It was a phrase she had got out of her penny fiction; and very remarkable indeed was the mixture of acting and real sentiment which marked her utterances throughout.
Julian’s shame and anger began to turn to compassion. A woman in tears was a sight which always caused him the keenest distress.
“But,” he cried, with tears in his own eyes, “it is impossible that you should suffer all this through me, and I not even make an attempt to clear you of such vile charges!”
“It was my own fault. I was thoughtless. I ought to have known that people’s always ready to think harm. But I think of nothing when I’m with you, Julian!”
He had disengaged himself from her hands, and was holding one of them in his own. But, as she made this last confession, she threw her arms about his neck and drooped her head against his bosom.
“Oh, if you only felt to me like I do to you!” she sobbed.
No man can hear without some return of emotion a confession from a woman’s lips that she loves him. Harriet was the only girl whom Julian had ever approached in familiar intercourse; she had no rival to fear amongst living women; the one rival to be dreaded was altogether out of the sphere of her conceptions,—the ideal love of a poet’s heart and brain. But the ideal is often least present to us when most needed. Here was love; offer but love to a poet, and does he pause to gauge its quality? The sudden whirl of conflicting emotions left Julian at the mercy of the instant’s impulse. She was weak; she was suffering through him; she loved him.
“Be my wife, then,” he whispered, returning her embrace, “and let me guard you from all who would do you harm.”
She uttered a cry of delight, and the cry was a true one.
NEAR AND FAR
Osmond Waymark was light-hearted; and with him such a state meant something not at all to be understood by those with whom lightness of heart is a chronic affection. The man who dwells for long periods face to face with the bitter truths of life learns so to distrust a fleeting moment of joy, gives habitually so cold a reception to the tardy messenger of delight, that, when the bright guest outdares his churlishness and perforce tarries with him, there ensues a passionate revulsion unknown to hearts which open readily to every fluttering illusive bliss. Illusion it of course remains; is ever recognised as that; but illusion so sweet and powerful that he thanks the god that blinds him, and counts off with sighs of joy the hours thus brightly winged.