“If you speak thus wildly,” said Tressilian, astonishment again overpowering both his grief and his resolution, “I must believe you indeed incapable of thinking or acting for yourself.”
“Oh, no!” she exclaimed, sinking on one knee before him, “I am not mad—I am but a creature unutterably miserable, and, from circumstances the most singular, dragged on to a precipice by the arm of him who thinks he is keeping me from it—even by yours, Tressilian—by yours, whom I have honoured, respected—all but loved—and yet loved, too—loved, too, Tressilian—though not as you wished to be.”
There was an energy, a self-possession, an abandonment in her voice and manner, a total resignation of herself to his generosity, which, together with the kindness of her expressions to himself, moved him deeply. He raised her, and, in broken accents, entreated her to be comforted.
“I cannot,” she said, “I will not be comforted, till you grant me my request! I will speak as plainly as I dare. I am now awaiting the commands of one who has a right to issue them. The interference of a third person—of you in especial, Tressilian—will be ruin—utter ruin to me. Wait but four-and-twenty hours, and it may be that the poor Amy may have the means to show that she values, and can reward, your disinterested friendship—that she is happy herself, and has the means to make you so. It is surely worth your patience, for so short a space?”
Tressilian paused, and weighing in his mind the various probabilities which might render a violent interference on his part more prejudicial than advantageous, both to the happiness and reputation of Amy; considering also that she was within the walls of Kenilworth, and could suffer no injury in a castle honoured with the Queen’s residence, and filled with her guards and attendants—he conceived, upon the whole, that he might render her more evil than good service by intruding upon her his appeal to Elizabeth in her behalf. He expressed his resolution cautiously, however, doubting naturally whether Amy’s hopes of extricating herself from her difficulties rested on anything stronger than a blinded attachment to Varney, whom he supposed to be her seducer.
“Amy,” he said, while he fixed his sad and expressive eyes on hers, which, in her ecstasy of doubt, terror, and perplexity, she cast up towards him, “I have ever remarked that when others called thee girlish and wilful, there lay under that external semblance of youthful and self-willed folly deep feeling and strong sense. In this I will confide, trusting your own fate in your own hands for the space of twenty-four hours, without my interference by word or act.”
“Do you promise me this, Tressilian?” said the Countess. “Is it possible you can yet repose so much confidence in me? Do you promise, as you are a gentleman and a man of honour, to intrude in my matters neither by speech nor action, whatever you may see or hear that seems to you to demand your interference? Will you so far trust me?”