Borne Along by the Tide

IN less than a week Maggie was at St Ogg's again, - outwardly in much the same position as when her visit there had just begun. It was easy for her to fill her mornings apart from Lucy without any obvious effort; for she had her promised visits to pay to her aunt Glegg, and it was natural that she should give her mother more than usual of her companionship in these last weeks, especially as there were preparations to be thought of for Tom's housekeeping. But Lucy would hear of no pretext for her remaining away in the evenings: she must always come from aunt Glegg's before dinner - `else what shall I have of you?' said Lucy, with a tearful pout that could not be resisted. And Mr Stephen Guest had unaccountably taken to dining at Mr Deane's as often as possible, instead of avoiding that, as he used to do. At first he began his mornings with a resolution that he would not dine there - not even go in the evening, till Maggie was away. He had even devised a plan of starting off on a journey in this agreeable June weather: the headaches which he had constantly been alleging as a ground for stupidity and silence were a sufficient ostensible motive. But the journey was not taken, and by the fourth morning no distinct resolution was formed about the evenings: they were only foreseen as times when Maggie would still be present for a little while - when one more touch, one more glance might be snatched. For, why not? There was nothing to conceal between them: they knew - they had confessed their love, and they had renounced each other - they were going to part. Honour and conscience were going to divide them - Maggie, with that appeal from her inmost soul had decided it: but surely they might cast a lingering look at each other across the gulf, before they turned away never to look again till that strange light had for ever faded out of their eyes. Maggie, all this time, moved about with a quiescence and even torpor of manner, so contrasted with her usual fitful brightness and ardour, that Lucy would have had to seek some other cause for such a change if she had not been convinced that the position in which Maggie stood between Philip and her brother and the prospect of her self-imposed wearisome banishment were quite enough to account for a large amount of depression. But under this torpor there was a fierce battle of emotions, such as Maggie in all her life of struggle had never known or foreboded: it seemed to her as if all the worst evil in her had lain in ambush till now and had suddenly started up full-armed with hideous, overpowering strength. There were moments in which a cruel selfishness seemed to be getting possession of her: why should not Lucy - why should not Philip suffer? She had had to suffer through many years of her life, and who had renounced anything for her? And when something like that fulness of existence - love, wealth, ease, refinement - all that her nature craved was brought within her reach, why was she to forego it, that another might have it - another, who perhaps needed it less? But amidst all this new passionate tumult there were the old voices making themselves heard with rising power till, from time to time, the tumult seemed quelled. Was that existence which tempted her, the full existence she dreamed? Where, then, would be all the memories of early striving, all the deep pity for another's pain which had been nurtured in her through years of affection and hardship, all the divine presentiment of something higher than mere personal enjoyment which had made the sacredness of life? She might as well hope to enjoy walking by maiming her feet, as hope to enjoy an existence in which she set out by maiming the faith and sympathy that were the best organs of her soul. And then, if pain were so hard to her - what was it to others? - Ah, God! preserve me from inflicting - give me strength to bear it. - How had she sunk into this struggle with a temptation that she would once have thought herself as secure from, as from deliberate crime? When was that first hateful moment in which she had been conscious of a feeling that clashed with her truth, affection, and gratitude, and had not shaken it from her with horror, as if it had been a loathsome thing? - And yet, since this strange, sweet, subduing influence did not, should not conquer her - since it was to remain simply her own suffering... her mind was meeting Stephen's in that thought of his, that they might still snatch moments of mute confession before the parting came. For was not he suffering too? She saw it daily - saw it in the sickened look of fatigue with which as soon as he was not compelled to exert himself he relapsed into indifference towards everything but the possibility of watching her. Could she refuse sometimes to answer that beseeching look which she felt to be following her like a low murmur of love and pain? She refused it less and less, till at last the evening for them both was sometimes made of a moment's mutual gaze - they thought of it till it came, and when it had come, they thought of nothing else. One other thing Stephen seemed now and then to care for, and that was, to sing: it was a way of speaking to Maggie - perhaps he was not distinctly conscious that he was impelled to it by a secret longing, running counter to all his self-confessed resolves,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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