“Oh, not at all, madam, not at all,” replied the clergyman: “Mrs. Jeffreys will be delighted to see you.—Let us lose no time.—Wicks, when the carriage comes, send it up to my house.—Ma’am, I will show your ladyship the way.”
Laura, however, still clung to Wilton’s arm, as her best support; and following the clergyman together, they proceeded to the parsonage, escorted by a number of footmen, farming servants, and people collected in haste, who had come to the examination of Wicks’s house. On their arrival, they were ushered into a tall dining-room with carved panels, the atmosphere of which was strongly imbued with the mingled odour of punch and tobacco, an unsavoury but at that time very ordinary perfume in the dining-room of almost every country gentleman. The mistress of the mansion, however, proved, in point of manners and appearance, considerably superior to her lord and master, and did all that she could in a very kind and delicate manner to render the beautiful girl, cast for the time on her hospitality, as comfortable as the circumstances would admit.
It is not to be denied, indeed, that both Wilton and Laura could at that time have very well spared the presence of any other persons, for there were feelings in the hearts of both which eagerly longed for voice. There was much to be told; there was much to be explained; there was much to be determined between them. There was, indeed, the consciousness of mutual love, which is no slight blessing and comfort, under any circumstances; but that very consciousness produced the longing thirst for farther communion which nothing but love can give.
When all has been said, indeed—when the whole heart has been poured forth—when the first intense feelings of a new passion have worn away, or, having grown familiar to our bosoms, surprise us no longer, we can better bear the presence of others; for a look, an occasional word, even a tone, will convey to the mind of those we love, all that we could wish to say. But when love is fresh, and every feeling produced thereby is new and wonderful to our hearts; when we make hourly discoveries of new sensations in our own bosoms, and neither know how to express them, nor how to conceal them, the presence of others—cold, indifferent, strange—is no slight punishment and privation.
Laura endeavoured, as far as possible, to keep down such feelings, but yet she could not drive them from her bosom. The minutes seemed long, tedious, and heavy: from time to time she would fall into a fit of musing; from time to time she would answer wide from the question; but it fortunately so happened, that the events which had lately occurred, and her anxiety to rejoin her father, were causes sufficient to account for greater inequalities of conduct than these.