THE impossibility of undoing what had been done, or of in any way influencing the main event, led Margaret and Noel soon to accept the situation without farther expression of regret. Margaret herself was the first to suggest to Noel the advisability of turning the interval to good account by getting on with his book.’
‘No one ever works during a voyage,’ he said, unwilling to withdraw himself from the contemplation of his position, and
the delight it afforded him of unrestricted intercourse with Margaret.’
‘But why not?’ she inquired. ‘Is not time as valuable at sea as on land?’
‘There is no time at sea,’ he said. ‘It is eternity, an element that never changes. Besides, without friction of contact with the world, there is no impulse to advance.’
‘But I wish you to do it,’ she said gently. ‘It will not only add much to the passing interest of the voyage, but it will make you look back upon it as time not altogether wasted.’
‘Wasted time when I am with you!’ he exclaimed. ‘Why, Margaret, what are you saying or thinking?’
‘Ah, you may fancy so now,’ she replied, ‘but a time may come when you will think differently; and I would not have the reproach upon me of wasted time, as well as of wasted affection.’
‘A true Enid, and better angel to your love always! Well, I will try to fulfil your bidding, though to me it will be rather like wasting time than using it. Pray do you suppose that, when you return to your native heaven, you will care to neglect its high bliss, and occupy yourself with playthings?’
‘Never mind. I am not there now.’
‘I am,’ he said softly; and she continued, –
‘If you will write, you shall read it over to me each day, and I will play critic to the best of my ability, if that will please you.’
So Noel devoted the rest of the voyage to continuing the book which had formed the subject of so many conversations between him and Maynard; and when the rough weather that arose on their approach to British latitudes put farther writing out of the question, and he was at leisure to read over his manuscript, he was amazed at the progress he had made, and at the brilliancy, depth, and tenderness of the matter; and eagerly acknowledged to Margaret his conviction that the book was far more hers than his, for that not only had the impulse to write come from her, but all the inspiration was hers also.
‘A child of our united intellects and hearts,’ he said with a sigh of mingled rapture and regret. ‘I wonder if James really had the better part.’
‘Hush, hush,’ she said, in a decided yet gentle tone; ‘I cannot bear it.’
And he, seeing that her love was truly and entirely his, and
that it took all her strength to be conqueror in the struggle, forbore to press upon the narrow dividing ground which lies between the rights and the duties of the affections, between the ‘sinner’ and the ‘saint.’ And Margaret’s love was, if possible, strengthened and confirmed by her gratitude for his consideration; and he, comprehending all, felt that he was not unrewarded.
‘Oh, that this could last for ever,’ she exclaimed, when told of the near termination of their voyage. But I must not repine. I have been happier than I ever expected to be, or thought possible to any one. Henceforth, I shall always think of eternity as a fair voyage on a bright warm sea, with no weary land, but just so much as to make picturesque islets to be touched and gazed at, like those beautiful fairy isles of the West Indies, and then on again into the blissful void.’
‘With no troublesome fellow-passengers, and just my arm to lean upon?’ added Noel, pressing her hand to his side, for they were standing on the deck watching the sunset.
In every respect had they been fortunate. It was a season at which there were
but few passengers; and none were such as to cause the slightest annoyance or
anxiety to Noel. Some had come from Vera Cruz in the corresponding steamer, and
joined them at
Thus all had gone well; and when they steamed past the