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    Book 5 - Chapter 4

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    Chapter 36
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    Another Love-Scene

    Early in the following April, nearly a year after that dubious parting
    you have just witnessed, you may, if you like, again see Maggie
    entering the Red Deeps through the group of Scotch firs. But it is
    early afternoon and not evening, and the edge of sharpness in the
    spring air makes her draw her large shawl close about her and trip
    along rather quickly; though she looks round, as usual, that she may
    take in the sight of her beloved trees. There is a more eager,
    inquiring look in her eyes than there was last June, and a smile is
    hovering about her lips, as if some playful speech were awaiting the
    right hearer. The hearer was not long in appearing.

    "Take back your _Corinne_," said Maggie, drawing a book from under her
    shawl. "You were right in telling me she would do me no good; but you
    were wrong in thinking I should wish to be like her."

    "Wouldn't you really like to be a tenth Muse, then, Maggie?" said
    Philip looking up in her face as we look at a first parting in the
    clouds that promises us a bright heaven once more.

    "Not at all," said Maggie, laughing. "The Muses were uncomfortable
    goddesses, I think,--obliged always to carry rolls and musical
    instruments about with them. If I carried a harp in this climate, you
    know, I must have a green baize cover for it; and I should be sure to
    leave it behind me by mistake."

    "You agree with me in not liking Corinne, then?"

    "I didn't finish the book," said Maggie. "As soon as I came to the
    blond-haired young lady reading in the park, I shut it up, and
    determined to read no further. I foresaw that that light-complexioned
    girl would win away all the love from Corinne and make her miserable.
    I'm determined to read no more books where the blond-haired women
    carry away all the happiness. I should begin to have a prejudice
    against them. If you could give me some story, now, where the dark
    woman triumphs, it would restore the balance. I want to avenge Rebecca
    and Flora MacIvor and Minna, and all the rest of the dark unhappy
    ones. Since you are my tutor, you ought to preserve my mind from
    prejudices; you are always arguing against prejudices."

    "Well, perhaps you will avenge the dark women in your own person, and
    carry away all the love from your cousin Lucy. She is sure to have
    some handsome young man of St. Ogg's at her feet now; and you have
    only to shine upon him--your fair little cousin will be quite quenched
    in your beams."

    "Philip, that is not pretty of you, to apply my nonsense to anything
    real," said Maggie, looking hurt. "As if I, with my old gowns and want
    of all accomplishments, could be a rival of dear little Lucy,--who
    knows and does all sorts of charming things, and is ten times prettier
    than I am,--even if I were odious and base enough to wish to be her
    rival. Besides, I never go to aunt Deane's when any one is there; it
    is only because dear Lucy is good, and loves me, that she comes to see
    me, and will have me go to see her sometimes."

    "Maggie," said Philip, with surprise, "it is not like you to take
    playfulness literally. You must have been in St. Ogg's this morning,
    and brought away a slight infection of dulness."

    "Well," said Maggie, smiling, "if you meant that for a joke, it was a
    poor one; but I thought it was a very good reproof. I thought you
    wanted to remind me that I am vain, and wish every one to admire me
    most. But it isn't for that that I'm jealous for the dark women,--not
    because I'm dark myself; it's because I always care the most about the
    unhappy people. If the blond girl were forsaken, I should like _her_
    best. I always take the side of the rejected lover in the stories."

    "Then you would never have the heart to reject one yourself, should
    you, Maggie?" said Philip, flushing a little.

    "I don't know," said Maggie, hesitatingly. Then with a bright smile,
    "I think perhaps I could if he were very conceited; and yet, if he got
    extremely humiliated afterward, I should relent."

    "I've often wondered, Maggie," Philip said, with some effort, "whether
    you wouldn't really be more likely to love a man that other women were
    not likely to love."

    "That would depend on what they didn't like him for," said Maggie,
    laughing. "He might be very disagreeable. He might look at me through
    an eye-glass stuck in his eye, making a hideous face, as young Torry
    does. I should think other women are not fond of that; but I never
    felt any pity for young Torry. I've never any pity for conceited
    people, because I think they carry their comfort about with them."

    "But suppose, Maggie,--suppose it was a man who was not conceited, who
    felt he had nothing to be conceited about; who had been marked from
    childhood for a peculiar kind of suffering, and to whom you were the
    day-star of his life; who loved you, worshipped you, so entirely that
    he felt it happiness enough for him if you would let him see you at
    rare moments----"

    Philip paused with a pang of dread lest his confession should cut
    short this very happiness,--a pang of the same dread that had kept his
    love mute through long months. A rush of self-consciousness told him
    that he was besotted to have said all this. Maggie's manner this
    morning had been as unconstrained and indifferent as ever.

    But she was not looking indifferent now. Struck with the unusual
    emotion in Philip's tone, she had turned quickly to look at him; and
    as he went on speaking, a great change came over her face,--a flush
    and slight spasm of the features, such as we see in people who hear
    some news that will require them to readjust their conceptions of the
    past. She was quite silent, and walking on toward the trunk of a
    fallen tree, she sat down, as if she had no strength to spare for her
    muscles. She was trembling.

    "Maggie," said Philip, getting more and more alarmed in every fresh
    moment of silence, "I was a fool to say it; forget that I've said it.
    I shall be contented if things can be as they were."

    The distress with which he spoke urged Maggie to say something. "I am
    so surprised, Philip; I had not thought of it." And the effort to say
    this brought the tears down too.

    "Has it made you hate me, Maggie?" said Philip, impetuously. "Do you
    think I'm a presumptuous fool?"

    "Oh, Philip!" said Maggie, "how can you think I have such feelings? As
    if I were not grateful for _any_ love. But--but I had never thought of
    your being my lover. It seemed so far off--like a dream--only like one
    of the stories one imagines--that I should ever have a lover."

    "Then can you bear to think of me as your lover, Maggie?" said Philip,
    seating himself by her, and taking her hand, in the elation of a
    sudden hope. "_Do_ you love me?"

    Maggie turned rather pale; this direct question seemed not easy to
    answer. But her eyes met Philip's, which were in this moment liquid
    and beautiful with beseeching love. She spoke with hesitation, yet
    with sweet, simple, girlish tenderness.

    "I think I could hardly love any one better; there is nothing but what
    I love you for." She paused a little while, and then added: "But it
    will be better for us not to say any more about it, won't it, dear
    Philip? You know we couldn't even be friends, if our friendship were
    discovered. I have never felt that I was right in giving way about
    seeing you, though it has been so precious to me in some ways; and now
    the fear comes upon me strongly again, that it will lead to evil."

    "But no evil has come, Maggie; and if you had been guided by that fear
    before, you would only have lived through another dreary, benumbing
    year, instead of reviving into your real self."

    Maggie shook her head. "It has been very sweet, I know,--all the
    talking together, and the books, and the feeling that I had the walk
    to look forward to, when I could tell you the thoughts that had come
    into my head while I was away from you. But it has made me restless;
    it has made me think a great deal about the world; and I have
    impatient thoughts again,--I get weary of my home; and then it cuts me
    to the heart afterward, that I should ever have felt weary of my
    father and mother. I think what you call being benumbed was
    better--better for me--for then my selfish desires were benumbed."

    Philip had risen again, and was walking backward and forward

    "No, Maggie, you have wrong ideas of self-conquest, as I've often told
    you. What you call self-conquest--binding and deafening yourself to
    all but one train of impressions--is only the culture of monomania in
    a nature like yours."

    He had spoken with some irritation, but now he sat down by her again
    and took her hand.

    "Don't think of the past now, Maggie; think only of our love. If you
    can really cling to me with all your heart, every obstacle will be
    overcome in time; we need only wait. I can live on hope. Look at me,
    Maggie; tell me again it is possible for you to love me. Don't look
    away from me to that cloven tree; it is a bad omen."

    She turned her large dark glance upon him with a sad smile.

    "Come, Maggie, say one kind word, or else you were better to me at
    Lorton. You asked me if I should like you to kiss me,--don't you
    remember?--and you promised to kiss me when you met me again. You
    never kept the promise."

    The recollection of that childish time came as a sweet relief to
    Maggie. It made the present moment less strange to her. She kissed him
    almost as simply and quietly as she had done when she was twelve years
    old. Philip's eyes flashed with delight, but his next words were words
    of discontent.

    "You don't seem happy enough, Maggie; you are forcing yourself to say
    you love me, out of pity."

    "No, Philip," said Maggie, shaking her head, in her old childish way;
    "I'm telling you the truth. It is all new and strange to me; but I
    don't think I could love any one better than I love you. I should like
    always to live with you--to make you happy. I have always been happy
    when I have been with you. There is only one thing I will not do for
    your sake; I will never do anything to wound my father. You must never
    ask that from me."

    "No, Maggie, I will ask nothing; I will bear everything; I'll wait
    another year only for a kiss, if you will only give me the first place
    in your heart."

    "No," said Maggie, smiling, "I won't make you wait so long as that."
    But then, looking serious again, she added, as she rose from her

    "But what would your own father say, Philip? Oh, it is quite
    impossible we can ever be more than friends,--brother and sister in
    secret, as we have been. Let us give up thinking of everything else."

    "No, Maggie, I can't give you up,--unless you are deceiving me; unless
    you really only care for me as if I were your brother. Tell me the

    "Indeed I do, Philip. What happiness have I ever had so great as being
    with you,--since I was a little girl,--the days Tom was good to me?
    And your mind is a sort of world to me; you can tell me all I want to
    know. I think I should never be tired of being with you."

    They were walking hand in hand, looking at each other; Maggie, indeed,
    was hurrying along, for she felt it time to be gone. But the sense
    that their parting was near made her more anxious lest she should have
    unintentionally left some painful impression on Philip's mind. It was
    one of those dangerous moments when speech is at once sincere and
    deceptive; when feeling, rising high above its average depth, leaves
    floodmarks which are never reached again.

    They stopped to part among the Scotch firs.

    "Then my life will be filled with hope, Maggie, and I shall be happier
    than other men, in spite of all? We _do_ belong to each other--for
    always--whether we are apart or together?"

    "Yes, Philip; I should like never to part; I should like to make your
    life very happy."

    "I am waiting for something else. I wonder whether it will come."

    Maggie smiled, with glistening tears, and then stooped her tall head
    to kiss the pale face that was full of pleading, timid love,--like a

    She had a moment of real happiness then,--a moment of belief that, if
    there were sacrifice in this love, it was all the richer and more

    She turned away and hurried home, feeling that in the hour since she
    had trodden this road before, a new era had begun for her. The tissue
    of vague dreams must now get narrower and narrower, and all the
    threads of thought and emotion be gradually absorbed in the woof of
    her actual daily life.
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