" A cruel tale for an unwilling ear,
And maddening to the spirit. But go on —
Speak daggers to my soul, which, though it feels,
Thou can'st not warp to wrong by injuries."
THE departure of the pastor and his wife was productive of some little awkwardness in those who remained. For a few moments, a deathlike stillness succeeded. Well aware that her affections for Harrison were known to her present companion, a feeling not altogether unpleasant, of maiden bashfulness, led the eyes of Bess to the floor, and silenced her speech. A harsher mood, for a time, produced a like situation on the part of Grayson; but it lasted not long. With a sullen sort of resolution, gathering into some of that energetic passion, as he proceeded, which so much marked his character, he broke the silence at length with a word — a single word — uttered desperately, as it were, and with a half choking enunciation: —
" Miss Matthews — "
She looked up at the sound, and as she beheld the dark expression of his eye, the concentrated glance, the compressed lip — as if he dared not trust himself to utter that which he felt at the same time must be uttered — she half started, and the " Sir " with which she acknowledged his address was articulated timorously.
" Be not alarmed, Miss Matthews; be not alarmed. I see what I would not see. I see that I am an object rather of fear, rather of dislike — detestation it may be — than of any other of those sweeter feelings I would freely give my life to inspire in your heart."
" You wrong me, Master Grayson, indeed you do. I have no such feelings for you, as those you speak of. I do not dislike or detest you, and I should be very sorry to have you think so. Do not think so, I beg you."
" But you fear me — you fear me, Miss Matthews, and the feeling is much the same. Yet why should you fear me — what have I done, what said? "