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10. The Resolve
The next few days saw Stephen abnormally restless. She had fairly well made up her
mind to test her theory of equality of the sexes by asking Leonard Everard to marry her;
but her difficulty was as to the doing it. She knew well that it would not do to depend on
a chance meeting for an opportunity. After all, the matter was too serious to allow of the
possibility of levity. There were times when she thought she would write to him and
make her proffer of affection in this way; but on every occasion when such thought
recurred it was forthwith instantly abandoned. During the last few days, however, she
became more reconciled to even this method of procedure. The fever of growth was
unabated. At last came an evening which she had all to herself. Miss Laetitia was going
over to Norwood to look after matters there, and would remain the night. Stephen saw in
her absence an opportunity for thought and action, and said that, having a headache, she
would remain at home. Her aunt offered to postpone her visit. But she would not hear of
it; and so she had the evening to herself.
After dinner in her boudoir she set herself to the composition of a letter to Leonard which
would convey at least something of her feelings and wishes towards him. In the depths of
her heart, which now and again beat furiously, she had a secret hope that when once the
idea was broached Leonard would do the rest. And as she thought of that 'rest' a
languorous dreaminess came upon her. She thought how he would come to her full of
love, of yearning passion; how she would try to keep towards him, at first, an
independent front which would preserve her secret anxiety until the time should come
when she might yield herself to his arms and tell him all. For hours she wrote letter after
letter, destroying them as quickly as she wrote, as she found that she had but swayed
pendulum fashion between overtness and coldness. Some of the letters were so chilly in
tone that she felt they would defeat their own object. Others were so frankly warm in the
expression of--regard she called it, that with burning blushes she destroyed them at once
at the candle before her.
At last she made up her mind. Just as she had done when a baby she realised that the
opposing forces were too strong for her; she gave in gracefully. It would not do to deal
directly in a letter with the matter in hand. She would write to Leonard merely asking him
to see her. Then, when they were together without fear of interruption, she would tell him
her views.
She got as far as 'Dear Mr. Leonard,' when she stood up, saying to herself:
'I shall not be in a hurry. I must sleep on it before I write!' She took up the novel she had
been reading in the afternoon, and read on at it steadily till her bedtime.
That night she did not sleep. It was not that she was agitated. Indeed, she was more at
ease than she had been for days; she had after much anxious thought made up her mind to
a definite course of action. Therefore her sleeplessness was not painful. It was rather that