Therefore I said, ‘Now kiss me, Lorna; and don’t talk any nonsense.’ And the darling came and did it; being kindly obedient, as the other world often makes us.

‘You sweet love,’ I said at this, being slave to her soft obedience; ‘do you suppose I should be content to leave you until Elysium?’

‘How on earth can I tell, dear John, what you will be content with?’

‘You, and only you,’ said I; ‘the whole of it lies in a syllable. Now you know my entire want; and want must be my comfort.’

‘But surely if I have money, sir, and birth, and rank, and all sorts of grandeur, you would never dare to think of me.’

She drew herself up with an air of pride, as she gravely pronounced these words, and gave me a scornful glance, or tried; and turned away as if to enter some grand coach or palace; while I was so amazed and grieved in my raw simplicity especially after the way in which she had first received my news, so loving and warm-hearted, that I never said a word, but stared and thought, ‘How does she mean it?’

She saw the pain upon my forehead, and the wonder in my eyes, and leaving coach and palace too, back she flew to me in a moment, as simple as simplest milkmaid.

‘Oh, you fearful stupid, John, you inexpressibly stupid, John,’ she cried with both arms round my neck, and her lips upon my forehead; ‘you have called yourself thick-headed, John, and I never would believe it. But now I do with all my heart. Will you never know what I am, love?’

‘No, Lorna, that I never shall. I can understand my mother well, and one at least of my sisters, and both the Snowe girls very easily, but you I never understand; only love you all the more for it.’

‘Then never try to understand me, if the result is that, dear John. And yet I am the very simplest of all foolish simple creatures. Nay, I am wrong; therein I yield the palm to you, my dear. To think that I can act so! No wonder they want me in London, as an ornament for the stage, John.’

Now in after days, when I heard of Lorna as the richest, and noblest, and loveliest lady to be found in London, I often remembered that little scene, and recalled every word and gesture, wondering what lay under it. Even now, while it was quite impossible once to doubt those clear deep eyes, and the bright lips trembling so; nevertheless I felt how much the world would have to do with it; and that the best and truest people cannot shake themselves quite free. However, for the moment, I was very proud and showed it.

And herein differs fact from fancy, things as they befall us from things as we would have them, human ends from human hopes; that the first are moved by a thousand and the last on two wheels only, which (being named) are desire and fear. Hope of course is nothing more than desire with a telescope, magnifying distant matters, overlooking near ones; opening one eye on the objects, closing the other to all objections. And if hope be the future tense of desire, the future of fear is religion—at least with too many of us.

Whether I am right or wrong in these small moralities, one thing is sure enough, to wit, that hope is the fastest traveller, at any rate, in the time of youth. And so I hoped that Lorna might be proved of blameless family, and honourable rank and fortune; and yet none the less for that, love me and belong to me. So I led her into the house, and she fell into my mother’s arms; and I left them to have a good cry of it, with Annie ready to help them.

If Master Stickles should not mend enough to gain his speech a little, and declare to us all he knew, I was to set out for Watchett, riding upon horseback, and there to hire a cart with wheels, such as we had not begun, as yet, to use on Exmoor. For all our work went on broad wood, with runners and with

  By PanEris using Melati.

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