If ever my heart vowed itself to Lilian, the vow was now the most trustful and the most sacred. I had relinquished our engagement before; but then her affection seemed, no matter from what cause; so estranged from me, that though I might be miserable to lose her, I deemed that she would be unhappy in our union. Then, too, she was the gem and darling of the little world in which she lived; no whisper assailed her: now I knew that she loved me; I knew that her estrangement had been involuntary; I knew that appearances wronged her, and that they never could be explained. I was in the true position of man to woman: I was the shield, the bulwark, the fearless confiding protector! Resign her now because the world babbled, because my career might be impeded, because my good name might be impeached — resign her, and, in that resignation, confirm all that was said against her! Could I do so, I should be the most craven of gentlemen, the meanest of men!
I went to Mrs. Ashleigh, and entreated her to hasten my union with her daughter, and fix the marriage-day.
I found the poor lady dejected and distressed. She was now sufficiently relieved from the absorbing anxiety for Lilian to be aware of the change on the face of that World which the woman I had just quitted personified and concentred; she had learned the cause from the bloodless lips of Miss Brabazon.
“My child! my poor child!” murmured the mother. “And she so guileless — so sensitive! Could she know what is said, it would kill her. She would never marry you, Allen — she would never bring shame to you!”
“She never need learn the barbarous calumny. Give her to me, and at once; patients, fortune, fame, are not found only at L——. Give her to me at once. But let me name a condition: I have a patrimonial independence, I have amassed large savings, I have my profession and my repute. I cannot touch her fortune — I cannot — never can! Take it while you live; when you die, leave it to accumulate for her children, if children she have; not to me; not to her — unless I am dead or ruined!”
“Oh, Allen, what a heart! what a heart! No, not heart, Allen — that bird in its cage has a heart: soul — what a soul!”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:06