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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWatersprings - Chapter 22. Love And Certainty
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Watersprings - Chapter 22. Love And Certainty Post by :lordg Category :Long Stories Author :Arthur C. Benson Date :May 2012 Read :1753

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Watersprings - Chapter 22. Love And Certainty


The weeks that followed were a time for Howard of very singular happiness--happiness of a quality of which he had not thought himself capable, and in the very existence of which he was often hardly able to believe. He had never known what intimate affection was before; and it was strange to him, when he had always been able to advance so swiftly in his relations with others to a point of frankness and even brotherliness, to discover that there was a whole world of emotion beyond that. He was really deeply reserved and reticent; but he admitted even comparative strangers so easily and courteously to his house of life, that few suspected the existence of a secret chamber of thought, with an entrance contrived behind the pictured arras, which was the real fortress of his inner existence, and where he sate oftenest to contemplate the world. That chamber of thought was a place of few beliefs and fewer certainties; if he adopted, as he was accustomed to do, conventional language and conventional ideas, it was only to feel himself in touch with his fellows; for Howard's mind was really a place of suspense and doubt; his scepticism went down to the very roots of life; his imagination was rich and varied, but he did not trust his hopes or even his fears; all that he was certain of was just the actual passage of his thought and his emotion; he formed no views about the future, and he abandoned the past as one might abandon the debris of the mine.

It was delicious to him to be catechised, questioned, explored by Maud, to have his reserve broken through and his reticence disregarded; but what oftenest brought the great fact of his love home to him with an overpowering certainty of joy was the girl's eager caresses and endearing gestures. Howard had always curiously shrunk from physical contact with his fellows; he had an almost childishly observant eye, and his senses were abnormally alert; little bodily defects and uglinesses had been a horror to him; and the way in which Maud would seek his embrace, clasp his hand, lay her cheek to his, as if nestling home, gave him an enraptured sense of delight that transcended all experience. He was at first in these talks very tender of what he imagined her to believe; but he found that this did not in the least satisfy her, and he gradually opened his mind more and more to her fearless view.

"Are you certain of nothing?" she asked him one day, half mirthfully.

"Yes, of one thing," he said, "of YOU! You are the only real and perfect thing and thought in the world to me--I have always been alone hitherto," he added, "and you have come near to me out of the deep--a shining spirit!"

Howard never tired of questioning her in these days as to how her love for him had arisen.

"That is the mystery of mysteries!" he said to her once; "what was it in me or about me to make you care?"

Maud laughed. "Why, you might as well ask a man at a shop," she said, "which particular coin it was that induced him to part with his wares--it's just the price! Why, I cared for you, I think, before I ever saw you, before I ever heard of you; one thinks--I suppose everyone thinks--that there must be one person in the world who is waiting for one--and it seems to me now as if I had always known it was you; and then Jack talked about you, and then you came; and that was enough, though I didn't dare to think you could care for me; and then how miserable I was when you began by seeming to take an interest in me, and then it all drifted away, and I could do nothing to hold it. Howard, why DID you do that?"

"Oh, don't ask me, darling," he said. "I thought--I thought--I don't know what I did think; but I somehow felt it would be like putting a bird that had sate to sing to me into a cage, if I tried to capture you; and yet I felt it was my only chance. I felt so old. Why you must remember that I was a grown-up man and at work, when you were in long clothes. And think of the mercy of this--if I had come here, as I ought to have done, and had known you as a little girl, you would have become a sort of niece to me, and all this could never have happened--it would all have been different."

"Well, we won't think of THAT," said Maud decisively. "I was rather a horrid little girl, and I am glad you didn't see me in that stage!"

One day he found her a little sad, and she confessed to having had a melancholy dream. "It was a big place, like a square in a town, full of people," she said. "You came down some steps, looking unhappy, and went about as if you were looking for me; and I could not attract your attention, or get near you; once you passed quite close to me and our eyes met, and I saw you did not recognise me, but passed on."

Howard laughed. "Why, child," he said, "I can't see anyone else but you when we are in the same room together--my faculty of observation has deserted me. I see every movement you make, I feel every thought you think; you have bewitched me! Your face comes between me and my work; you will quite ruin my career. How can I go back to my tiresome boys and my old friends?"

"Ah, I don't want to do THAT!" said Maud. "I won't be a hindrance; you must just hang me up like a bird in a cage--that's what I am--to sing to you when you are at leisure."

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CHAPTER XXIII. THE WEDDINGThe way in which the people at Windlow took the news was very characteristic. Howard frankly did not care how they regarded it. Mr. Sandys was frankly and hugely delighted. He apologised to Howard for having mentioned the subject of Guthrie to him. "The way you took it, Howard," he said, "was a perfect model of delicacy and highmindedness! Why, if I had dreamed that you cared for my little girl, I would have said, and truly said, that the dearest wish of my heart had been fulfilled. But one is blind, a parent is blind; and I

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CHAPTER XXI. THE AWAKENINGHoward spent the rest of the morning in very bitter cogitation; after luncheon, during which he could hardly force himself to speak, he excused himself on the plea of wanting exercise. It was in a real agony of mind and spirit that he left the house. He was certain now; and he was not only haunted by his loss, but he was horrified at his entire lack of self-control and restraint. His thoughts came in, like great waves striking on a rocky reef, and rending themselves in sheets of scattered foam. He seemed to himself to have been