Lucy gave some playful contradiction, but Philip did not hear what it was, for he had naturally turned towards Maggie, and she was looking at him with that open, affectionate scrutiny which we give to a friend from whom we have been long separated. What a moment their parting had been!And Philip felt as if he were only in the morrow of it. He felt this so keenly - with such intense, detailed remembrance - with such passionate revival of all that had been said and looked in their last conversation - that with that jealousy and distrust which in diffident natures is almost inevitably linked with a strong feeling, he thought he read in Maggie's glance and manner the evidence of a change. The very fact that he feared and half expected it, would be sure to make this thought rush in, in the absence of positive proof to the contrary.
`I am having a great holiday, am I not?' said Maggie. `Lucy is like a fairy godmother: she has turned me from a drudge into a princess in no time. I do nothing but indulge myself all day long, and she always finds out what I want before I know it myself.'
`I'm sure she is the happier for having you, then,' said Philip. `You must be better than a whole menagerie of pets to her. And you look well - you are benefiting by the change.'
Artificial conversation of this sort went on a little while, till Lucy, determined to put an end to it, exclaimed with a good imitation of annoyance that she had forgotten something, and was quickly out of the room.
In a moment Maggie and Philip leaned forward and the hands were clasped again, with a look of sad contentment like that of friends who meet in the memory of recent sorrow.
`I told my brother I wished to see you, Philip - I asked him to release me from my promise, and he consented.'
Maggie, in her impulsiveness, wanted Philip to know at once the position they must hold towards each other - but she checked herself. The things that had happened since he had spoken of his love for her were so painful that she shrank from being the first to allude to them. It seemed almost like an injury towards Philip even to mention her brother - her brother who had insulted him. But he was thinking too entirely of her to be sensitive on any other point at that moment.
`Then we can at least be friends, Maggie? There is nothing to hinder that now?'
`Will not your father object?' said Maggie, withdrawing her hand.
`I should not give you up on any ground but your own wish, Maggie,' said Philip, colouring. `There are points on which I should always resist my father, as I used to tell you. That is one.'
`Then there is nothing to hinder our being friends, Philip - seeing each other and talking to each other while I am here - I shall soon go away again. I mean to go very soon - to a new situation.'
`Is that inevitable, Maggie?'
`Yes: I must not stay here long. It would unfit me for the life I must begin again at last. I can't live in dependence - I can't live with my brother - though he is very good to me. He would like to provide for me - but that would be intolerable to me.'
Philip was silent a few moments, and then said in that high, feeble voice which with him indicated the resolute suppression of emotion:--
`Is there no other alternative, Maggie? Is that life away from those who love you, the only one you will allow yourself to look forward to?'
`Yes, Philip,' she said, looking at him pleadingly, as if she entreated him to believe that she was compelled to this course. `At least, as things are. I don't know what may be in years to come. But I begin to think
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