if there would be anything on her side: the Earl is poor, I believe.

But I should have enough for both, even if health failed.”

“I wish you all happiness in your married life!” I cried.

“Shall you speak to the Earl to-morrow?”

“Not yet awhile,” said Arthur. “He is very friendly, but I dare not

think he means more than that, as yet. And as for–as for Lady Muriel,

try as I may, I cannot read her feelings towards me. If there is love,

she is hiding it! No, I must wait, I must wait!”

I did not like to press any further advice on my friend, whose

judgment, I felt, was so much more sober and thoughtful than my own;

and we parted without more words on the subject that had now absorbed

his thoughts, nay, his very life.

The next morning a letter from my solicitor arrived, summoning me to

town on important business.



For a full month the business, for which I had returned to London,

detained me there: and even then it was only the urgent advice of my

physician that induced me to leave it unfinished and pay another visit

to Elveston.

Arthur had written once or twice during the month; but in none of his

letters was there any mention of Lady Muriel. Still, I did not augur

ill from his silence: to me it looked like the natural action of a lover,

who, even while his heart was singing “She is mine!”, would fear to

paint his happiness in the cold phrases of a written letter, but would

wait to tell it by word of mouth. “Yes,” I thought, “I am to hear his

song of triumph from his own lips!”

The night I arrived we had much to say on other matters: and, tired

with the journey, I went to bed early, leaving the happy secret still

untold. Next day, however, as we chatted on over the remains of

luncheon, I ventured to put the momentous question. “Well, old friend,

you have told me nothing of Lady Muriel–nor when the happy day is to be?”

“The happy day,” Arthur said, looking unexpectedly grave, “is yet in

the dim future. We need to know–or, rather, she needs to know me better.

I know her sweet nature, thoroughly, by this time. But I dare not speak

till I am sure that my love is returned.”

“Don’t wait too long!” I said gaily. “Faint heart never won fair lady!”

“It is ‘faint heart,’ perhaps. But really I dare not speak just yet.”

“But meanwhile,” I pleaded, “you are running a risk that perhaps you

have not thought of. Some other man–”

“No,” said Arthur firmly. “She is heart-whole: I am sure of that.

Yet, if she loves another better than me, so be it! I will not spoil

her happiness. The secret shall die with me. But she is my first–

and my only love!”

“That is all very beautiful sentiment,” I said, “but it is not practical.

It is not like you.

He either fears his fate too much,

Or his desert is small,

Who dares not put it to the touch,

To win or lose it all.”

“I dare not ask the question whether there is another!” he said

passionately. “It would break my heart to know it!”

“Yet is it wise to leave it unasked? You must not waste your life upon

an ‘if’!”

“I tell you I dare not!’, “May I find it out for you?” I asked, with

the freedom of an old friend.

“No, no!” he replied with a pained look. “I entreat you to say nothing.

Let it wait.”

“As you please,” I said: and judged it best to say no more just then.

“But this evening,” I thought, “I will call on the Earl. I may be

able to see how the land lies, without so much as saying a word!”

It was a very hot afternoon–too hot to go for a walk or do anything–

or else it wouldn’t have happened, I believe.

In the first place, I want to know–dear Child who reads this!–why

Fairies should always be teaching us to do our duty, and lecturing us

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Categories: Carroll, Lewis