BOOK I. MISS BROOKE.
5. CHAPTER V.
Such, my dear Miss Brooke, is the accurate statement of my feelings;
and I rely on your kind indulgence in venturing now to ask you
how far your own are of a nature to confirm my happy presentiment.
To be accepted by you as your husband and the earthly guardian of
your welfare, I should regard as the highest of providential gifts.
In return I can at least offer you an affection hitherto unwasted,
and the faithful consecration of a life which, however short
in the sequel, has no backward pages whereon, if you choose
to turn them, you will find records such as might justly cause
you either bitterness or shame. I await the expression of your
sentiments with an anxiety which it would be the part of wisdom
(were it possible) to divert by a more arduous labor than usual.
But in this order of experience I am still young, and in looking forward
to an unfavorable possibility I cannot but feel that resignation
to solitude will be more difficult after the temporary illumination
In any case, I shall remain,
Yours with sincere devotion,
Dorothea trembled while she read this letter; then she fell on her knees,
buried her face, and sobbed. She could not pray: under the rush of solemn
emotion in which thoughts became vague and images floated uncertainly,
she could but cast herself, with a childlike sense of reclining,
in the lap of a divine consciousness which sustained her own.
She remained in that attitude till it was time to dress for dinner.
How could it occur to her to examine the letter, to look at it
critically as a profession of love? Her whole soul was possessed
by the fact that a fuller life was opening before her: she
was a neophyte about to enter on a higher grade of initiation.
She was going to have room for the energies which stirred uneasily
under the dimness and pressure of her own ignorance and the petty
peremptoriness of the world's habits.