you take my hand, and my fortune and my whole life, and do what you liked with them. I know I forgot myself - I took an unwarrantable liberty - I hate myself for having done it. But I repented immediately - I've been repenting ever since. You ought not to think it unpardonable - a man who loves with his whole soul, as I do you, is liable to be mastered by his feelings for a moment; but you know - you must believe - that the worst pain I could have is to have pained you - that I would give the world to recall the error.'

Maggie dared not speak - dared not turn her head. The strength that had come from resentment was all gone and her lips were quivering visibly. She could not trust herself to utter the full forgiveness that rose in answer to that confession.

They were come nearly in front of the gate again, and she paused, trembling.

`You must not say these things - I must not hear them,' she said, looking down in misery, as Stephen came in front of her, to prevent her from going farther towards the gate. `I'm very sorry for any pain you have to go through, but it is of no use to speak.'

`Yes, it is of use,' said Stephen, impetuously. `It would be of use if you would treat me with some sort of pity and consideration instead of doing me vile injustice in your mind. I could bear everything more quietly if I knew you didn't hate me for an insolent coxcomb. Look at me - see what a hunted devil I am: I've been riding thirty miles every day to get away from the thought of you.'

Maggie did not - dared not look. She had already seen the harassed face. But she said gently, `I don't think any evil of you.'

`Then, dearest, look at me,' said Stephen, in deepest, tenderest tones of entreaty. `Don't go away from me yet. Give me a moment's happiness - make me feel you've forgiven me.'

`Yes, I do forgive you,' said Maggie, shaken by those tones, and all the more frightened at herself. `But pray let me go in again. Pray go away.'

A great tear fell from under her lowered eyelids.

`I can't go away from you - I can't leave you,' said Stephen, with still more passionate pleading. `I shall come back again if you send me away with this coldness - I can't answer for myself. But if you will go with me only a little way, I can live on that. You see plainly enough that your anger has only made me ten times more unreasonable.'

Maggie turned. But Tancred, the bay horse, began to make such spirited remonstrances against this frequent change of direction, that Stephen, catching sight of Willy Moss peeping through the gate, called out, `Here! just come and hold my horse for five minutes.'

`O no,' said Maggie, hurriedly, `my aunt will think it so strange.'

`Never mind,' Stephen answered impatiently; `they don't know the people at St Ogg's. Lead him up and down just here, for five minutes,' he added to Willy, who was now close to them; and then he turned to Maggie's side, and they walked on. It was clear that she must go on now.

`Take my arm,' said Stephen, entreatingly; and she took it, feeling all the while as if she were sliding downwards in a nightmare.

`There is no end to this misery,' she began, struggling to repel the influence by speech. `It is wicked - base - ever allowing a word or look that Lucy - that others might not have seen. Think of Lucy.'

`I do think of her - bless her - If I didn't--' Stephen had laid his hand on Maggie's that rested on his arm, and they both felt it difficult to speak.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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