It is wonderful how scenes of danger and difficulty—it is wonderful how scenes of great excitement of any kind, indeed—draw heart to heart, and bind together, in bonds indissoluble, the beings that have passed through them side by side. They are never to be broken, those bonds; for between us and the persons with whom we have trod such paths there is established a partnership in powerful memories, out of which we can never withdraw our interest. But it is not alone that they are permanent which renders them different from all lighter ties; it is that they bring us closer, more entirely to each other; that instead of sharing the mere thoughts of what we may call the outward heart, we enter into the deepest recesses, we see all the hidden treasures, we know the feelings and the ideas that are concealed from the general eye of day, we are no longer kept in the porch, but admitted into the temple itself.
Wilton was left alone in the small parlour of the inn with Lady Laura; and as soon as he heard the horses’ feet gallop away, he turned towards her with a glad smile. But when he did so, he found that her beautiful eyes were now fixed upon him with a gaze deep and intense—a gaze which showed that the whole thoughts and feelings of her heart were abstracted from everything else on earth to meditate on all that she owed to him, and on the things alone that were connected therewith.
She dropped her eyes as soon as they met his; but that one look was overpowering to the man who now certainly loved her as deeply as it is possible for man to love woman. Many a difficulty and doubt had been removed from his mind by the words which Lord Sherbrooke had spoken while affecting to seek for the warrant; and there were vague hopes of high destinies in his heart. But it must be acknowledged, that if there had been none, he would have given way, even as he did.
He advanced towards her, he took her hand in his, he pressed it between both his own, he kissed it tenderly, passionately, and more than once. Lady Laura lifted up her eyes to his face, not blushing, but very pale.
“Oh, Wilton,” she said, “what do I not owe you!” and she burst into tears. The words, the look, the very tears themselves, were all more than sufficient encouragement.
“You owe me nothing, Laura,” Wilton said. “Would to God that I had such an opportunity of serving you as to make me forgive in myself the rash, the wild, the foolish feelings that, in spite of every struggle and every effort, have grown up in my heart towards you, and have taken possession of me altogether. But, oh, Laura, I cannot hope that you will forgive them, I cannot forgive them myself. They can—I know they can, only produce anguish and sorrow to myself, and excite anger, perhaps indignation, in you.”
“Oh no, no, no, Wilton!” she cried, eagerly, “not that, not that! neither anger, nor indignation, nor anything like it, but grief—and yet not grief either—oh no, not grief!—Some apprehension, perhaps, some anxiety both for your happiness and my own. But if you do feel all you say, as I believe and am sure you do, such feelings, so far as depends upon me, should produce you no anguish and no pain; but I must not conceal from you that I very much fear, my father would never—”