“It is wrong of me even to think of it,” she said. “Today I might say ‘yes,’ and to-morrow? You might inspire me with courage now; and afterward—I should only bring you further pain. I do not know myself. I could not be sure of myself. How could I dare drag you into such a terrible risk? It is better as it is. The pain you are suffering will go. You will come to call me your friend; and you will thank me that I refused. Perhaps I shall suffer a little too,” she added, and once more she rather timidly looked up into his face. “You do not know the fascination of seeing your scheme of life, that you have been dreaming about, just suddenly put before you for acceptance; and you want all your common sense to hold back. But I know it will be better—better for both of us. You must believe me.”
“I do not believe you, and I will not believe you,” said he, with a proud light in his eyes; “and now you have said so much I am not going to take any refusal at all. Not now. Gertrude, I have courage for both of us: when you are timid, you will take my hand. Say it, then! A word only! You have already said all but that!”
He seemed scarcely the same man who had appealed to her with the wild eyes and the haggard face. His look was radiant and proud. He spoke with a firm voice; and yet there was a great tenderness in his tone.
“I am sure you love me,” she said, in a low voice.
“You will see,” he rejoined, with a firm confidence.
“And I am not going to requite your love ill. You are too vehement. You think of nothing but the one end to it all. But I am a woman, and women are taught to be patient. Now you must let me think about all you have said.”
“And you do not quite refuse?” said he.
She hesitated for a moment or two.
“I must think for you as well as for myself,” she said, in a scarcely audible voice. “Give me time. Give me till the end of the week.”
“At this hour I will come.”
“And you will believe I have decided for the best—that I have tried hard to be fair to you as well as myself?”
“I know you are too true a woman for anything else,” he said; and then he added, “Ah, well, now, you have had enough misery for one morning; you must dry your eyes now, and we will go out into the garden; and if I am not to say anything of all my gratitude to you—why? Because I hope there will be many a year to do that in, my angel of goodness!”
She went to fetch a light shawl and a hat; he kept turning over the things on the table, his fingers trembling, his eyes seeing nothing. If they did see anything, it was a vision of the brown moors near Castle Dare, and a beautiful creature, clad all in cream-color and scarlet, drawing near the great gray stone house.
She came into the room again; joy leaped to his eyes.
“Will you follow me?”
There was a strangely subdued air about her manner as she led him to where her father was; perhaps she was rather tired after the varied emotions she had experienced; perhaps she was still anxious. He was not anxious. It was in a glad way that he addressed the old gentleman who stood there with a spade in his hand.