The Vicar AgainYou must suppose about three weeks passed over. Mrs Graham and I were now established friends-- or brother and sister, as we rather chose to consider ourselves. She called me Gilbert, by my express desire, and I called her Helen, for I had seen that name written in her books. I seldom attempted to see her above twice a week; and still I made our meetings appear the result of accident as often as I could-- for I found it necessary to be extremely careful--and, altogether, I behaved with such exceeding propriety that she never had occasion to reprove me once. Yet I could not but perceive that she was at times unhappy and dissatisfied with herself--or her position, and truly I myself was not quite contented with the latter: this assumption of brotherly nonchalance was very hard to sustain, and I often felt myself a most confounded hypocrite with it all; I saw too, or rather I felt, that, in spite of herself, `I was not indifferent to her," as the novel heroes modestly express it, and while I thankfully enjoyed my present good fortune, I could not fail to wish and hope for something better in future; but of course, I kept such dreams entirely to myself.
`Where are you going, Gilbert?' said Rose, one evening, shortly after tea, when I had been busy with the farm all day,
`To take a walk,' was the reply.
`Do you always brush your hat so carefully, and do your hair so nicely, and put on such smart new gloves when you take a walk?'
`You're going to Wildfell Hall, aren't you?'
`What makes you think so?'
`Because you look as if you were--but I wish you wouldn't go so often.'
`Nonsense, child! I don't go once in six weeks--what do you mean?'
`Well, but if I were you, I wouldn't have so much to do with Mrs Graham.'
`Why Rose, are you, too, giving in to the prevailing opinion?'
`No,' returned she, hesitatingly--`but I've heard so much about her lately, both at the Wilsons' and the vicarage;-- and besides, mamma says, if she were a proper person, she would not be living there by herself--and don't you remember last winter, Gilbert, all that about the false name to the picture; and how she explained it--saying she had friends or acquaintances from whom she wished her present residence to be concealed, and that she was afraid of their tracing her out;--and then, how suddenly she started up and left the room when that person came--whom she took good care not to let us catch a glimpse of, and who Arthur, with such an air of mystery, told us was his mamma's friend?'
`Yes, Rose, I remember it all; and I can forgive your uncharitable conclusions; for perhaps, if I did not know her myself, I should put all these things together, and believe the same as you do; but thank God, I do know her; and I should be unworthy the name of a man, if I could believe anything that was said against her, unless I heard it from her own lips.--I should as soon believe such things of you, Rose.'
`Well, do you think I could believe anything of the kind,--whatever the Wilsons and Millwards dared to whisper?'
`I should hope not indeed!'
`And why not?--Because I know you--well, and I know her just as well.'
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