Page:Gaskell - North and South, vol. I, 1855.djvu/54

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NORTH AND SOUTH.

"Forgive me I have been too abrupt. I am punished. Only let me hope. Give me the poor comfort of telling me you have never seen any one whom you could——" Again a pause. He could not end his sentence. Margaret reproached herself acutely as the cause of his distress.

"Ah! if you had but never got this fancy into your head! It was such a pleasure to think of you as a friend."

"But I may hope, may I not, Margaret, that some time you will think of me as a lover? Not yet, I see—there is no hurry—but some time——"

She was silent for a minute or two, trying to discover the truth as it was in her own heart, before replying; then she said:

"I have never thought of—you, but as a friend. I like to think of you so; but I am sure I could never think of you as anything else. Pray, let us both forget that all this" ("disagreeable," she was going to say, but stopped short) "conversation has taken place."

He paused before he replied. Then, in his habitual coldness of tone, he answered:

"Of course, as your feelings are so decided, and as this conversation has been so evidently unpleasant to you, it had better not be remembered. That is all very fine in theory, that plan of forgetting whatever is painful, but it will be somewhat difficult for me, at least, to carry it into execution."

"You are vexed," said she, sadly; "yet how can I help it?"

She looked so truly grieved as she said this, that he struggled for a moment with his real disappoint-