31.In Hetty's Bed-Chamber
IT was no longer light enough to go to bed without a candle, even in Mrs.
Poyser's early household, and Hetty carried one with her as she went up at last
to her bedroom soon after Adam was gone, and bolted the door behind her.
Now she would read her letter. It must--it must have comfort in it. How was Adam
to know the truth? It was always likely he should say what he did say.
She set down the candle and took out the letter. It had a faint scent of roses,
which made her feel as if Arthur were close to her. She put it to her lips, and a
rush of remembered sensations for a moment or two swept away all fear. But her
heart began to flutter strangely, and her hands to tremble as she broke the seal.
She read slowly; it was not easy for her to read a gentleman's handwriting,
though Arthur had taken pains to write plainly.
"DEAREST HETTY--I have spoken truly when I have said that I loved you, and I
shall never forget our love. I shall be your true friend as long as life lasts, and I
hope to prove this to you in many ways. If I say anything to pain you in this letter,
do not believe it is for want of love and tenderness towards you, for there is
nothing I would not do for you, if I knew it to be really for your happiness. I cannot
bear to think of my little Hetty shedding tears when I am not there to kiss them
away; and if I followed only my own inclinations, I should be with her at this
moment instead of writing. It is very hard for me to part from her--harder still for
me to write words which may seem unkind, though they spring from the truest
"Dear, dear Hetty, sweet as our love has been to me, sweet as it would be to me
for you to love me always, I feel that it would have been better for us both if we
had never had that happiness, and that it is my duty to ask you to love me and
care for me as little as you can. The fault has all been mine, for though I have
been unable to resist the longing to be near you, I have felt all the while that your
affection for me might cause you grief. I ought to have resisted my feelings. I
should have done so, if I had been a better fellow than I am; but now, since the
past cannot be altered, I am bound to save you from any evil that I have power to
prevent. And I feel it would be a great evil for you if your affections continued so
fixed on me that you could think of no other man who might be able to make you
happier by his love than I ever can, and if you continued to look towards
something in the future which cannot possibly happen. For, dear Hetty, if I were
to do what you one day spoke of, and make you my wife, I should do what you
yourself would come to feel was for your misery instead of your welfare. I know
you can never be happy except by marrying a man in your own station; and if I
were to marry you now, I should only be adding to any wrong I have done,
besides offending against my duty in the other relations of life. You know nothing,