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LOVE AND NO LEASING.
Their eyes met in the flashes of a double sunrise. Their hands met, but the hand of each grasped the heart of the other. Two honester purer souls never looked out of their windows with meeting gaze. Had there been no bodies to divide them, they would have mingled in a rapture of faith and high content.
The desolation was gone; the desert bloomed and blossomed as the rose. To Dorothy it was for a moment as if Raglan were rebuilt; the ruin and the winter had vanished before the creative, therefore prophetic throb of the heart of love; then her eyes fell, not defeated by those of the youth, for Dorothy's faith gave her a boldness that was lovely even against the foil of maidenly reserve, but beaten down by conscience: the words of the marquis shot like an arrow into her memory: 'Love outlives all but leasing,' and her eyes fell before Richard's.
But Richard imagined that something in his look had displeased her, and was ashamed, for he had ever been, and ever would be, sensitive as a child to rebuke. Even when it was mistaken or unjust he would always find within him some ground whereon it MIGHT have alighted.
'Forgive me, Dorothy,' he said, supposing she had found his look presumptuous.
'Nay, Richard,' returned Dorothy, with her eyes fast on the ground, whence it seemed rosy mists came rising through her, 'I know no cause wherefore thou shouldst ask me to forgive thee, but I do know, although thou knowest not, good cause wherefore I should ask thee to forgive me. Richard, I will tell thee the truth, and thou wilt tell me again how I might have shunned doing amiss, and how far my lie was an evil thing.'
'Lie, Dorothy! Thou hast never lied!'
'Hear me, Richard, first, and then judge. Thou rememberest I did tell thee that night as we talked in the field, that I had about me no missives: the word was true, but its purport was false. When I said that, thou didst hold in thy hand my comb, wherein were concealed certain papers in cipher.'
'Oh thou cunning one!' cried Richard, half reproachfully, half humorously, but the amusement overtopped the seriousness.
'My heart did reproach me; but Richard, what WAS I to do?'
'Wherefore did thy heart reproach thee, Dorothy?'
'That I told a falsehood--that I told THEE a falsehood, Richard.'
'Then had it been Upstill, thou wouldst not have minded?'
'Upstill! I would never have told Upstill a falsehood. I would have beaten him first.'
'Then thou didst think it better to tell a falsehood to me than to Upstill?'
'I would rather sin against thee, an' it were a sin, Richard. Were it wrong to think I would rather be in thy hands, sin or none, or sin and all, than in those of a mean-spirited knave whom I despised? Besides I might one day, somehow or other, make it up to thee--but I could not to him. But was it sin, Richard?--tell me that. I have thought and thought over the matter until my mind is maze. Thou seest it was my lord marquis's business, not mine, and thou hadst no right in the matter.'
'Prithee, Dorothy, ask not me to judge.'
'Art thou then so angry with me that thou will not help me to judge myself aright?'
'Not so, Dorothy, but there is one command in the New Testament for the which I am often more thankful than for any other.'
'What is that, Richard.'
'JUDGE NOT. Prythee, between whom lieth the quarrel, Dorothy? Bethink thee.'
'Between thee and me, Richard.'
'No, verily, Dorothy. I accuse thee not.'
Dorothy was silent for a moment, thinking.
'I see, Richard,' she said. 'It lieth between me and my own conscience.'
'Then who am I, Dorothy, that I should dare step betwixt thee and thy conscience? God forbid. That were a presumption deserving indeed the pains of hell.'
'But if my conscience and I seek a daysman betwixt us?'
'Mortal man can never be that daysman, Dorothy. Nay, an' thou need an umpire, thou must seek to him who brought thee and thy conscience together and told thee to agree. Let God, over all and in all, tell thee whether or no thou wert wrong. For me, I dare not. Believe me, Dorothy, it is sheer presumption for one man to intermeddle with the things that belong to the spirit of another man.'
'But these are only the things of a woman,' said Dorothy, in pure childish humility born of love.
'Sure, Dorothy, thou wouldst not jest in such sober matters.'
'God forbid, Richard! I but spoke that which was in me. I see now it was foolishness.'
'All a man can do in this matter of judgment,' said Richard, 'is to lead his fellow man, if so be he can, up to the judgment of God. He must never dare judge him for himself. An' thou cannot tell whether thou did well or ill in what thou didst, thou shouldst not vex thy soul. God is thy refuge--even from the wrongs of thine own judgment. Pray to him to let thee know the truth, that if needful thou mayst repent. Be patient and not sorrowful until he show thee. Nor fear that he will judge thee harshly because he must judge thee truly. That were to wrong God. Trust in him even when thou fearest wrong in thyself, for he will deliver thee therefrom.'
'Ah! how good and kind art thou, Richard.'
'How should I be other to thee, beloved Dorothy?'
'Thou art not then angry with me that I did deceive thee?'
'If thou didst right, wherefore should I be angry? If thou didst wrong, I am well content to know that thou wilt be sorry therefor as soon as thou seest it, and before that thou canst not, thou must not, be sorry. I am sure that what thou knowest to be right that thou will do, and it seemeth as if God himself were content with that for the time. What the very right thing is, concerning which we may now differ, we must come to see together one day--the same, and not another, to both, and this doing of what we see, is to each of us the path thither. Let God judge us, Dorothy, for his judgment is light in the inward parts, showing the truth and enabling us to judge ourselves. For me to judge thee and thee me, Dorothy, would with it bear no light. Why, Dorothy, knowest thou not--yet how shouldst thou know? that this is the very matter for the which we, my father and his party, contend--that each man, namely, in matters of conscience, shall be left to his God, and remain unjudged of his brother? And if I fight for this on mine own part, unto whom should I accord it if not to thee, Dorothy, who art the highest in soul and purest in mind and bravest in heart of all women I have known? Therefore I love thee with all the power of a heart that loves that which is true before that which is beautiful, and that which is honest before that which is of good report.'
What followed I leave to the imagination of such of my readers as are capable of understanding that the truer the nature the deeper must be the passion, and of hoping that the human soul will yet burst into grander blossoms of love than ever poet has dreamed, not to say sung. I leave it also to the hearts of those who understand that love is greater than knowledge. For those who have neither heart nor imagination--only brains--to them I presume to leave nothing, knowing what self-satisfying resources they possess of their own.
The pair wandered all over the ruins together, and Dorothy had a hundred places to take Richard to, and tell him what they had been and how they had looked in their wholeness and use--amongst the rest her own chamber, whither Marquis had brought her the letter which mistress Upstill had found so badly concealed.
Then Richard's turn came, and he gave Dorothy a sadly vivid account of what he had seen of the destruction of the place; how, as if with whole republics of ants, it had swarmed all over with men paid to destroy it; how in every direction the walls were falling at once; how they dug and drained at fish-ponds and moat in the wild hope of finding hidden treasure, and had found in the former nothing but mud and a bunch of huge old keys, the last of some lost story of ancient days,--and in the latter nothing but a pair of silver-gilt spurs, which he had himself bought of the fellow who found them. He told her what a terrible shell the Tower of towers had been to break--how after throwing its battlemented crown into the moat, they had in vain attacked the walls, might almost as well have sought with pickaxes and crowbars to tear asunder the living rock, and at last--but this was hearsay, he had not seen it--had undermined the wall, propped it up with timber, set the timber on fire, and so succeeded in bringing down a portion of the hard, tough massy defence.
'What became of the wild beasts in the base of the kitchen-tower, dost know, Richard?'
'I saw their cages,' answered Richard, 'but they were empty. I asked what they were, and what had become of the animals, of which all the country had heard, but no one could tell me. I asked them questions until they began to puzzle themselves to answer them, and now I believe all Gwent is divided between two opinions as to their fate--one, that they are roaming the country, the other that lord Herbert, as they still call him, has by his magic conveyed them away to Ireland to assist him in a general massacre of the Protestants.'
Mighty in mutual faith, neither politics, nor morals, nor even theology was any more able to part those whose plain truth had begotten absolute confidence. Strive they might, sin they could not, against each other. They talked, wandering about, a long time, forgetting, I am sorry to say, even their poor shivering horses, which, after trying to console themselves with the renewal of a friendship which a broad white line across Lady's face had for a moment, on Dick's part, somewhat impeded, had become very restless. At length an expostulatory whinny from Lady called Richard to his duty, and with compunctions of heart the pair hurried to mount. They rode home together in a bliss that would have been too deep almost for conscious delight but that their animals were eager after motion, and as now the surface of the fields had grown soft, they turned into them, and a tremendous gallop soon brought their gladness to the surface in great fountain throbs of joy.
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