But how could I sleep?—how could any woman sleep when such a revelation had been vouchsafed her?—when a certain look, and those two words, ‘Come, Ursula,’ still haunted me,—that strange brief wooing, that was hardly wooing, and yet meant unutterable things, that silent acceptance, that simple yielding, when I put my hand in his, Giles’s, and saw the quick look of joy in his eyes?
Ah, the veil had fallen from my eyes at last: for the first time I realised how all these weeks he had been drawing me closer to himself, how his strong will had subjugated mine. My dislike of him had been brief; he had awakened my interest first, then attracted my sympathy, and finally won my respect and friendship, until I had grown to love him in spite of myself. Strange to say, I had lost all fear of him; as I sat holding communion with myself that night, I felt that I should never be afraid of him again. ‘Perfect love casteth out fear’: is not that what the apostle tells us? It was true, I thought, for now I did not seem to be afraid either of Mr. Hamilton’s strange stern nature, of the sadness of his past life, or of the mysteries and misunderstandings of that troubled household. It seemed to me I feared nothing,—not even my own want of beauty, that had once been a trial to me; for if Giles loved me how could such minor evils affect me?
Yes, as I sat there under the solemn starlight, with the jasmine sprays cooling my hot cheek and the soft night breeze fanning me, I owned, and was not ashamed to own, in my woman’s heart, and with all the truth of which I was capable, that this was the man whom my soul delighted to honour; not faultless, not free from blame, full of flaws and imperfections, but still a strong grand man, intensely human in his sympathies, one who loved his fellows, and who did his life’s work in true knightly fashion, running full tilt against prejudices and the shams of conventionality.
Often during the night I thought of my mother, and how she had told me, laughing, that my father had never really asked her to marry him.
‘I don’t know how we were engaged, Ursula,’ she once said, when we were talking about Charlie and Lesbia in the twilight; ’we were at a ball,—Lady Fitzherbert’s,—and of course being a clergyman he did not dance, but he took me into the conservatory and gave me a flower: I think it was a rose. There were people all round us, and neither he nor I could tell how it was done, but when he put me into the carriage I knew we were somehow promised to each other, and when he came the next day he called me Amy, and kissed me in the most quite matter-of-fact way. I often laugh and tell him that he took it all, for granted.’
‘Giles will come to-morrow,’ I said to myself, as the first pale gleam came over the eastern sky, ‘and then I shall know all about it.’ And I fell asleep happily, and dreamt of Charlie, and I thought he was pelting me with roses in the old vicarage garden.