"No, Maggie, you have wrong ideas of self-conquest, as I've often told you. What you call self-conquest — binding and deafening yourself to all but one train of impressions — is only the culture of monomania in a nature like yours."
He had spoken with some irritation, but now he sat down by her again and took her hand.
"Don't think of the past now, Maggie; think only of our love. If you can really cling to me with all your heart, every obstacle will be overcome in time; we need only wait. I can live on hope. Look at me, Maggie; tell me again it is possible for you to love me. Don't look away from me to that cloven tree; it is a bad omen."
She turned her large dark glance upon him with a sad smile.
"Come, Maggie, say one kind word, or else you were better to me at Lorton. You asked me if I should like you to kiss me, — don't you remember? — and you promised to kiss me when you met me again. You never kept the promise."
The recollection of that childish time came as a sweet relief to Maggie. It made the present moment less strange to her. She kissed him almost as simply and quietly as she had done when she was twelve years old. Philip's eyes flashed with delight, but his next words were words of discontent.
"You don't seem happy enough, Maggie; you are forcing yourself to say you love me, out of pity."
"No, Philip," said Maggie, shaking her head, in her old childish way; "I'm telling you the truth. It is all new and strange to me; but I don't think I could love any one better than I love you. I should like always to live with you — to make you happy. I have always been happy when I have been with you. There is only one thing I will not do for your sake; I will never do anything to wound my father. You must never ask that from me."
"No, Maggie, I will ask nothing; I will bear everything; I'll wait another year only for a kiss, if you will only give me the first place in your heart."
"No," said Maggie, smiling, "I won't make you wait so long as that." But then, looking serious again, she added, as she rose from her seat, —
"But what would your own father say, Philip? Oh, it is quite impossible we can ever be more than friends, — brother and sister in secret, as we have been. Let us give up thinking of everything else."
"No, Maggie, I can't give you up, — unless you are deceiving me; unless you really only care for me as if I were your brother. Tell me the truth."
"Indeed I do, Philip. What happiness have I ever had so great as being with you, — since I was a little girl, — the days Tom was good to me? And your mind is a sort of world to me; you can tell me all I want to know. I think I should never be tired of being with you."
They were walking hand in hand, looking at each other; Maggie, indeed, was hurrying along, for she felt it time to be gone. But the sense that their parting was near made her more anxious lest she should have unintentionally left some painful impression on Philip's mind. It was one of those dangerous moments when speech is at once sincere and deceptive; when feeling, rising high above its average depth, leaves floodmarks which are never reached again.
They stopped to part among the Scotch firs.
"Then my life will be filled with hope, Maggie, and I shall be happier than other men, in spite of all? We do belong to each other — for always — whether we are apart or together?"
"Yes, Philip; I should like never to part; I should like to make your life very happy."
"I am waiting for something else. I wonder whether it will come."
Maggie smiled, with glistening tears, and then stooped her tall head to kiss the pale face that was full of pleading, timid love, — like a woman's.
She had a moment of real happiness then, — a moment of belief that, if there were sacrifice in this love, it was all the richer and more satisfying.
She turned away and hurried home, feeling that in the hour since she had trodden this road before, a new era had begun for her. The tissue of vague dreams must now get narrower and narrower, and all the threads of thought and emotion be gradually absorbed in the woof of her actual daily life.