The mystery at grassy spring.
For several weeks longer Edith continued taking lessons of Arthur, going sometimes with Richard, but oftener alone, and feeling always that a change had gradually come over her teacher. He was as kind to her as ever, took quite as much pains with her, and she was sensible of a greater degree of improvement than had marked the days when she trembled every time he touched her hands. Still there was a change. He did not bend over her now as he used to do; did not lay his arm across the back of her chair, letting it some times fall by accident upon her shoulders; did not look into her eyes with a glance which made her blush and turn away; in short, he did not look at her at all, if he could help it, and in this very self-denial lay his strength. He was waging a mighty battle with himself, and inch by inch he was gaining the victory, for victory it would be when he brought himself to think of Edith Hastings without a pang—to listen to her voice and look into her face without a feeling that she must be his. He could not do this yet, but he kept himself from telling her of his love by assuming a reserved, studied manner, which led her at last to think he might be angry, and one day, toward the first of March, when he had been more than usually silent, she asked him abruptly how she had offended, her soft eyes filling with tears as she expressed her sorrow if by any thoughtless act she had caused him pain.
“You could not offend me, Edith,” he said; “that would be impossible, and if I am sometimes could an abstracted, it is because I have just cause for being so. I am very unhappy, Edith, and your visits here to me are like oases to the weary traveller. Were it not for you I should wish to die; and yet, strange as it may seem, I have prayed to die oftener since I knew you as you now are than I ever did before, I committed a fatal error once and it has embittered my whole existence. It was early in life, to, before I ever say you, Edith.”
“Why Mr. St. Claire,” she exclaimed, “you were nothing but a boy when you came to Brier Hill.”