“You are very kind,” I said briefly. A disclaimer of the sentiments attributed to me burned on my lips, but I extinguished the flame. I submitted to be looked upon as the humiliated, cast-off, and now pining confidante of the distinguished Miss Fanshawe. But, reader, it was a hard submission.

“Yet, you see,” continued Graham, “while I comfort you, I cannot take the same consolation to myself; I cannot hope she will do me justice. De Hamal is most worthless, yet I fear he pleases her. Wretched delusion!”

My patience really gave way, and without notice—all at once. I suppose illness and weakness had worn it and made it brittle.

“Dr. Bretton,” I broke out, “there is no delusion like your own. On all points but one you are a man, frank, healthful, right-thinking, clear-sighted; on this exceptional point you are but a slave. I declare, where Miss Fanshawe is concerned, you merit no respect; nor have you mine.”

I got up and left the room, very much excited.

This little scene took place in the morning. I had to meet him again in the evening, and then I saw I had done mischief. He was not made of common clay, not put together out of vulgar materials. While the outlines of his nature had been shaped with breadth and vigour, the details embraced workmanship of almost feminine delicacy—finer, much finer, than you could be prepared to meet with, than you could believe inherent in him, even after years of acquaintance. Indeed, till some over-sharp contact with his nerves had betrayed, by its effects, their acute sensibility, this elaborate construction must be ignored, and the more especially because the sympathetic faculty was not prominent in him. To feel and to seize quickly another’s feelings are separate properties; a few constructions possess both, some neither. Dr. John had the one in exquisite perfection; and because I have admitted that he was not endowed with the other in equal degree, the reader will considerately refrain from passing to an extreme, and pronouncing him unsympathizing, unfeeling. On the contrary, he was a kind, generous man. Make your need known—his hand was open. Put your grief into words—he turned no deaf ear. Expect refinements of perception, miracles of intuition, and realize disappointment. This night, when Dr. John entered the room, and met the evening lamp, I saw well and at one glance his whole mechanism.

To one who had named him “slave,” and, on any point, banned him from respect, he must now have peculiar feelings. That the epithet was well applied, and the ban just, might be; he put forth no denial that it was so. His mind even candidly revolved that unmanning possibility. He sought in this accusation the cause of that ill-success which had got so galling a hold on his mental peace. Amid the worry of a self-condemnatory soliloquy, his demeanour seemed grave, perhaps cold, both to me and his mother. And yet there was no bad feeling, no malice, no rancour, no littleness in his countenance, beautiful with a man’s best beauty, even in its depression. When I placed his chair at the table, which I hastened to do, anticipating the servant, and when I handed him his tea, which I did with trembling care, he said,—

“Thank you, Lucy,” in as kindly a tone of his full pleasant voice as ever my ear welcomed.

For my part, there was only one plan to be pursued: I must expiate my culpable vehemence, or I must not sleep that night. This would not do at all; I could not stand it. I made no pretence of capacity to wage war on this footing. School solitude, conventual silence and stagnation, anything seemed preferable to living embroiled with Dr. John. As to Ginevra, she might take the silver wings of a dove, or any other fowl that flies, and mount straight up to the highest place, among the highest stars, where her lover’s highest flight of fancy chose to fix the constellation of her charms; never more be it mine to dispute the arrangement. Long I tried to catch his eye. Again and again that eye just met mine; but, having nothing to say, it withdrew, and I was baffled. After tea, he sat, sad and quiet, reading a book. I wished I could have dared to go and sit near him, but it seemed that if I ventured to take that step, he would infallibly evince hostility and indignation. I longed to speak out, and I dared not whisper. His mother left the room; then, moved by insupportable regret, I just murmured the words “Dr. Bretton.”

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