`O sing me something - just on song. I may listen to that, before I go - something you used to sing a Lorton on a Saturday afternoon, when we had the drawing-room all to ourselves, and I put my apron over my head, to listen.'
`I know,' said Philip, and Maggie buried her face in her hands, while he sang, sotto voce `Love in her eyes sits playing,' and then said, `That's it, isn't it?'
`O no, I won't stay,' said Maggie, starting up. `It will only haunt me. Let us walk, Philip. I must go home.'
She moved away, so that he was obliged to rise and follow her.
`Maggie,' he said, in a tone of remonstrance, `Don't persist in this wilful senseless privation. It makes me wretched to see you benumbing and cramping your nature in this way. You were so full of life when you were a child - I thought you would be a brilliant woman - all wit and bright imagination. And it flashes out in your face still, until you draw that veil of dull quiescence over it.'
`Why do you speak so bitterly to me, Philip?' said Maggie.
`Because I foresee it will not end well; you can never carry on this self-torture.'
`I shall have strength given me,' said Maggie, tremulously.
`No, you will not, Maggie: no one has strength given to do what is unnatural. It is mere cowardice to seek safety in negations. No character becomes strong in that way. You will be thrown into the world some day, and then every rational satisfaction of your nature that you deny now, will assault you like a savage appetite.'
Maggie started a paused, looking at Philip with alarm in her face.
`Philip, how dare you shake me in this way? You are a tempter.'
`No, I am not; but love gives insight, Maggie, and insight often gives foreboding. Listen to me - let me supply you with books. Do let me see you sometimes - by your brother and teacher, as you said at Lorton. It is less wrong that you should see me than that you should be committing this long suicide.'
Maggie felt unable to speak. She shook her head and walked on in silence till they came to the end of the Scotch firs, and she put out her hand in sign of parting.
`Do you banish me from this place for ever, then, Maggie? Surely I may come and walk in it sometimes. If I meet you by chance, there is no concealment in that?'
It is the moment when our resolution seems about to become irrevocable - when the fatal iron gates are about to close upon us - that tests our strength. Then, after hours of clear reasoning and firm conviction, we snatch at any sophistry that will nullify our long struggles and bring us the defeat that we love better that victory.
Maggie felt her heart leap at this subterfuge of Philip's, and there passed over her face that almost imperceptible shock which accompanies any relief. He saw it, and they parted in silence.
Philip's sense of the situation was too complete for him not to be visited with glancing fears lest he had been intervening too presumptuously in the action of Maggie's conscience - perhaps for a selfish end. But no! - he persuaded himself his end was not selfish. He had little hope that Maggie would ever return the strong feeling he had for her; and it must be better for Maggie's future life, when these petty family obstacles to her freedom had disappeared, that the present should not be entirely sacrificed, and that she should have some opportunity of culture, some interchange with a mind above the vulgar level of those she was now condemned to live with. If we only look far enough off for the consequences of our
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