The Daisy Chain or Aspirations
Sail forth into the sea, thou ship,
Through breeze and cloud, right onward steer;
The moistened eye, the trembling lip,
Are not the signs of doubt or fear!--LONGFELLOW.
Tranquility only lasted until Mr. Ernescliffe found it necessary to understand
on what terms he was to stand. Every one was tender of conscience, anxious
to do right, and desirous to yield to the opinion that nobody could, or would
give. While Alan begged for a positive engagement, Margaret scrupled to
exchange promises that she might never be able to fulfil, and both agreed to
leave all to her father, who, in every way, ought to have the best ability to
judge whether there was unreasonable presumption in such a betrothal; but
this very ability only served to perplex the poor doctor more and more. It is
far easier for a man to decide when he sees only one bearing of a case, than
when, like Dr. May, he not only sees them, but is rent by them in his inmost
heart. Sympathising in turn with each lover, bitterly accusing his own
carelessness as the cause of all their troubles, his doubts contending with his
hopes, his conviction clashing with Sir Matthew Fleet's opinion, his
conscientious sincerity and delicacy conflicting with his affection and
eagerness, he was perfectly incapable of coming to a decision, and suffered
so cruelly, that Margaret was doubly distressed for his sake, and Alan felt
himself guilty of having rendered everybody miserable.
Dr. May could not conceal his trouble, and rendered Ethel almost as unhappy
as himself, after each conversation with her, though her hopes usually sprang
up again, and she had a happy conviction that this was only the second
volume of the novel. Flora was not often called into his councils; confidence
never came spontaneously from Dr. May to her; there was something that did
not draw it forth towards her, whether it resided in that half-sarcastic corner
of her steady blue eye, or in the grave common-sense of her gentle voice.
Her view of the case was known to be that there was no need for so much
perplexity--why should not Alan be the best judge of his own happiness? If
Margaret were to be delicate for life, it would be better to have such a home
to look to; and she soothed and comforted Margaret, and talked in a strain of
unmixed hope and anticipation that often drew a smile from her sister,
though she feared to trust to it.
Flora's tact and consideration in keeping the children away when the lovers
could best be alone, and letting them in when the discussion was becoming
useless and harassing, her cheerful smiles, her evening music that covered all
sounds, her removal of all extra annoyances, were invaluable, and Margaret
appreciated them, as, indeed, Flora took care that she should.