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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThere & Back - Chapter 61. Heart To Heart
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There & Back - Chapter 61. Heart To Heart Post by :Merry_V Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :555

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There & Back - Chapter 61. Heart To Heart

CHAPTER LXI. HEART TO HEART

When he came to the parsonage, which he had to pass on his way to the Hall, he saw Mr. Wingfold through the open window of the drawing-room, and turned to the door. The parson met him on the threshold.

"Welcome!" he said. "How did you get through your dinner?"

"Better than I expected," replied Richard. "But this morning my stepmother began feeling my mouth: she would have me promise not to call on the Wylders. They had been rude to her, she said."

"Come into the drawing-room. A friend of mine is there who will be glad to see you."

The drawing-room of the parsonage was low and dark, with its two windows close together on the same side. At the farther end stood a lady, seemingly occupied with an engraving on the wall. She did not move when they entered. Wingfold led Richard up to her, then turned without a word, and left the room. Before either knew, they were each in the other's arms.

Barbara was sobbing. Richard thought he had dared too much and had frightened her.

"I couldn't help it!" Barbara said pleadingly.

"My life has been a longing for you!" said Richard.

"I have wanted you every day!" said Barbara, and began again to sob, but recovered herself with an effort.

"This will never do!" she cried, laughing through her tears. "I shall go crazy with having you! And I've not seen you yet! Let me go, please. I want to look at you!"

Richard released her. She lifted a blushing, tearful face to his. But there was only joy, no pain in her tears; only delight, no shame in her blushes. One glance at the simple, manly face before her, so full of the trust that induces trust, would have satisfied any true woman that she was as safe in his thoughts as in those of her mother. She gazed at him one long silent moment.

"How splendid you are!" she cried, like a wild schoolgirl. "How good of you to grow like that! I wish I could see you on Miss Brown!--What are you going to do, Richard?"

While she spoke, Richard was pasturing his eyes, the two mouths of his soul, on the heavenly meadow of her face; and she for very necessity went on talking, that she might not cry again.

"Are you going back to the bookbinding?" she said.

"I do not know. Sir Wilton--my father hasn't told me yet what he wants me to do.--Wasn't it good of him to send me to Oxford?"

"You've been at Oxford then all this time?--I suppose he will make an officer of you now!--Not that I care! I am content with whatever contents you!"

"I dare say he will hardly like me to live by my hands!" answered Richard, laughing. "He would count it a degradation! There I shall never be able to think like a gentleman!"

Barbara looked perplexed.

"You don't mean to say he's going to treat you just like one of the rest" she exclaimed.

"I really do not know," answered Richard; "but I think he would hardly enjoy the thought of _Sir Richard Lestrange over a bookbinder's shop in Hammersmith or Brentford!"

"Sir Richard! You do not mean--?"

Her face grew white; her eyes fell; her hand trembled on Richard's arm.

"What is troubling you, dearest?" he asked, in his turn perplexed.

"I can't understand it." she answered.

"Is it possible you do not know, Barbara?" he returned. "I thought Mr. Wingfold must have told you!--Sir Wilton says I am his son that was lost. Indeed there is no doubt of it."

"Richard! Richard! believe me I didn't know. Lady Ann told me you were not--"

"How then should I have dared put my arms round you, Barbara?"

"Richard, I care nothing for what the world thinks! I care only for what God thinks."

"Then, Barbara, you would have married me, believing me base born?"

"Oh Richard! you thought it was knowing who you were that made me--! Richard! Richard! I did not think you could have wronged me so! My father sold Miss Brown because I would not marry your brother and be lady Lestrange. If you had not asked me, and I had been sure it was only because of your birth you wouldn't, I should have found some way of letting you know I cared no more for that than God himself does. The god of the world is the devil. He has many names, but he's all the same devil, as Mr. Wingfold says.--I wonder why he never told me!--I'm glad he didn't. If he had, I shouldn't be here now!"

"I am very glad too, Barbara; but it wouldn't have made so much difference: I was only here on my way to you! But suppose it had been as you thought, it was one thing what you would do, and another what I would ask you to do!"

"What I would have done was what you should have believed I would do!"

"You must just pardon me, Barbara: well as I thought I knew you, I did not know you enough!"

"You do now?"

'"I do."

There came a silence.

"How long have you known this about yourself, Richard?" said Barbara.

"More than four years."

"And you never told me!"

"My father wished it kept a secret for a time."

"Did Mr. Wingfold know?"

"Not till yesterday."

"Why didn't he tell me yesterday, then?"

"I think he wouldn't have told you if he had known all the time."

"Why?"

"For the same reason that made him leave us together so suddenly--that you might not be hampered by knowing it--that we might understand each other before you knew. I see it all now! It was just like him!"

"Oh, he is a friend!" cried Barbara. "He knows what one is, and so knows what one is thinking!"

A silent embrace followed, and then Barbara said, "You must come and see my mother!"

"Hadn't you better tell her first?" suggested Richard.

"She knows--knows what you didn't know--what I've been thinking all the time," rejoined Barbara, with a rosy look of confidence into his eyes.

"She can never have been willing you should marry a tradesman--and one, besides, who--!"

"She knew I would--and that I should have money, else she might not have been willing. I don't say she likes the idea, but she is determined I shall have the man I love--if he will have me," she added shyly.

"Did you tell her you--cared for me?"

He could not say loved yet; he felt an earthy pebble beside a celestial sapphire!

"Of course I did, when papa wanted me to have Arthur!--not till then; there was no occasion! I could not tell what your thoughts were, but my own were enough for that."

Mrs. Wylder was taken with Richard the moment she saw him; and when she heard his story, she was overjoyed, and would scarcely listen to a word about the uncertainty of his prospects. That her Bab should marry the man she loved, and that the alliance should be what the world counted respectable, was enough for her. When Richard told his father what he had done, saying they had fallen in love with each other while yet ignorant of his parentage, a glow of more than satisfaction warmed sir Wilton's consciousness. It was lovely! Lady Ann was being fooled on all sides!

"Richard has been making good use of his morning!" he said at dinner. "He has already proposed to Miss Wylder and been accepted! Richard is a man of action--a practical fellow!"

Lady Ann did perhaps turn a shade paler, but she smiled. It was not such a blow as it might have been, for she too had given up hope of securing her for Arthur. But it was not pleasant to her that the grandchild of the blacksmith should have Barbara's money. Theodora was puzzled.

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