A sob shook him. She laid a hand gently on his bowed head, on the dark wave of hair above his strong, shapely neck. She was full of pity, longing to comfort . . .
He started, gazed up at her, and seized her hand. His eyes swam with tears, but behind the tears blazed a light which frightened her. Yet— oh, surely!—she could not mistake it.
He held both her hands now. He was drawing her towards him. She could not speak. The room swam; outside the window she heard the noise of starting hoofs, of wheels, of the English crowd hurrahing as the chaise rolled away. Her head almost touched M. Raoul’s breast. Then she broke loose, as her brother’s step sounded in the passage.
LOVE AND AN OLD MAID
I pray you be gentle with Dorothea. Find, if you can, something admirable in this plain spinster keeping, at the age of thirty-seven, a room in her breast adorned and ready for first love; find it pitiful, if you must, that the blind boy should mistake his lodging; only do not laugh, or your laughter may accuse you in the sequel.
She had a most simple heart. Wonder filled it as she rode home to Bayfield, and by the bridge she reined up Mercury as if to take her bearings in an unfamiliar country. At her feet rushed the Axe, swollen by spring freshets; a bullfinch, wet from his bath, bobbed on the sand-stone parapet, shook himself, and piped a note or two; away up the stream, among the alders, birds were chasing and courting; from above the Bayfield elms, out of spaces of blue, the larks’ song fell like a din of innumerable silver hammers. Either new sense had been given her, or the rains had washed the landscape and restored obliterated lines, colours, meanings. The very leaves by the roadside were fragrant as flowers.
For the moment it sufficed to know that she was loved, and that she loved. She was no fool. At the back of all her wonder lay the certainty that in the world’s eyes such love as hers was absurd; that it must end where it began; that Raoul could never be hers, nor she escape from a captivity as real as his. But, perhaps because she knew all this so certainly, she could put it aside. This thing had come to her: this happiness to which, alone, in darkness, depressed by every look into the mirror, by every casual proof that her brothers and intimates accepted the verdict as final, her soul had been loyal—a forgotten servant of a neglectful lord. In the silence of her own room, in her garden, in the quiet stir of household duties, and again during the long evenings while she sat knitting by the fire and her brothers talked, she had pondered much upon love and puzzled herself with many questions. She had watched girls and their lovers, wives and their husbands. Can love (she had asked) draw near and pass and go its way unrecognised? She had conned the signs. Now the hour had come, and she had needed none of her learning—eyes, hands, and voice, she had known the authentic god.