A Strange Story, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Chapter 18.

In spite of the previous assurance of Mrs. Poyntz, it was not without an uneasy apprehension that I approached the cedar-tree, under which Mrs. Ashleigh still sat, her friend beside her. I looked on the fair creature whose arm was linked in mine. So young, so singularly lovely, and with all the gifts of birth and fortune which bend avarice and ambition the more submissively to youth and beauty, I felt as if I had wronged what a parent might justly deem her natural lot.

“Oh, if your mother should disapprove!” said I, falteringly. Lilian leaned on my arm less lightly. “If I had thought so,” she said with her soft blush, “should I be thus by your side?”

So we passed under the boughs of the dark tree, and Lilian left me and kissed Mrs. Ashleigh’s cheek; then, seating herself on the turf, laid her head on her mother’s lap. I looked on the Queen of the Hill, whose keen eye shot over me. I thought there was a momentary expression of pain or displeasure on her countenance; but it passed. Still there seemed to me something of irony, as well as of triumph or congratulation, in the half-smile with which she quitted her seat, and in the tone with which she whispered, as she glided by me to the open sward, “So, then, it is settled.”

She walked lightly and quickly down the lawn. When she was out of sight I breathed more freely. I took the seat which she had left, by Mrs. Ashleigh’s side, and said, “A little while ago I spoke of myself as a man without kindred, without home, and now I come to you and ask for both.”

Mrs. Ashleigh looked at me benignly, then raised her daughter’s face from her lap, and whispered, “Lilian;” and Lilian’s lips moved, but I did not hear her answer. Her mother did. She took Lilian’s hand, simply placed it in mine, and said, “As she chooses, I choose; whom she loves, I love.”

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31