Louisa May Alcott: Rose in Bloom

Chapter 10. THE SAD AND SOBER PART (continued)

That brought Charlie to his feet, pale with something deeper than anger, for the recoil told him more plainly than the words how much he had fallen in her regard since yesterday. The memory of the happy moment when she gave the rose with that new softness in her eyes, the shy color, the sweet "for my sake" came back with sudden vividness, contrasting sharply with the now averted face, the hand outstretched to put him back, the shrinking figure, and in that instant's silence, poor Charlie realized what he had lost, for a girl's first thought of love is as delicate a thing as the rosy morning glory, which a breath of air can shatter. Only a hint of evil, only an hour's debasement for him, a moment's glimpse for her of the coarser pleasures men know, and the innocent heart, just opening to bless and to be blessed, closed again like a sensitive plant and shut him out perhaps forever.

The consciousness of this turned him pale with fear, for his love was deeper than she knew, and he proved this when he said in a tone so full of mingled pain and patience that it touched her to the heart: "You shall respect me if I can make you, and when I've earned it, may I hope for something more?"

She looked up then, saw in his face the noble shame, the humble sort of courage that shows repentance to be genuine and gives promise of success, and, with a hopeful smile that was a cordial to him, answered heartily: "You may."

"Bless you for that! I'll make no promises, I'll ask for none only trust me, Rose, and while you treat me like a cousin, remember that no matter how many lovers you may have you'll never be to any of them as dear as you are to me."

A traitorous break in his voice warned Charlie to stop there, and with no other good-bye, he very wisely went away, leaving Rose to put the neglected flowers into water with remorseful care and lay away the bracelet, saying to herself: "I'll never wear it till I feel as I did before. Then he shall put it on and I'll say 'yes.'"

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