Bernard gazed at this lonesome cottage and said: “Viola, I feel to-night that all my honors are empty. They feel to me like a load crushing me down rather than a pedestal raising me up. I am not happy. I long for the solitude of those trees. That decaying old house calls eloquently unto something within me. How I would like to enter there and lay me down to sleep, free from the cares and divested of the gewgaws of the world.”
Viola was startled by these sombre reflections coming from Bernard. She decided that something must be wrong. She was, by nature, exceedingly tender of heart, and she turned her pretty eyes in astonished grief at Bernard, handsome, melancholy, musing.
“Ah, Mr. Belgrave, something terrible is gnawing at your heart for one so young, so brilliant, so prosperous as you are to talk thus. Make a confidante of me and let me help to remove the load, if I can.”
Bernard was silent and eat gazing out on the quiet flowing waters. Viola’s eyes eagerly scanned his face as if to divine his secret.
Bernard resumed speaking: “I have gone forth into life to win certain honors and snatch from fame a wreath, and now that I have succeeded, I behold this evening, as never before, that it is not worthy of the purpose for which I designed it. My work is all in vain.”
“Mr. Belgrave, you must not talk so sadly,” said Viola, almost ready to cry.
Bernard turned and suddenly grasped Viola’s hands and said in passionate tones: “Viola, I love you. I have nothing to offer you worthy of you. I can find nothing worthy, attain nothing worthy. I love you to desperation. Will you give yourself to a wretch like me? Say no! don’t throw away your beauty, your love on so common a piece of clay.”
Viola uttered a loud, piercing scream that dispersed all Bernard’s thoughts and frightened the horse. He went dashing across the bridge, Bernard endeavoring to grasp the reins. When he at last succeeded, Viola had fainted. Bernard drove hurriedly towards Viola’s home, puzzled beyond measure. He had never heard of a marriage proposal frightening a girl into a faint and he thought that there was surely something in the matter of which he knew nothing. Then, too, he was racking his brain for an excuse to give Viola’s parents. But happily the cool air revived Viola and she awoke trembling violently and begged Bernard to take her home at once. This he did and drove away, much puzzled in mind.
He revived the whole matter in his mind, and thoughts and opinions came and went. Perhaps she deemed him utterly unworthy of her. There was one good reason for this last opinion and one good one against it. He felt himself to be unworthy of such a girl, but on the other hand Viola had frequently sung his praises in his own ears and in the ears of others. He decided to go early in the morning and know definitely his doom.