Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 1, Ch. 36

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He came slowly up-stairs,—his step was ever slow,—and gently opened the door for himself. Then, before he even looked at her, he closed it again. I do not know how to explain that it was so; but it was this perfect command of himself at all seasons which had in part made Alice afraid of him, and drove her to believe that they were not fitted for each other. She, when he thus turned for a moment from her, and then walked slowly towards her, stood with both her hands leaning on the centre table of the room, and with her eyes fixed upon its surface.

"Alice," he said, walking up to her very slowly.

Her whole frame shuddered as she heard the sweetness of his voice. Had I not better tell the truth of her at once? Oh, if she could only have been his again! What madness during these last six months had driven her to such a plight as this! The old love came back upon her. Nay; it had never gone. But that trust in his love returned to her,—that trust which told her that such love and such worth would have sufficed to make her happy. But this confidence in him was worthless now! Even though he should desire it, she could not change again.

"Alice," he said again. And then, as slowly she looked up at him, he asked her for her hand. "You may give it me," he said, "as to an old friend." She put her hand in his hand, and then, withdrawing it, felt that she must never trust herself to do so again.

"Alice," he continued, "I do not expect you to say much to me; but there is a question or two which I think you will answer. Has a day been fixed for this marriage?"

"No," she said.

"Will it be in a month?"

"Oh, no;—not for a year," she replied hurriedly;—and he knew at once by her voice that she already dreaded this new wedlock. Whatever of anger he might before have felt for her was banished. She had brought herself by her ill-judgement,—by her ignorance, as she had confessed,—to a sad pass; but he believed that she was still worthy of his love.

"And now one other question, Alice;—but if you are silent, I will not ask it again. Can you tell me why you have again accepted your cousin's offer?"

"Because—," she said very quickly, looking up as though she were about to speak with all her old courage. "But you would never understand me," she said,—"and there can be no reason why I should dare to hope that you should ever think well of me again."

He knew that there was no love,—no love for that man to whom she had pledged her hand. He did not know, on the other hand, how strong, how unchanged, how true was her love for himself. Indeed, of himself he was thinking not at all. He desired to learn whether she would suffer, if by any scheme he might succeed in breaking off this marriage. When he had asked her whether she were to be married at once, she had shuddered at the thought. When he asked her why she had accepted her cousin, she had faltered, and hinted at some excuse which he might fail to understand. Had she loved George Vavasor, he could have understood that well enough.

"Alice," he said, speaking still very slowly, "nothing has ever yet been done which need to a certainty separate you and me. I am a persistent man, and I do not even yet give up all hope. A year is a long time. As you say yourself, I do not as yet quite understand you. But, Alice,—and I think that the position in which we stood a few months since justifies me in saying so without offence,—I love you now as well as ever, and should things change with you, I cannot tell you with how much joy and eagerness I should take you back to my bosom. My heart is yours now as it has been since I knew you."

Then he again just touched her hand, and left her before she had been able to answer a word.