The housekeeper and her husband were both of that decent, phlegmatic order of people to whom one may at any time safely communicate a remarkable piece of news without incurring the danger of having one’s ears pierced by some shrill ejaculation, and subsequently stunned by a torrent of wordy wonderment.
The suggestion was sensible; and yet I could not force myself to act on it. I so dreaded a reply that would crush me with despair. To prolong doubt was to prolong hope.
To me, he was in reality become no longer flesh, but marble. His eye was a cold, bright, blue gem; his tongue, a speaking instrument–nothing more.
All this was torture to me–refined, lingering torture. It kept up a slow fire of indignation and a trembling trouble of grief, which harassed and crushed me altogether. I felt how, if I were his wife, this good man, pure as the deep sunless source, could soon kill me, without drawing from my veins a single drop of blood or receiving on his own crystal conscience the faintest stain of crime.
“Jane, you would not repent marrying me; be certain of that; we must be married. I repeat it, there is no other way; and undoubtedly enough of love would follow upon marriage to render the union right even in your eyes.”
“I scorn your idea of love,” I could not help saying, as I rose up and stood before him, leaning my back against the rock. “I scorn the counterfeit sentiment you offer; yes, St. John, and I scorn you when you offer it.”
As for me, I daily wished more to please him; but to do so, I felt daily more and more that I must disown half my nature, stifle half my faculties, wrest my tastes from their original bent, force myself to the adoption of pursuits for which I had no natural vocation.
“The blaze there has thawed all the snow from your cloak; by the same token, it has streamed on to my floor, and made it like a trampled street. As you hope ever to be forgiven, Mr. Rivers, the high crime and misdemeanor of spoiling a sanded kitchen, tell me what I wish to know.”
I again felt rather like an individual of but average gastronomical powers sitting down to feast alone at a table spread with provisions for a hundred.
One does not jump, and spring, and shout hurrah! at hearing one has got a fortune; one begins to consider responsibilities, and to ponder business; on a base of steady satisfaction rise certain grave cares–and we contain ourselves, and brood over our bliss with a solemn brow.
Poetry destroyed? Genius banished? No! Mediocrity, no; do not let envy prompt you to the thought. No; they not only live, but reign and redeem; and without their divine influence spread everywhere you would be in hell–the hell of your own meanness.
“It is a village school; your scholars will be only poor girls–cottagers’ children–at the best, farmers’ daughters. Knitting, sewing, reading, writing, ciphering, will be all you will have to teach. What will you do with your accomplishments? What with the largest portion of your mind–sentiments–tastes?”
“Save them till they are wanted. They will keep.”