She agreed quite willingly. The prospect of what she knew was coming, held no terrors for her. The only real terror is that of doubt. She knew the course she was about to take. There was no hesitation in her mind. The fate of Mr. Arthur in moulding the destiny of Sally’s life was weighed out, apportioned, sealed. It had only to be delivered into his hands.
If this is a short time for so much to have happened, it can only be said that Romance is a fairy tale where seven-leagued-boots and magic carpets are essential properties of the mind. In a fairy tale you are here and you are there by the simple turning of a ring. Matter—the body—is a thing of nought. It is the same with Romance; but there you deal with magical translations of the mind. From the grim depths of the valley of despair, you are transported on to the summit of the great mountain of delight; from the tangled forest of doubt, in one moment of time you may be swept on the wings of the genie of love into the sun-lit country of content.
Happening upon this fairy tale—as every woman must—had come Sally Bishop. It would seem a foolish thing to think that Apsley Manor, in the county of Buckinghamshire, should play a part in so great a change in the life of any human being; it would seem strange to believe that out of a two hours’ acquaintance could arise the beginning of a whole life’s desire; yet in the fairy story of romance, all such things are possible; nay, they are even the circumstances that one expects.
When she walked out along the river-side that evening with Mr. Arthur, there was an unreasoning content in her mind. The lights from the bridge danced for her in the black water, reflecting the lightness of her heart. She was in that pleasant attitude of mind—poised—like a diver on a summer day, before he plunges into the glittering green water. A few more days, another meeting, and she knew that she would be immersed—deeply in love. Now she toyed with it, held the moment at arm’s length, and let her eyes feast on the seeming voluptuous certainty of it. And when Mr. Arthur began the long preface to the point towards which his mind was set, it sounded distant, aloof, as the monotonous voice of a priest, chanting dull prayers in an empty church, must sound in the ears of one whose whole soul is struggling to lift to a communion with God Himself.
“I only want to know if you have made up your mind?” he said, when he had finished his preamble.
“Yes, Mr. Arthur, I have.”
He took the note in her voice. It rang there in answer to the apprehension that was already in his mind.
“No, I can’t.”
“The same reason I gave you before.”
“You don’t love me?”
“No; I’m sorry, but I don’t.”
“That’ll come,” he tried to say with confidence.
She thought he was really sure of it; but instead of being angry, she felt sorry for him. He hoped for that—he had every right to hope—but oh, he little realized how impossible it was—how utterly, absolutely impossible it was now. There is no rate of exchange for Romance in the heart of a woman; she gives her whole soul for it, and nothing but Romance will she take in return.