`I've often wondered, Maggie,' Philip said, with some effort, `whether you wouldn't really be more likely to love a man that other women were not likely to love.'

`That would depend on what they didn't like him for,' said Maggie, laughing. `He might be very disagreeable. He might look at me through an eyeglass stuck in his eye, making a hideous face, as young Torry does. I should think other women are not fond of that; but I never felt any pity for young Torry. I've never any pity for conceited people, because I think they carry their comfort about with them.'

`But suppose, Maggie - suppose it was a man who was not conceited - who felt he had nothing to be conceited about - who had been marked from childhood for a peculiar kind of suffering - and to whom you were the day-star of his life - who loved you, worshipped you, so entirely that he felt it happiness enough for him if you would let him see you at rare moments... '

Philip paused with a pang of dread lest his confession should cut short this very happiness - a pang of the same dread that had kept his love mute through long months. A rush of self-consciousness told him that he was besotted to have said all this. Maggie's manner this morning had been as unconstrained and indifferent as ever.

But she was not looking indifferent now. Struck with the unusual emotion in Philip's tone she had turned quickly to look at him, and as he went on speaking, a great change came over her face - a flush and slight spasm of the features such as we see in people who hear some news that will require them to readjust their conceptions of the past. She was quite silent, and walking on towards the trunk of a fallen tree, she sat down, as if she had no strength to spare for her muscles. She was trembling.

`Maggie,' said Philip, getting more and more alarmed in every fresh moment of silence, `I was a fool to say it - forget that I've said it. I shall be contented, if things can be as they were.'

The distress with which he spoke, urged Maggie to say something. `I am so surprised, Philip - I had not thought of it.' And the effort to say this brought the tears down too.

`Has it made you hate me, Maggie?' said Philip, impetuously. `Do you think I'm a presumptuous fool?'

`O Philip!' said Maggie, `how can you think I have such feelings - as if I were not grateful for any love. But... but I had never thought of your being my lover. It seemed so far off - like a dream - only like one of the stories one imagines - that I should ever have a lover.'

`They can you bear to think of me as your lover - Maggie?' said Philip, seating himself by her and taking her hand, in the elation of a sudden hope. `Do you love me?'

Maggie turned rather pale: this direct question seemed not easy to answer. But her eyes met Philip's, which were in this moment liquid and beautiful with beseeching love. She spoke with hesitation, yet with sweet, simple, girlish tenderness.

`I think I could hardly love any one better: there is nothing but what I love you for.' She paused a little while, and then added, `But it will be better for us not to say any more about it - won't it, dear Philip? You know we couldn't even be friends, if our friendship were discovered. I have never felt that I was right in giving way about seeing you - though it has been so precious to me in some ways - and now the fear comes upon me strongly again that it will lead to evil.'

`But no evil has come, Maggie - and if you had been guided by that fear before, you would only have lived through another dreary benumbing year, instead of reviving into your real self.'

Maggie shook her head. `It has been very sweet, I know - all the talking together, and the books, and the feeling that I had the walk to look forward to when I could tell you the thoughts that had come into my head while I was away from you. But it has made me restless - it has made me think a great deal

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