“Well, Adolphus?” was all she said.
“If I could avoid it,” continued he, “I would not hurt your feelings; but you must see, you must know, that you cannot marry Lord Ballindine.”—Fanny, who was now sitting, bit her lips and clenched her hands, but she said nothing; “If this is so—if you feel that so far your fate is fixed, are you mad enough to give yourself up to a vain and wicked passion—for wicked it will be? Will you not rather strive to forget him who has forgotten you?”
“That is not true,” interposed Fanny.
“His conduct, unfortunately, proves that it is too true,” continued Kilcullen. “He has forgotten you, and you cannot blame him that he should do so, now that you have rejected him; but he neglected you even before you did so. Is it wise, is it decorous, is it maidenly in you, to indulge any longer in so vain a passion? Think of this, Fanny. As to myself, Heaven knows with what perfect truth, with what true love, I offered you, this morning, all that a man can offer: how ardently I hoped for an answer different from that you have now given me. You cannot give me your heart now; love cannot, at a moment, be transferred. But think, Fanny, think whether it is not better for you to accept an offer which your friends will all approve, and which I trust will never make you unhappy, than to give yourself up to a lasting regret,—to tears, misery, and grief.”
“And would you take my hand without my heart?” said she.
“Not for worlds,” replied the other, “were I not certain that your heart would follow your hand. Whoever may be your husband, you will love him. But ask my mother, talk to her, ask her advice; she at any rate will only tell you that which must be best for your own happiness. Go to her, Fanny; if her advice be different from mine, I will not say a word farther to urge my suit.”
“I will go to no one,” said Fanny, rising. “I have gone to too many with a piteous story on my lips. I have no friend, now, in this house. I had still hoped to find one in you, but that hope is over. I am, of course, proud of the honour your declaration has conveyed; but I should be wicked indeed if I did not make you perfectly understand that it is one which I cannot accept. Whatever may be your views, your ideas, I will never marry unless I thoroughly love, and feel that I am thoroughly loved by my future husband. Had you not made this ill-timed declaration—had you not even persisted in repeating it after I had opened my whole heart to you, I could have loved and cherished you as a brother; under no circumstances could I ever have accepted you as a husband. Good morning.” And she left him alone, feeling that he could have but little chance of success, should he again renew the attempt.
He did not see her again till dinner-time, when she appeared silent and reserved, but still collected and at her ease; nor did he speak to her at dinner or during the evening, till the moment the ladies were retiring for the night. He then came up to her as she was standing alone turning over some things on a side-table, and said, “Fanny, I probably leave Grey Abbey to-morrow. I will say good bye to you tonight.”