head), ‘you’re in quite a wrong position’; which I felt to be true,
and that made me chafe the more; ‘you can’t make this a brave
thing, and you can’t help being forgiven. I don’t intend to mention
it to mother, nor to any living soul. I’m determined to forgive you.
But I do wonder that you should lift your hand against a person
that you knew to be so umble!’
I felt only less mean than he. He knew me better than I knew
myself. If he had retorted or openly exasperated me, it would have
been a relief and a justification; but he had put me on a slow fire,
on which I lay tormented half the night.
In the morning, when I came out, the early church-bell was
ringing, and he was walking up and down with his mother. He
addressed me as if nothing had happened, and I could do no less
than reply. I had struck him hard enough to give him the
toothache, I suppose. At all events his face was tied up in a black
silk handkerchief, which, with his hat perched on the top of it, was
far from improving his appearance. I heard that he went to a
dentist’s in London on the Monday morning, and had a tooth out. I
hope it was a double one.
The Doctor gave out that he was not quite well; and remained
alone, for a considerable part of every day, during the remainder
of the visit. Agnes and her father had been gone a week, before we
resumed our usual work. On the day preceding its resumption, the
Doctor gave me with his own hands a folded note not sealed. It
was addressed to myself; and laid an injunction on me, in a few
affectionate words, never to refer to the subject of that evening. I
had confided it to my aunt, but to no one else. It was not a subject I
could discuss with Agnes, and Agnes certainly had not the least
suspicion of what had passed.
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Neither, I felt convinced, had Mrs. Strong then. Several weeks
elapsed before I saw the least change in her. It came on slowly,
like a cloud when there is no wind. At first, she seemed to wonder
at the gentle compassion with which the Doctor spoke to her, and
at his wish that she should have her mother with her, to relieve the
dull monotony of her life. Often, when we were at work, and she
was sitting by, I would see her pausing and looking at him with
that memorable face. Afterwards, I sometimes observed her rise,
with her eyes full of tears, and go out of the room. Gradually, an
unhappy shadow fell upon her beauty, and deepened every day.
Mrs. Markleham was a regular inmate of the cottage then; but she
talked and talked, and saw nothing.
As this change stole on Annie, once like sunshine in the
Doctor’s house, the Doctor became older in appearance, and more
grave; but the sweetness of his temper, the placid kindness of his
manner, and his benevolent solicitude for her, if they were capable
of any increase, were increased. I saw him once, early on the
morning of her birthday, when she came to sit in the window
while we were at work (which she had always done, but now
began to do with a timid and uncertain air that I thought very
touching), take her forehead between his hands, kiss it, and go
hurriedly away, too much moved to remain. I saw her stand where
he had left her, like a statue; and then bend down her head, and
clasp her hands, and weep, I cannot say how sorrowfully.
Sometimes, after that, I fancied that sh"};