12 Lady Audley's Secret.
baronet's admiration for her was canvassed. It was a tacitly
understood thing in the surgeon's family that whenever Sir
Michael proposed, the governess would quietly accept him ; and,
indeed, the simple Dawsons would have thought it something
more than madness in a penniless girl to reject such an offer.
So one misty June evening Sir Michael, sitting opposite to
Lucy Graham at a window in the surgeon's Httle drawmg-room,
took an opportunity, while the family happened by some acci¬
dent to be absent from the room, of speaking upon the subject
nearest to his heart. He made the governess in few but solemn
words an offer of his hand. There was something abnost touch¬
ing in the manner and tone in which he spoke to her—half in
deprecation, knowing that he could hardly expect to be the
choice of a beautiful young girl, and praying rather that she
would reject liim, even though she broke his heart by doing so,
than that she should accept his offer if she did not love him.
" I scarcely think there is a greater sin, Lucy," he said
solemnly, " than that of the woman who manies a man she
does not love. You are so precious to me, my beloved, that
deeply as my heart is set on this, and bitter as the mere
thought of disappointment is to me, I would not have you com¬
mit such a sin for any happiness of mine. If my happinesa
could be achieved by such an act, which it could not—which it
never could," he repeated earnestly, " nothing but misery cau
result from a m.arriage dictated by any motive but truth and
Lucy Graham was not looking at Sir Michael, but straight
out into the misty twiHght and the dim landscape far away
beyond the little garden. The baronet tried to see her face, but
her profile was uamed to him, and he could not discover the
expression of her eyes. If he could have done so, he would
have seen a yearning gaze wluch seemed as if it would have
pierced the far obscurity and looked away—away into anoth^*
" Lucy, you heard me? "
" Yes," she said gravely; not coldly, or ia any way as if uhis
were offended at his words.
" And your answer P "
She did not remove her gaze from the darkening country sid«^
lilt for some moments was quite silent; then turninor to hiia
V, ith a sudden passion in her manner, that Hghted up her face
v.'ith a new and wonderful beauty -wliicli the baronet percoive^J
even in the growing twilight, she fell on her knees at his feeL
"No, Lucy; no, no!" he cried vehemently: "not here, not
" Yes, here, heie," she said, the strange passion which aci-
tated her making her voice sound shiill and piercing—not L^iTc^