“Charlotte, will you forgive me?”
The kiss which he had ventured to give, and which she had all but returned to him, brought Charlotte to herself again—she pressed his hand—but she did not attempt to raise him up. She bent down over him, and laid her hand upon his shoulder and said:
“We cannot now prevent this moment from forming an epoch in our lives; but it depends on us to bear ourselves in a manner which shall be worthy of us. You must go away, my dear friend; and you are going. The Count has plans for you, to give you better prospects—I am glad, and I am sorry. I did not mean to speak of it till it was certain but this moment obliges me to tell you my secret * * * Since it does not depend on ourselves to alter our feelings, I can only forgive you, I can only forgive myself, if we have the courage to alter our situation.” She raised him up, took his arm to support herself, and they walked back to the castle without speaking.
But now she was standing in her own room, where she had to feel and to know that she was Edward’s wife. Her strength and the various discipline in which through life she had trained herself, came to her assistance in the conflict. Accustomed as she had always been to look steadily into herself and to control herself, she did not now find it difficult, with an earnest effort, to come to the resolution which she desired. She could almost smile when she remembered the strange visit of the night before. Suddenly she was seized with a wonderful instinctive feeling, a thrill of fearful delight which changed into holy hope and longing. She knelt earnestly down, and repeated the oath which she had taken to Edward before the altar.
Friendship, affection, renunciation, floated in glad, happy images before her. She felt restored to health and to herself. A sweet weariness came over her. She lay down, and sank into a calm, quiet sleep.
Edward, on his part, was in a very different temper. So little he thought of sleeping that it did not once occur to him even to undress himself. A thousand times he kissed the transcript of the document, but it was the beginning of it, in Ottilie’s childish, timid hand; the end he scarcely dared to kiss, for he thought it was his own hand which he saw. Oh, that it were another document! he whispered to himself; and, as it was, he felt it was the sweetest assurance that his highest wish would be fulfilled. Thus it remained in his hands, thus he continued to press it to his heart, although disfigured by a third name subscribed to it. The waning moon rose up over the wood. The warmth of the night drew Edward out into the free air. He wandered this way and that way; he was at once the most restless and the happiest of mortals. He strayed through the gardens—they seemed too narrow for him; he hurried out into the park, and it was too wide. He was drawn back toward