we prove anything?"
"We never shall. We never can expect to prove any thing upon such a point. It is a difference of opinion which does not admit of proof. We each begin, probably, with a little bias towards our own sex; and upon that bias build every circumstance in favour of it which has occurred within our own circle; many of which circumstances (perhaps those very cases which strike us the most) may be precisely such as cannot be brought forward without betraying a confidence, or in some respect saying what should not be said."
"Ah!" cried Captain Harville, in a tone of strong feeling, "if I could but make you comprehend what a man suffers when he takes a last look at his wife and children, and watches the boat that he has sent them off in, as long as it is in sight, and then turns away and says, 'God knows whether we ever meet again!' And then, if I could convey to you the glow of his soul when he does see them again; when, coming back after a twelvemonth's absence, perhaps, and obliged to put into another port, he calculates how soon it be possible to get them there, pretending to deceive himself, and saying, 'They cannot be here till such a day,' but all the while hoping for them twelve hours sooner, and seeing them arrive at last, as if Heaven had given them wings, by many hours sooner still! If I could explain to you all this, and all that a man can bear and do, and glories to do, for the sake of these treasures of his existence! I speak, you know, only of such men as have hearts!" pressing his own with emotion.
"Oh!" cried Anne eagerly, "I hope I do justice to all that is felt by you, and by those who resemble you. God forbid that I should undervalue the warm and faithful feelings of any of my fellow-creatures! I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by woman. No, I believe you capable of everything great and good in your married lives. I believe you equal to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance, so long as-if I may be allowed the expression-so long as you have an object. I meanwhile the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one; you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone."
She could not immediately have uttered another sentence; her heart was too full, her breath too much oppressed.
"You are a good soul," cried Captain Harville, putting his hand on her arm, quite affectionately. "There is no quarrelling with you. And when I think of Benwick, my tongue is tied."
Their attention was called towards the others. Mrs Croft was taking leave.
, you and I part
company, I believe," said she. "I am going home, and you have an
engagement with your friend. To-night we may have the pleasure of all meeting
again at your party," (turning to Anne.) "We had your sister's card
yesterday, and I understood Frederick Frederick had a card
too, though I did not see it; and you are disengaged, , are you not, as well as
Captain Wentworth was folding up a letter in great haste, and either could not or would not answer fully.
"Yes," said he, "very true; here we separate, but Harville and I shall soon be after you; that is, Harville, if you are ready, I am in half a minute. I know you will not be sorry to be off. I shall be at your service in half a minute."
Mrs Croft left them, and Captain Wentworth, having sealed his letter with great rapidity, was indeed ready, and had even a hurried, agitated air, which shewed impatience to be gone. Anne knew not how to understand it. She had the kindest "Good morning, God bless you!" from Captain Harville, but from him not a word, nor a look! He had passed out of the room without a look!
She had only time, however, to move closer to the table where he had been writing, when footsteps were heard returning; the door opened, it was himself. He begged their pardon, but he had forgotten his gloves, and instantly crossing the room to the writing table, he drew out a letter from under the scattered paper, placed it before Anne with eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her for a time, and hastily collecting his gloves, was again out of the room, almost before Mrs Musgrove was aware of his being in it: the work of an instant!
The revolution which one instant had made in Anne, was almost beyond expression. The letter, with a direction hardly legible, to "Miss A. E.-," was evidently the one which he had been folding so hastily. While supposed to be writing only to Captain Benwick, he had been also addressing her! On the contents of that letter depended all which this world could do for her. Anything was possible, anything might be defied rather than suspense. Mrs Musgrove had little arrangements of her own at her own table; to their protection she must trust, and sinking into the chair which he had occupied, succeeding to the very spot where he had leaned and written, her eyes devoured the following words:
"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to
. For you alone, I
think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my
wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings,
as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every
instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can
distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too
good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that
there is true attachment and constancy among men. Bath
Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
"I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."
Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from. Half an hour's solitude and reflection might have tranquillized her; but the ten minutes only which now passed before she was interrupted, with all the restraints of her situation, could do nothing towards tranquillity. Every moment rather brought fresh agitation. It was overpowering happiness. And before she was beyond the first stage of full sensation, Charles, Mary, and Henrietta all came in.
The absolute necessity of seeming like herself produced then an immediate struggle; but after a while she could do no more. She began not to understand a word they said, and was obliged to plead indisposition and excuse herself. They could then see that she looked very ill, were shocked and concerned, and would not stir without her for the world. This was dreadful. Would they only have gone away, and left her in the quiet possession of that room it would have been her cure; but to have them all standing or waiting around her was distracting, and in desperation, she said she would go home.
"By all means, my dear," cried Mrs Musgrove, "go home directly, and take care of yourself, that you may be fit for the evening. I wish Sarah was here to doctor you, but I am no doctor myself. Charles, ring and order a chair. She must not walk."
But the chair would never do. Worse than all! To lose the possibility of speaking two words to Captain Wentworth in the course of her quiet, solitary progress up the town (and she felt almost certain of meeting him) could not be borne. The chair was earnestly protested against, and Mrs Musgrove, who thought only of one sort of illness, having assured herself with some anxiety, that there had been no fall in the case; that Anne had not at any time lately slipped down, and got a blow on her head; that she was perfectly convinced of having had no fall; could part with her cheerfully, and depend on finding her better at night.
Anxious to omit no possible precaution, Anne struggled, and said-
"I am afraid, ma'am, that it is not perfectly understood. Pray be so good as to mention to the other gentlemen that we hope to see your whole party this evening. I am afraid there had been some mistake; and I wish you particularly to assure Captain Harville and Captain Wentworth, that we hope to see them both."
"Oh! my dear, it is quite understood, I give you my word. Captain Harville has no thought but of going."
"Do you think so? But I am afraid; and I should be so very sorry. Will you promise me to mention it, when you see them again? You will see them both this morning, I dare say. Do promise me."
"To be sure I will, if you wish it. Charles, if you see Captain Harville anywhere, remember to give Miss Anne's message. But indeed, my dear, you need not be uneasy. Captain Harville holds himself quite engaged, I'll answer for it; and Captain Wentworth the same, I dare say."
Anne could do no more; but her heart prophesied some mischance to damp the perfection of her felicity. It could not be very lasting, however. Even if he did not come to
himself, it would be in her power to send an intelligible sentence by Captain
Harville. Another momentary vexation occurred. Charles, in his real concern and
good nature, would go home with her; there was no preventing him. This was
almost cruel. But she could not be long ungrateful; he was sacrificing an
engagement at a gunsmith's, to be of use to her; and she set off with him, with
no feeling but gratitude apparent.
They were on
Union Street, when
a quicker step behind, a something of familiar sound, gave her two moments'
preparation for the sight of Captain Wentworth. He joined them; but, as if
irresolute whether to join or to pass on, said nothing, only looked. Anne could
command herself enough to receive that look, and not repulsively. The cheeks
which had been pale now glowed, and the movements which had hesitated were
decided. He walked by her side. Presently, struck by a sudden thought, Charles
"Captain Wentworth, which way are you going? Only to
Gay Street, or farther up the town?"
"I hardly know," replied Captain Wentworth, surprised.
"Are you going as high as
Are you going near Belmont Camden Place?
Because, if you are, I shall have no scruple in asking you to take my place,
and give Anne your arm to her father's door. She is rather done for this morning,
and must not go so far without help, and I ought to be at that fellow's in the
Market Place. He promised me the sight of a capital gun he is just going to
send off; said he would keep it unpacked to the last possible moment, that I
might see it; and if I do not turn back now, I have no chance. By his
description, a good deal like the second size double-barrel of mine, which you
shot with one day round ." Winthrop
There could not be an objection. There could be only the most proper alacrity, a most obliging compliance for public view; and smiles reined in and spirits dancing in private rapture. In half a minute Charles was at the bottom of Union Street again, and the other two proceeding together: and soon words enough had passed between them to decide their direction towards the comparatively quiet and retired gravel walk, where the power of conversation would make the present hour a blessing indeed, and prepare it for all the immortality which the happiest recollections of their own future lives could bestow. There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement. There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other's character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting. And there, as they slowly paced the gradual ascent, heedless of every group around them, seeing neither sauntering politicians, bustling housekeepers, flirting girls, nor nursery-maids and children, they could indulge in those retrospections and acknowledgements, and especially in those explanations of what had directly preceded the present moment, which were so poignant and so ceaseless in interest. All the little variations of the last week were gone through; and of yesterday and today there could scarcely be an end.
She had not mistaken him. Jealousy of Mr Elliot had been the retarding weight, the doubt, the torment. That had begun to operate in the very hour of first meeting her in
; that had
returned, after a short suspension, to ruin the concert; and that had
influenced him in everything he had said and done, or omitted to say and do, in
the last four-and-twenty hours. It had been gradually yielding to the better
hopes which her looks, or words, or actions occasionally encouraged; it had
been vanquished at last by those sentiments and those tones which had reached
him while she talked with Captain Harville; and under the irresistible
governance of which he had seized a sheet of paper, and poured out his
Of what he had then written, nothing was to be retracted or qualified. He persisted in having loved none but her. She had never been supplanted. He never even believed himself to see her equal. Thus much indeed he was obliged to acknowledge: that he had been constant unconsciously, nay unintentionally; that he had meant to forget her, and believed it to be done. He had imagined himself indifferent, when he had only been angry; and he had been unjust to her merits, because he had been a sufferer from them. Her character was now fixed on his mind as perfection itself, maintaining the loveliest medium of fortitude and gentleness; but he was obliged to acknowledge that only at Uppercross had he learnt to do her justice, and only at Lyme had he begun to understand himself. At Lyme, he had received lessons of more than one sort. The passing admiration of Mr Elliot had at least roused him, and the scenes on the Cobb and at Captain Harville's had fixed her superiority.
In his preceding attempts to attach himself to Louisa Musgrove (the attempts of angry pride), he protested that he had for ever felt it to be impossible; that he had not cared, could not care, for Louisa; though till that day, till the leisure for reflection which followed it, he had not understood the perfect excellence of the mind with which Louisa's could so ill bear a comparison, or the perfect unrivalled hold it possessed over his own. There, he had learnt to distinguish between the steadiness of principle and the obstinacy of self-will, between the darings of heedlessness and the resolution of a collected mind. There he had seen everything to exalt in his estimation the woman he had lost; and there begun to deplore the pride, the folly, the madness of resentment, which had kept him from trying to regain her when thrown in his way.
From that period his penance had become severe. He had no sooner been free from the horror and remorse attending the first few days of Louisa's accident, no sooner begun to feel himself alive again, than he had begun to feel himself, though alive, not at liberty.
"I found," said he, "that I was considered by Harville an engaged man! That neither Harville nor his wife entertained a doubt of our mutual attachment. I was startled and shocked. To a degree, I could contradict this instantly; but, when I began to reflect that others might have felt the same-her own family, nay, perhaps herself-I was no longer at my own disposal. I was hers in honour if she wished it. I had been unguarded. I had not thought seriously on this subject before. I had not considered that my excessive intimacy must have its danger of ill consequence in many ways; and that I had no right to be trying whether I could attach myself to either of the girls, at the risk of raising even an unpleasant report, were there no other ill effects. I had been grossly wrong, and must abide the consequences."
He found too late, in short, that he had entangled himself; and that precisely as he became fully satisfied of his not caring for Louisa at all, he must regard himself as bound to her, if her sentiments for him were what the Harvilles supposed. It determined him to leave Lyme, and await her complete recovery elsewhere. He would gladly weaken, by any fair means, whatever feelings or speculations concerning him might exist; and he went, therefore, to his brother's, meaning after a while to return to Kellynch, and act as circumstances might require.
"I was six weeks with Edward," said he, "and saw him happy. I could have no other pleasure. I deserved none. He enquired after you very particularly; asked even if you were personally altered, little suspecting that to my eye you could never alter."
Anne smiled, and let it pass. It was too pleasing a blunder for a reproach. It is something for a woman to be assured, in her eight-and-twentieth year, that she has not lost one charm of earlier youth; but the value of such homage was inexpressibly increased to Anne, by comparing it with former words, and feeling it to be the result, not the cause of a revival of his warm attachment.
He had remained in
Shropshire, lamenting the blindness of his own
pride, and the blunders of his own calculations, till at once released from
Louisa by the astonishing and felicitous intelligence of her engagement with
"Here," said he, "ended the worst of my state; for now I could at least put myself in the way of happiness; I could exert myself; I could do something. But to be waiting so long in inaction, and waiting only for evil, had been dreadful. Within the first five minutes I said, 'I will be at
on Wednesday,' and I was. Was it
unpardonable to think it worth my while to come? and to arrive with some degree
of hope? You were single. It was possible that you might retain the feelings of
the past, as I did; and one encouragement happened to be mine. I could never
doubt that you would be loved and sought by others, but I knew to a certainty
that you had refused one man, at least, of better pretensions than myself; and
I could not help often saying, 'Was this for me?'" Bath
Their first meeting in
afforded much to be said, but the concert still more. That evening seemed to be
made up of exquisite moments. The moment of her stepping forward in the Octagon
Room to speak to him: the moment of Mr Elliot's appearing and tearing her away,
and one or two subsequent moments, marked by returning hope or increasing despondency,
were dwelt on with energy.
"To see you," cried he, "in the midst of those who could not be my well-wishers; to see your cousin close by you, conversing and smiling, and feel all the horrible eligibilities and proprieties of the match! To consider it as the certain wish of every being who could hope to influence you! Even if your own feelings were reluctant or indifferent, to consider what powerful supports would be his! Was it not enough to make the fool of me which I appeared? How could I look on without agony? Was not the very sight of the friend who sat behind you, was not the recollection of what had been, the knowledge of her influence, the indelible, immoveable impression of what persuasion had once done-was it not all against me?"
"You should have distinguished," replied Anne. "You should not have suspected me now; the case is so different, and my age is so different. If I was wrong in yielding to persuasion once, remember that it was to persuasion exerted on the side of safety, not of risk. When I yielded, I thought it was to duty, but no duty could be called in aid here. In marrying a man indifferent to me, all risk would have been incurred, and all duty violated."
"Perhaps I ought to have reasoned thus," he replied, "but I could not. I could not derive benefit from the late knowledge I had acquired of your character. I could not bring it into play; it was overwhelmed, buried, lost in those earlier feelings which I had been smarting under year after year. I could think of you only as one who had yielded, who had given me up, who had been influenced by any one rather than by me. I saw you with the very person who had guided you in that year of misery. I had no reason to believe her of less authority now. The force of habit was to be added."
"I should have thought," said Anne, "that my manner to yourself might have spared you much or all of this."
"No, no! your manner might be only the ease which your engagement to another man would give. I left you in this belief; and yet, I was determined to see you again. My spirits rallied with the morning, and I felt that I had still a motive for remaining here."
At last Anne was at home again, and happier than any one in that house could have conceived. All the surprise and suspense, and every other painful part of the morning dissipated by this conversation, she re-entered the house so happy as to be obliged to find an alloy in some momentary apprehensions of its being impossible to last. An interval of meditation, serious and grateful, was the best corrective of everything dangerous in such high-wrought felicity; and she went to her room, and grew steadfast and fearless in the thankfulness of her enjoyment.
The evening came, the drawing-rooms were lighted up, the company assembled. It was but a card party, it was but a mixture of those who had never met before, and those who met too often; a commonplace business, too numerous for intimacy, too small for variety; but Anne had never found an evening shorter. Glowing and lovely in sensibility and happiness, and more generally admired than she thought about or cared for, she had cheerful or forbearing feelings for every creature around her. Mr Elliot was there; she avoided, but she could pity him. The Wallises, she had amusement in understanding them. Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret-they would soon be innoxious cousins to her. She cared not for Mrs Clay, and had nothing to blush for in the public manners of her father and sister. With the Musgroves, there was the happy chat of perfect ease; with Captain Harville, the kind-hearted intercourse of brother and sister; with Lady Russell, attempts at conversation, which a delicious consciousness cut short; with Admiral and Mrs Croft, everything of peculiar cordiality and fervent interest, which the same consciousness sought to conceal; and with Captain Wentworth, some moments of communications continually occurring, and always the hope of more, and always the knowledge of his being there.
It was in one of these short meetings, each apparently occupied in admiring a fine display of greenhouse plants, that she said-
"I have been thinking over the past, and trying impartially to judge of the right and wrong, I mean with regard to myself; and I must believe that I was right, much as I suffered from it, that I was perfectly right in being guided by the friend whom you will love better than you do now. To me, she was in the place of a parent. Do not mistake me, however. I am not saying that she did not err in her advice. It was, perhaps, one of those cases in which advice is good or bad only as the event decides; and for myself, I certainly never should, in any circumstance of tolerable similarity, give such advice. But I mean, that I was right in submitting to her, and that if I had done otherwise, I should have suffered more in continuing the engagement than I did even in giving it up, because I should have suffered in my conscience. I have now, as far as such a sentiment is allowable in human nature, nothing to reproach myself with; and if I mistake not, a strong sense of duty is no bad part of a woman's portion."
He looked at her, looked at Lady Russell, and looking again at her, replied, as if in cool deliberation-
"Not yet. But there are hopes of her being forgiven in time. I trust to being in charity with her soon. But I too have been thinking over the past, and a question has suggested itself, whether there may not have been one person more my enemy even than that lady? My own self. Tell me if, when I returned to England in the year eight, with a few thousand pounds, and was posted into the Laconia, if I had then written to you, would you have answered my letter? Would you, in short, have renewed the engagement then?"
"Would I!" was all her answer; but the accent was decisive enough.
"Good God!" he cried, "you would! It is not that I did not think of it, or desire it, as what could alone crown all my other success; but I was proud, too proud to ask again. I did not understand you. I shut my eyes, and would not understand you, or do you justice. This is a recollection which ought to make me forgive every one sooner than myself. Six years of separation and suffering might have been spared. It is a sort of pain, too, which is new to me. I have been used to the gratification of believing myself to earn every blessing that I enjoyed. I have valued myself on honourable toils and just rewards. Like other great men under reverses," he added, with a smile. "I must endeavour to subdue my mind to my fortune. I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve."
5. I shall die
A splendid Midsummer shone over
so pure, suns so radiant as were then seen in long succession, seldom favour
even singly, our wave-girt land. It was as if a band of Italian days had
come from the South, like a flock of glorious passenger birds, and lighted to
rest them on the cliffs of England Albion. The
hay was all got in; the fields round Thornfield were green and shorn; the roads
white and baked; the trees were in their dark prime; hedge and wood,
full-leaved and deeply tinted, contrasted well with the sunny hue of the
cleared meadows between.
On Midsummer-eve, Adèle, weary with gathering wild strawberries in
half the day, had gone to bed with the sun. I watched her drop asleep,
and when I left her, I sought the garden.
It was now the sweetest hour of the twenty-four:—“Day its fervid fires had wasted,” and dew fell cool on panting plain and scorched summit. Where the sun had gone down in simple state—pure of the pomp of clouds—spread a solemn purple, burning with the light of red jewel and furnace flame at one point, on one hill-peak, and extending high and wide, soft and still softer, over half heaven. The east had its own charm or fine deep blue, and its own modest gem, a casino and solitary star: soon it would boast the moon; but she was yet beneath the horizon.
I walked a while on the pavement; but a subtle, well-known scent—that of a cigar—stole from some window; I saw the library casement open a handbreadth; I knew I might be watched thence; so I went apart into the orchard. No nook in the grounds more sheltered and more
-like; it was full of trees, it bloomed
with flowers: a very high wall shut it out from the court, on one side; on the
other, a beech avenue screened it from the lawn. At the bottom was a sunk
fence; its sole separation from lonely fields: a winding walk, bordered with
laurels and terminating in a giant horse-chestnut, circled at the base by a
seat, led down to the fence. Here one could wander unseen. While
such honey-dew fell, such silence reigned, such gloaming gathered, I felt as if
I could haunt such shade for ever; but in threading the flower and fruit
parterres at the upper part of the enclosure, enticed there by the light the
now rising moon cast on this more open quarter, my step is stayed—not by sound,
not by sight, but once more by a warning fragrance. Eden
Sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose have long been yielding their evening sacrifice of incense: this new scent is neither of shrub nor flower; it is—I know it well—it is Mr. Rochester’s cigar. I look round and I listen. I see trees laden with ripening fruit. I hear a nightingale warbling in a wood half a mile off; no moving form is visible, no coming step audible; but that perfume increases: I must flee. I make for the wicket leading to the shrubbery, and I see Mr. Rochester entering. I step aside into the ivy recess; he will not stay long: he will soon return whence he came, and if I sit still he will never see me.
But no—eventide is as pleasant to him as to me, and this antique garden as attractive; and he strolls on, now lifting the gooseberry-tree branches to look at the fruit, large as plums, with which they are laden; now taking a ripe cherry from the wall; now stooping towards a knot of flowers, either to inhale their fragrance or to admire the dew-beads on their petals. A great moth goes humming by me; it alights on a plant at Mr. Rochester’s foot: he sees it, and bends to examine it.
“Now, he has his back towards me,” thought I, “and he is occupied too; perhaps, if I walk softly, I can slip away unnoticed.”
I trode on an edging of turf that the crackle of the pebbly gravel might not betray me: he was standing among the beds at a yard or two distant from where I had to pass; the moth apparently engaged him. “I shall get by very well,” I meditated. As I crossed his shadow, thrown long over the garden by the moon, not yet risen high, he said quietly, without turning—
“Jane, come and look at this fellow.”
I had made no noise: he had not eyes behind—could his shadow feel? I started at first, and then I approached him.
“Look at his wings,” said he, “he reminds me rather of a West Indian insect; one does not often see so large and gay a night-rover in
he is flown.” England
The moth roamed away. I was sheepishly retreating also; but Mr. Rochester followed me, and when we reached the wicket, he said—
“Turn back: on so lovely a night it is a shame to sit in the house; and surely no one can wish to go to bed while sunset is thus at meeting with moonrise.”
It is one of my faults, that though my tongue is sometimes prompt enough at an answer, there are times when it sadly fails me in framing an excuse; and always the lapse occurs at some crisis, when a facile word or plausible pretext is specially wanted to get me out of painful embarrassment. I did not like to walk at this hour alone with Mr. Rochester in the shadowy orchard; but I could not find a reason to allege for leaving him. I followed with lagging step, and thoughts busily bent on discovering a means of extrication; but he himself looked so composed and so grave also, I became ashamed of feeling any confusion: the evil—if evil existent or prospective there was—seemed to lie with me only; his mind was unconscious and quiet.
“Jane,” he recommenced, as we entered the laurel walk, and slowly strayed down in the direction of the sunk fence and the horse-chestnut, “Thornfield is a pleasant place in summer, is it not?”
“You must have become in some degree attached to the house,—you, who have an eye for natural beauties, and a good deal of the organ of Adhesiveness?”
“I am attached to it, indeed.”
“And though I don’t comprehend how it is, I perceive you have acquired a degree of regard for that foolish little child Adèle, too; and even for simple dame Fairfax?”
“Yes, sir; in different ways, I have an affection for both.”
“And would be sorry to part with them?”
“Pity!” he said, and sighed and paused. “It is always the way of events in this life,” he continued presently: “no sooner have you got settled in a pleasant resting-place, than a voice calls out to you to rise and move on, for the hour of repose is expired.”
“Must I move on, sir?” I asked. “Must I leave Thornfield?”
“I believe you must, Jane. I am sorry, Janet, but I believe indeed you must.”
This was a blow: but I did not let it prostrate me.
“Well, sir, I shall be ready when the order to march comes.”
“It is come now—I must give it to-night.”
“Then you are going to be married, sir?”
“Ex-act-ly—pre-cise-ly: with your usual acuteness, you have hit the nail straight on the head.”
“Very soon, my—that is, Miss Eyre: and you’ll remember, Jane, the first time I, or Rumour, plainly intimated to you that it was my intention to put my old bachelor’s neck into the sacred noose, to enter into the holy estate of matrimony—to take Miss Ingram to my bosom, in short (she’s an extensive armful: but that’s not to the point—one can’t have too much of such a very excellent thing as my beautiful Blanche): well, as I was saying—listen to me, Jane! You’re not turning your head to look after more moths, are you? That was only a lady-clock, child, ‘flying away home.’ I wish to remind you that it was you who first said to me, with that discretion I respect in you—with that foresight, prudence, and humility which befit your responsible and dependent position—that in case I married Miss Ingram, both you and little Adèle had better trot forthwith. I pass over the sort of slur conveyed in this suggestion on the character of my beloved; indeed, when you are far away, Janet, I’ll try to forget it: I shall notice only its wisdom; which is such that I have made it my law of action. Adèle must go to school; and you, Miss Eyre, must get a new situation.”
“Yes, sir, I will advertise immediately: and meantime, I suppose—” I was going to say, “I suppose I may stay here, till I find another shelter to betake myself to:” but I stopped, feeling it would not do to risk a long sentence, for my voice was not quite under command.
“In about a month I hope to be a bridegroom,” continued Mr. Rochester; “and in the interim, I shall myself look out for employment and an asylum for you.”
“Thank you, sir; I am sorry to give—”
“Oh, no need to apologise! I consider that when a dependent does her duty as well as you have done yours, she has a sort of claim upon her employer for any little assistance he can conveniently render her; indeed I have already, through my future mother-in-law, heard of a place that I think will suit: it is to undertake the education of the five daughters of Mrs. Dionysius O’Gall of Bitternutt Lodge, Connaught, Ireland. You’ll like
I think: they’re such warm-hearted people there, they say.” Ireland
“It is a long way off, sir.”
“No matter—a girl of your sense will not object to the voyage or the distance.”
“Not the voyage, but the distance: and then the sea is a barrier—”
“From what, Jane?”
and from Thornfield: and—” England
“From you, sir.”
I said this almost involuntarily, and, with as little sanction of free will, my tears gushed out. I did not cry so as to be heard, however; I avoided sobbing. The thought of Mrs. O’Gall and Bitternutt Lodge struck cold to my heart; and colder the thought of all the brine and foam, destined, as it seemed, to rush between me and the master at whose side I now walked, and coldest the remembrance of the wider ocean—wealth, caste, custom intervened between me and what I naturally and inevitably loved.
“It is a long way,” I again said.
“It is, to be sure; and when you get to Bitternutt Lodge,
, I shall never see you
again, Jane: that’s morally certain. I never go over to Connaught, Ireland , not
having myself much of a fancy for the country. We have been good friends,
Jane; have we not?” Ireland
“And when friends are on the eve of separation, they like to spend the little time that remains to them close to each other. Come! we’ll talk over the voyage and the parting quietly half-an-hour or so, while the stars enter into their shining life up in heaven yonder: here is the chestnut tree: here is the bench at its old roots. Come, we will sit there in peace to-night, though we should never more be destined to sit there together.” He seated me and himself.
“It is a long way to
, Janet, and I am sorry to
send my little friend on such weary travels: but if I can’t do better, how is
it to be helped? Are you anything akin to me, do you think, Jane?” Ireland
I could risk no sort of answer by this time: my heart was still.
“Because,” he said, “I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you—especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you,—you’d forget me.”
“That I never should, sir: you know—” Impossible to proceed.
“Jane, do you hear that nightingale singing in the wood? Listen!”
In listening, I sobbed convulsively; for I could repress what I endured no longer; I was obliged to yield, and I was shaken from head to foot with acute distress. When I did speak, it was only to express an impetuous wish that I had never been born, or never come to Thornfield.
“Because you are sorry to leave it?”
The vehemence of emotion, stirred by grief and love within me, was claiming mastery, and struggling for full sway, and asserting a right to predominate, to overcome, to live, rise, and reign at last: yes,—and to speak.
“I grieve to leave Thornfield: I love Thornfield:—I love it, because I have lived in it a full and delightful life,—momentarily at least. I have not been trampled on. I have not been petrified. I have not been buried with inferior minds, and excluded from every glimpse of communion with what is bright and energetic and high. I have talked, face to face, with what I reverence, with what I delight in,—with an original, a vigorous, an expanded mind. I have known you, Mr. Rochester; and it strikes me with terror and anguish to feel I absolutely must be torn from you for ever. I see the necessity of departure; and it is like looking on the necessity of death.”
“Where do you see the necessity?” he asked suddenly.
“Where? You, sir, have placed it before me.”
“In what shape?”
“In the shape of Miss Ingram; a noble and beautiful woman,—your bride.”
“My bride! What bride? I have no bride!”
“But you will have.”
“Yes;—I will!—I will!” He set his teeth.
“Then I must go:—you have said it yourself.”
“No: you must stay! I swear it—and the oath shall be kept.”
“I tell you I must go!” I retorted, roused to something like passion. “Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton?—a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!—I have as much soul as you,—and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;—it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,—as we are!”
“As we are!” repeated Mr. Rochester—“so,” he added, enclosing me in his arms. Gathering me to his breast, pressing his lips on my lips: “so, Jane!”
“Yes, so, sir,” I rejoined: “and yet not so; for you are a married man—or as good as a married man, and wed to one inferior to you—to one with whom you have no sympathy—whom I do not believe you truly love; for I have seen and heard you sneer at her. I would scorn such a union: therefore I am better than you—let me go!”
“Where, Jane? To
. I have spoken my
mind, and can go anywhere now.” Ireland
“Jane, be still; don’t struggle so, like a wild frantic bird that is rending its own plumage in its desperation.”
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.”
Another effort set me at liberty, and I stood erect before him.
“And your will shall decide your destiny,” he said: “I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions.”
“You play a farce, which I merely laugh at.”
“I ask you to pass through life at my side—to be my second self, and best earthly companion.”
“For that fate you have already made your choice, and must abide by it.”
“Jane, be still a few moments: you are over-excited: I will be still too.”
A waft of wind came sweeping down the laurel-walk, and trembled through the boughs of the chestnut: it wandered away—away—to an indefinite distance—it died. The nightingale’s song was then the only voice of the hour: in listening to it, I again wept. Mr. Rochester sat quiet, looking at me gently and seriously. Some time passed before he spoke; he at last said—
“Come to my side, Jane, and let us explain and understand one another.”
“I will never again come to your side: I am torn away now, and cannot return.”
“But, Jane, I summon you as my wife: it is you only I intend to marry.”
I was silent: I thought he mocked me.
“Come, Jane—come hither.”
“Your bride stands between us.”
He rose, and with a stride reached me.
“My bride is here,” he said, again drawing me to him, “because my equal is here, and my likeness. Jane, will you marry me?”
Still I did not answer, and still I writhed myself from his grasp: for I was still incredulous.
“Do you doubt me, Jane?”
“You have no faith in me?”
“Not a whit.”
“Am I a liar in your eyes?” he asked passionately. “Little sceptic, you shall be convinced. What love have I for Miss Ingram? None: and that you know. What love has she for me? None: as I have taken pains to prove: I caused a rumour to reach her that my fortune was not a third of what was supposed, and after that I presented myself to see the result; it was coldness both from her and her mother. I would not—I could not—marry Miss Ingram. You—you strange, you almost unearthly thing!—I love as my own flesh. You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are—I entreat to accept me as a husband.”
“What, me!” I ejaculated, beginning in his earnestness—and especially in his incivility—to credit his sincerity: “me who have not a friend in the world but you—if you are my friend: not a shilling but what you have given me?”
“You, Jane, I must have you for my own—entirely my own. Will you be mine? Say yes, quickly.”
“Mr. Rochester, let me look at your face: turn to the moonlight.”
“Because I want to read your countenance—turn!”
“There! you will find it scarcely more legible than a crumpled, scratched page. Read on: only make haste, for I suffer.”
His face was very much agitated and very much flushed, and there were strong workings in the features, and strange gleams in the eyes.
“Oh, Jane, you torture me!” he exclaimed. “With that searching and yet faithful and generous look, you torture me!”
“How can I do that? If you are true, and your offer real, my only feelings to you must be gratitude and devotion—they cannot torture.”
“Gratitude!” he ejaculated; and added wildly—“Jane accept me quickly. Say, Edward—give me my name—Edward—I will marry you.”
“Are you in earnest? Do you truly love me? Do you sincerely wish me to be your wife?”
“I do; and if an oath is necessary to satisfy you, I swear it.”
“Then, sir, I will marry you.”
“Edward—my little wife!”
“Come to me—come to me entirely now,” said he; and added, in his deepest tone, speaking in my ear as his cheek was laid on mine, “Make my happiness—I will make yours.”
“God pardon me!” he subjoined ere long; “and man meddle not with me: I have her, and will hold her.”
“There is no one to meddle, sir. I have no kindred to interfere.”
“No—that is the best of it,” he said. And if I had loved him less I should have thought his accent and look of exultation savage; but, sitting by him, roused from the nightmare of parting—called to the paradise of union—I thought only of the bliss given me to drink in so abundant a flow. Again and again he said, “Are you happy, Jane?” And again and again I answered, “Yes.” After which he murmured, “It will atone—it will atone. Have I not found her friendless, and cold, and comfortless? Will I not guard, and cherish, and solace her? Is there not love in my heart, and constancy in my resolves? It will expiate at God’s tribunal. I know my Maker sanctions what I do. For the world’s judgment—I wash my hands thereof. For man’s opinion—I defy it.”
But what had befallen the night? The moon was not yet set, and we were all in shadow: I could scarcely see my master’s face, near as I was. And what ailed the chestnut tree? it writhed and groaned; while wind roared in the laurel walk, and came sweeping over us.
“We must go in,” said Mr. Rochester: “the weather changes. I could have sat with thee till morning, Jane.”
“And so,” thought I, “could I with you.” I should have said so, perhaps, but a livid, vivid spark leapt out of a cloud at which I was looking, and there was a crack, a crash, and a close rattling peal; and I thought only of hiding my dazzled eyes against Mr. Rochester’s shoulder.
The rain rushed down. He hurried me up the walk, through the grounds, and into the house; but we were quite wet before we could pass the threshold. He was taking off my shawl in the hall, and shaking the water out of my loosened hair, when Mrs. Fairfax emerged from her room. I did not observe her at first, nor did Mr. Rochester. The lamp was lit. The clock was on the stroke of twelve.
“Hasten to take off your wet things,” said he; “and before you go, good-night—good-night, my darling!”
He kissed me repeatedly. When I looked up, on leaving his arms, there stood the widow, pale, grave, and amazed. I only smiled at her, and ran upstairs. “Explanation will do for another time,” thought I. Still, when I reached my chamber, I felt a pang at the idea she should even temporarily misconstrue what she had seen. But joy soon effaced every other feeling; and loud as the wind blew, near and deep as the thunder crashed, fierce and frequent as the lightning gleamed, cataract-like as the rain fell during a storm of two hours’ duration, I experienced no fear and little awe. Mr. Rochester came thrice to my door in the course of it, to ask if I was safe and tranquil: and that was comfort, that was strength for anything.
Before I left my bed in the morning, little Adèle came running in to tell me that the great horse-chestnut at the bottom of the orchard had been struck by lightning in the night, and half of it split away.
-from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Did I miss your favorite? Mr Darcy's 'adrently' masterpiece? Funny proposals from Oscar Wilde? Passionate ones penned by Dickens? Or EVERY. PROPOSAL. EVER. WRITTEN by Jane Austen?
Don't you worry. I've got you covered. Read Ardently, a collection of the world's most breathtaking literary love declarations!
Did I miss your favorite? Mr Darcy's 'adrently' masterpiece? Funny proposals from Oscar Wilde? Passionate ones penned by Dickens? Or EVERY. PROPOSAL. EVER. WRITTEN by Jane Austen?
Don't you worry. I've got you covered. Read Ardently, a collection of the world's most breathtaking literary love declarations!
Read it all and craving more? Perhaps a little Darcy deliciousness?
Here's a swoony sneak peek from a certain novel that's coming out in a month:
Drops is built right above the sea level, and as you arrive at it from the road, it gives the impression that it’s floating on top of the Ionian. It’s one of the most prestigious night haunts of the Town of
Long, floor-length windows open into the dark sky, and the city lights blink from the shoreline, mingling with the stars. During the summer months, Drops is packed with people, young bodies swinging along to the beat, laughter ringing across the street, glasses sparkling with cocktails.
Today it’s closed to the public, booked entirely by the crew. I slide in and find the darkest corner. I try to merge in with the walls, feeling the beat of the house music that’s bouncing off of every smooth surface and I begin to dig in my black clutch for my phone.
Then, a voice to my left. “There you are, girl, what are you drinking?” It’s Anna.
She’s wearing a thigh-length, white, shimmering sheath dress and sandals with incredibly high heels, and next to her I look like I just got out of the shower.
“Hey,” I say, turning to her, and then my smile slips away.
Elle is with her. Of course. They both—both—kiss me on the cheek and insist that I join them for margaritas. So I go over to their table, which is right by the floor-length screen, overlooking the black water of the sea, bathed in the moon’s white glow.
“So, you’re Greek, right?” Elle asks me in a husky, slightly-out-of-breath voice that tries to sound super-polite but ends up sounding weird. I’m guessing she’s not as good an actor as she thinks she is.
“I’m half-Greek, on my father’s side,” I answer. “Although my. . .” I stumble over the word, but it comes out eventually, “although I’ve hardly ever seen my mom. I’ve grown up here.”
“All your life?” Elle asks, her eyes widening. Anna elbows her.
“So,” I say after a couple minutes of awkward silence, “I haven’t seen the entire script yet. They only gave me like a list of the things I may be expected to do, and that’s it. Surfing, driving, diving, that kind of thing.” At this Elle shudders visibly and nods to a waiter to fill her glass again. “What’s the story?”
“Like you even need to know,” Elle scoffs, stretching back on the white sofa, at the same time that Anna says:
“Well, it’s based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.” Elle was right, the stunt actors aren’t always given the entire script, nor do they need it. Still, Anna tries to explain it to me. “You know, the famous Darcy and
romance, but set in the modern era. Darcy is a recluse, a writer, and Lizzie is
a waitress.” Elizabeth
And that’s when it all begins to go wrong.
“Darcy who?” I ask.
“Did you say, Darcy who?” a familiar voice hisses above me.
I turn around slowly and he’s there, in all his Tristan glory, glass in hand, tan jacket fashionably sculpted to his narrow frame, his eyes mocking me beneath their bored lashes.
“Hey,” I say awkwardly.
“Hey!” a warm voice answers me as Ollie emerges behind him. “We’ve been looking all over for you guys.” His eyes crinkle at the corners when he smiles. For the first time since I got in Drops I begin to relax.
“Is it possible that you haven’t read Austen?” Wes lifts his eyebrows at me. “Can you believe this?” he turns to Elle. She leans into him, her white-blond curls brushing against his thigh as she’s seated and he standing.
“Oh, no.” Ollie laughs behind me.
I get up, taking a swig of my drink. The strong taste hits me so hard that I wobble a bit as I swallow and I grab on to the little glass table that’s decorated with tiny cream tea-lights to steady myself.
Wes’ eyes fly to my glass immediately. “You’ve never read Austen,” he says. He doesn’t ask, he just says it in that deep, condescending voice, his gaze looking past me. “Don’t you have schools in
I just gape at him. Is he kidding me right now? Why won’t he let this go?
“We do,” I answer him evenly, “but we mostly study ancient Greek geniuses, not English nobodies.”
He goes pale.
I mean, I can’t be sure, because it’s dark in here and people keep pressing in on us from every side, but he visibly winces.
“English nobodies?” His left eyebrow flies to his hairline.
I sigh. What is his problem? “Oh, I don’t know. We study Homer at school, he lived three thousand years ago. When was yours born?”
Now it’s his turn to gape. His mouth actually falls open for a split second; he wasn’t expecting my retort. Then he’s bored again.
“Do yourself a favor,” he says, fixing those green eyes on my face, “and read it asap. I mean, you already can’t swim, so you might at least be familiar with the story we’ll be playing out. What was Tim thinking. . . ?”
I cut him off.
“Athletes don’t read,” I say, trying to imitate Elle’s nonchalant attitude, but without the drunk. I take another swig from my glass.
Fake it till you make it, wasn’t that what Katia said?
Wes suddenly takes my arm and pulls me away from the table, as though he’s embarrassed to have this conversation with me in front of his friends. My glass gets jostled around and a few drops fall out.
“What are you doing?” I shout at him over the noise.
“That’s not reading,” he says, “that’s only the most famous work of literature to date, excepting maybe the Bible. That’s educating yourself. That’s opening your mind.”
“With a soppy love story?” I retort. Even hearing about it a minute ago bored me to tears.
He looks surprised.
“Darce, dude, you do me proud,” Ollie’s laughing voice drifts over to us, but Wes looks as though he didn’t even hear him, and I don’t get it, so neither of us answers.
Then the girls begin to giggle and ask him to come sit with them, but his eyes never leave mine.
“It’s not a soppy love story,” he explains calmly. His eyes are glowing and that bored expression is nowhere to be seen. “It’s a story of misunderstanding, of overcoming one’s worst faults and of social comedy.”
“Okay,” I say carefully, because standing here in the most prestigious club that Corfu has to show, talking about books with
’s most popular teen actor is
definitely not a situation I ever imagined finding myself in. Hollywood
“When Darcy and Elizabeth first meet, they thoroughly dislike each other,” he goes on. “But neither of them understands that this intense dislike, almost hate actually, on the part of Elizabeth at least, is in fact the sparks that fly when two people are attracted to each other. Not to mention it makes for pretty entertaining dialogue.”
“Wow, you seem to have really studied this book,” I say, half amazed, half wondering if this is a topic that usually interests American film heartthrobs.
Unexpectedly, he bends down his head and studies his shoes. Are his ears turning red? “I. . . uh. . . I read quite a lot.” He lifts his gaze to mine. His eyes are filled with an intensity that takes me by surprise. “They don’t write that about me, ever,” he adds with a grin. “Don’t tell anyone.”
“I won’t,” I say, trying not to look confused. Is this the same guy who called me ‘stupid’ the other day? “Anyway, this masterpiece of yours, it doesn’t make sense. I mean, two people hating each other and all the while they’re falling in love?”
“Well, they are behaving as though they hate each other. There’s a difference.”
“Yeah, like people often stop in the middle of an argument to kiss.”
He lifts a sandy eyebrow. “People don’t say what they mean very often. You have to read between the lines of their behavior, of what they say, to get to what they truly feel. That’s what good literature is all about—what Austen did better than anyone.”
“What difference is there between calling someone an idiot and a ‘twit’, whatever that means, like, five times in a row, and actually hating them?” I ask fiercely.
“There’s a difference if they say it and don’t believe it. If, say, they’d been so scared, so damn terrified that their fear came out like. . . ” he stops himself and takes a different tone, the one I know really well by now. Bored and slightly mocking. “Anyway, as I said, it takes a truly superior education to get what a work like that is all about, and that’s why if you start reading it now, maybe in a few years you’ll begin to grasp its meaning.”
And that’s it. I’m pushed over my limit. Where does this guy come off demeaning me every chance he gets? He knows virtually nothing about me.
“Listen here, pal,” I say, trying not to cringe at the thought that the word ‘pal’ just came out of my mouth. All the frustration of the past few days has been looking for an outlet for so long that it comes out with a force that, frankly, is scaring me a little bit. But I can’t stop. “No one, least of all you, is allowed to talk to me like that. Just because I come from a different background than you, you’ve no right to tell me that I’m stupid, or that I’m not as good as—”
That’s when my little outburst is stopped abruptly.
His lips come down hard on mine, and for a moment I’m stunned. His tongue begins to explore my mouth hungrily, but his lips are soft and gentle. He tastes of alcohol and aftershave and summer. He places his hands on either side of my face to turn it sideways. I feel his body heat envelope me as he draws me closer to him, his hip leaning into mine, his chest pressed against me.
He cups my head with his long fingers and bends his body to the level of my face—wow, he must be tall, if he’s that taller than me—and then I can’t think anymore because I’m kissing him back.
We sort of sink into the kiss, forgetting to breathe. His tongue is doing things in my mouth that make my knees go weak and forget to support me. He lifts me onto him, sensing me falling, and supports my waist with his other hand sliding around my waist.
Everything goes on around us, bodies moving, rubbing against each other, glasses clinking, voices laughing, but we are oblivious to it all. I had no idea that there was this person inside of me, who would kiss a guy back like that, swept up in the moment, forgetting myself, unable to stop. I don’t know who she is or what unleashed her, and I know that in a moment or so, maybe I’ll regret everything she did—everything I did. I mean, joking about it with Katia is one thing, but this. . . This isn’t safe. It’s the opposite of safe.
Oh, but it’s so much fun. I’m surrounded by actors, being kissed by one, and right now, what’s pretend and what’s real all blur together. I’m one of them tonight. I don’t know how much time passes as we Wes and I are locked in our own little universe, but finally, sighing, we part.
I gasp for breath and stumble, taking a step back.
He pushes me away almost forcibly, but his eyes are still watching me as his chest rises and falls rapidly. There’s a look of surprise and amazement on his face. And then I look more carefully at him, and I discover something else in his expression: fear. Just plain fear.
Fear at what he discovered, at what we both unearthed during this kiss. I raise a hand to my swollen lips and find out that my cheeks are wet.
His eyebrows meet as he, too, notices, and his lips tighten. “No,” he whispers in a low rasp. Mesmerized, as though he isn’t aware he’s even doing it, he lifts a finger to wipe my tears away. At the last minute, he stops himself and drops his hand.
“What you said before,” he says, his voice coming out hoarse. “I never said you weren’t as good as me. What I think is that you’re. . . Ah.”
Just like that, he stops talking and turns on his heel and leaves. He lifts his head, his hair caressing the back of his neck, and drains his glass in one swift movement.
Hope you enjoyed that little hot snippet from Lose Me.
You can preorder it here, or wait until it comes out April 11th to devour it. (Learn more about what this New Adult Pride and Prejudice inspired story of a British actor and a stunt performer is all about here).
Have a wonderful day, full of love, books, and swoony rereads.