Mr. Gresley sat upright, and put away his handkerchief with decision.
“One thing this miserable day has taught us,” he said, “and that is that we must part with Fraeulein. If she is to become impertinent the first moment we are in trouble, such a thing is not to be borne. We could not possibly keep her after her behavior to-day.”
If two lives join, there is oft a scar. —ROBERT BROWNING.
Rachel left Westhope Abbey the day after Lord Newhaven’s funeral, and returned to London. And the day after that Hugh came to see her, and proposed, and was accepted.
He had gone over in his mind a hundred times all that he should say to her on that occasion. If he had said all that he was fully resolved to say, it is hardly credible that any woman, however well disposed towards him, would have accepted so tedious a suitor. But what he really said, in a hoarse, inaudible voice, was, “Rachel, will you marry me?” He was looking so intently into a little grove of Roman hyacinths, that perhaps the hyacinths heard what he said; at any rate, she did not. But she supposed, from long experience, that he was proposing, and she said “Yes” immediately.
She had not intended to say so—at least, not at first. She had made up her mind that it would be only right to inform him that she was fourteen months older than he (she had looked him out in Burke where she herself was not to be found); that she was “old enough to be his mother”; also that she was of a cold, revengeful temper not calculated to make a home happy, and several other odious traits of character which she had never dreamed of confiding to any of the regiment of her previous lovers.
But the only word she had breath to say when the time came was “Yes.”
* * * * *
Rachel had shivered and hesitated on the brink of a new love long enough. Her anxiety about Hugh had unconsciously undermined her resistance. His confession had given her instantly the confidence in him which had been wanting. It is not perfection that we look for in our fellow-creatures, but for what is apparently rarer, a little plain dealing.
How they rise before us!—the sweet reproachful faces of those whom we could have loved devotedly if they had been willing to be straightforward with us; whom we have lost, not by our own will, but by that paralysis of feeling which gradually invades the heart at the discovery of small insincerities. Sincerity seems our only security against losing those who love us, the only cup in which those who are worth keeping will care to pledge us when youth is past.
Rachel was not by nature de celles qui se jettent dans l’amour comme dans un precipice. But she shut her eyes, recommended her soul to God, and threw herself over. She had climbed down once—with assistance—and she was not going to do that again. That she found herself alive at the bottom was a surprise to her, but a surprise that was quickly forgotten in the constant wonder that Hugh could love her as devotedly as it was obvious he did.