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    Book 6 - Chapter 3

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    Chapter 42
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    Confidential Moments

    When Maggie went up to her bedroom that night, it appeared that she
    was not at all inclined to undress. She set down her candle on the
    first table that presented itself, and began to walk up and down her
    room, which was a large one, with a firm, regular, and rather rapid
    step, which showed that the exercise was the instinctive vent of
    strong excitement. Her eyes and cheeks had an almost feverish
    brilliancy; her head was thrown backward, and her hands were clasped
    with the palms outward, and with that tension of the arms which is apt
    to accompany mental absorption.

    Had anything remarkable happened?

    Nothing that you are not likely to consider in the highest degree
    unimportant. She had been hearing some fine music sung by a fine bass
    voice,--but then it was sung in a provincial, amateur fashion, such as
    would have left a critical ear much to desire. And she was conscious
    of having been looked at a great deal, in rather a furtive manner,
    from beneath a pair of well-marked horizontal eyebrows, with a glance
    that seemed somehow to have caught the vibratory influence of the
    voice. Such things could have had no perceptible effect on a
    thoroughly well-educated young lady, with a perfectly balanced mind,
    who had had all the advantages of fortune, training, and refined
    society. But if Maggie had been that young lady, you would probably
    have known nothing about her: her life would have had so few
    vicissitudes that it could hardly have been written; for the happiest
    women, like the happiest nations, have no history.

    In poor Maggie's highly-strung, hungry nature,--just come away from a
    third-rate schoolroom, with all its jarring sounds and petty round of
    tasks,--these apparently trivial causes had the effect of rousing and
    exalting her imagination in a way that was mysterious to herself. It
    was not that she thought distinctly of Mr. Stephen Guest, or dwelt on
    the indications that he looked at her with admiration; it was rather
    that she felt the half-remote presence of a world of love and beauty
    and delight, made up of vague, mingled images from all the poetry and
    romance she had ever read, or had ever woven in her dreamy reveries.
    Her mind glanced back once or twice to the time when she had courted
    privation, when she had thought all longing, all impatience was
    subdued; but that condition seemed irrecoverably gone, and she
    recoiled from the remembrance of it. No prayer, no striving now, would
    bring back that negative peace; the battle of her life, it seemed, was
    not to be decided in that short and easy way,--by perfect renunciation
    at the very threshold of her youth.

    The music was vibrating in her still,--Purcell's music, with its wild
    passion and fancy,--and she could not stay in the recollection of that
    bare, lonely past. She was in her brighter aerial world again, when a
    little tap came at the door; of course it was her cousin, who entered
    in ample white dressing-gown.

    "Why, Maggie, you naughty child, haven't you begun to undress?" said
    Lucy, in astonishment. "I promised not to come and talk to you,
    because I thought you must be tired. But here you are, looking as if
    you were ready to dress for a ball. Come, come, get on your
    dressing-gown and unplait your hair."

    "Well, _you_ are not very forward," retorted Maggie, hastily reaching
    her own pink cotton gown, and looking at Lucy's light-brown hair
    brushed back in curly disorder.

    "Oh, I have not much to do. I shall sit down and talk to you till I
    see you are really on the way to bed."

    While Maggie stood and unplaited her long black hair over her pink
    drapery, Lucy sat down near the toilette-table, watching her with
    affectionate eyes, and head a little aside, like a pretty spaniel. If
    it appears to you at all incredible that young ladies should be led on
    to talk confidentially in a situation of this kind, I will beg you to
    remember that human life furnishes many exceptional cases.

    "You really _have_ enjoyed the music to-night, haven't you Maggie?"

    "Oh yes, that is what prevented me from feeling sleepy. I think I
    should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of
    music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs, and ideas into my
    brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with
    music. At other times one is conscious of carrying a weight."

    "And Stephen has a splendid voice, hasn't he?"

    "Well, perhaps we are neither of us judges of that," said Maggie,
    laughing, as she seated herself and tossed her long hair back. "You
    are not impartial, and _I_ think any barrel-organ splendid."

    "But tell me what you think of him, now. Tell me exactly; good and bad

    "Oh, I think you should humiliate him a little. A lover should not be
    so much at ease, and so self-confident. He ought to tremble more."

    "Nonsense, Maggie! As if any one could tremble at me! You think he is
    conceited, I see that. But you don't dislike him, do you?"

    "Dislike him! No. Am I in the habit of seeing such charming people,
    that I should be very difficult to please? Besides, how could I
    dislike any one that promised to make you happy, my dear thing!"
    Maggie pinched Lucy's dimpled chin.

    "We shall have more music to-morrow evening," said Lucy, looking happy
    already, "for Stephen will bring Philip Wakem with him."

    "Oh, Lucy, I can't see him," said Maggie, turning pale. "At least, I
    could not see him without Tom's leave."

    "Is Tom such a tyrant as that?" said Lucy, surprised. "I'll take the
    responsibility, then,--tell him it was my fault."

    "But, dear," said Maggie, falteringly, "I promised Tom very solemnly,
    before my father's death,--I promised him I would not speak to Philip
    without his knowledge and consent. And I have a great dread of opening
    the subject with Tom,--of getting into a quarrel with him again."

    "But I never heard of anything so strange and unreasonable. What harm
    can poor Philip have done? May I speak to Tom about it?"

    "Oh no, pray don't, dear," said Maggie. "I'll go to him myself
    to-morrow, and tell him that you wish Philip to come. I've thought
    before of asking him to absolve me from my promise, but I've not had
    the courage to determine on it."

    They were both silent for some moments, and then Lucy said,--

    "Maggie, you have secrets from me, and I have none from you."

    Maggie looked meditatively away from Lucy. Then she turned to her and
    said, "I _should_ like to tell you about Philip. But, Lucy, you must
    not betray that you know it to any one--least of all to Philip
    himself, or to Mr. Stephen Guest."

    The narrative lasted long, for Maggie had never before known the
    relief of such an outpouring; she had never before told Lucy anything
    of her inmost life; and the sweet face bent toward her with
    sympathetic interest, and the little hand pressing hers, encouraged
    her to speak on. On two points only she was not expansive. She did not
    betray fully what still rankled in her mind as Tom's great
    offence,--the insults he had heaped on Philip. Angry as the
    remembrance still made her, she could not bear that any one else
    should know it at all, both for Tom's sake and Philip's. And she could
    not bear to tell Lucy of the last scene between her father and Wakem,
    though it was this scene which she had ever since felt to be a new
    barrier between herself and Philip. She merely said, she saw now that
    Tom was, no the whole, right in regarding any prospect of love and
    marriage between her and Philip as put out of the question by the
    relation of the two families. Of course Philip's father would never

    "There, Lucy, you have had my story," said Maggie, smiling, with the
    tears in her eyes. "You see I am like Sir Andrew Aguecheek. _I_ was
    adored once."

    "Ah, now I see how it is you know Shakespeare and everything, and have
    learned so much since you left school; which always seemed to me
    witchcraft before,--part of your general uncanniness," said Lucy.

    She mused a little with her eyes downward, and then added, looking at
    Maggie, "It is very beautiful that you should love Philip; I never
    thought such a happiness would befall him. And in my opinion, you
    ought not to give him up. There are obstacles now; but they may be
    done away with in time."

    Maggie shook her head.

    "Yes, yes," persisted Lucy; "I can't help being hopeful about it.
    There is something romantic in it,--out of the common way,--just what
    everything that happens to you ought to be. And Philip will adore you
    like a husband in a fairy tale. Oh, I shall puzzle my small brain to
    contrive some plot that will bring everybody into the right mind, so
    that you may marry Philip when I marry--somebody else. Wouldn't that
    be a pretty ending to all my poor, poor Maggie's troubles?"

    Maggie tried to smile, but shivered, as if she felt a sudden chill.

    "Ah, dear, you are cold," said Lucy. "You must go to bed; and so must
    I. I dare not think what time it is."

    They kissed each other, and Lucy went away, possessed of a confidence
    which had a strong influence over her subsequent impressions. Maggie
    had been thoroughly sincere; her nature had never found it easy to be
    otherwise. But confidences are sometimes blinding, even when they are
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