Reading journal for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, part 2
Remember the scene where Gilbert tries to give Helen the book? Love it. It's so lovely, with the lovesick swain trying to win his lady's favour with a gift, and his mortification when she insists on paying him for it. I think it may also be a pivot point, the place where she begins to regard him in the light of more than a friend, even though she acts as if friendship is the only way for them:
But, while I gazed, I thought upon the book, and wondered how it was to be presented. My heart failed me; but I determined not to be such a fool as to come away without having made the attempt. It was useless waiting for an opportunity, and useless trying to concoct a speech for the occasion. The more plainly and naturally the thing was done, the better, I thought; so I just looked out of the window to screw up my courage, and then pulled out the book, turned round, and put it into her hand, with this short explanation:Awwwwwww!
‘You were wishing to see ‘Marmion,’ Mrs. Graham; and here it is, if you will be so kind as to take it.’
A momentary blush suffused her face—perhaps, a blush of sympathetic shame for such an awkward style of presentation: she gravely examined the volume on both sides; then silently turned over the leaves, knitting her brows the while, in serious cogitation; then closed the book, and turning from it to me, quietly asked the price of it—I felt the hot blood rush to my face.
‘I’m sorry to offend you, Mr. Markham,’ said she, ‘but unless I pay for the book, I cannot take it.’ And she laid it on the table.
‘Why cannot you?’
‘Because,’—she paused, and looked at the carpet.
‘Why cannot you?’ I repeated, with a degree of irascibility that roused her to lift her eyes and look me steadily in the face.
‘Because I don’t like to put myself under obligations that I can never repay—I am obliged to you already for your kindness to my son; but his grateful affection and your own good feelings must reward you for that.’
‘Nonsense!’ ejaculated I.
She turned her eyes on me again, with a look of quiet, grave surprise, that had the effect of a rebuke, whether intended for such or not.
‘Then you won’t take the book?’ I asked, more mildly than I had yet spoken.
‘I will gladly take it, if you will let me pay for it.’ I told her the exact price, and the cost of the carriage besides, in as calm a tone as I could command—for, in fact, I was ready to weep with disappointment and vexation.
She produced her purse, and coolly counted out the money, but hesitated to put it into my hand. Attentively regarding me, in a tone of soothing softness, she observed,—‘You think yourself insulted, Mr Markham—I wish I could make you understand that—that I—’
‘I do understand you, perfectly,’ I said. ‘You think that if you were to accept that trifle from me now, I should presume upon it hereafter; but you are mistaken:—if you will only oblige me by taking it, believe me, I shall build no hopes upon it, and consider this no precedent for future favours:—and it is nonsense to talk about putting yourself under obligations to me when you must know that in such a case the obligation is entirely on my side,—the favour on yours.’
‘Well, then, I’ll take you at your word,’ she answered, with a most angelic smile, returning the odious money to her purse—‘but remember!’
‘I will remember—what I have said;—but do not you punish my presumption by withdrawing your friendship entirely from me,—or expect me to atone for it by being more distant than before,’ said I, extending my hand to take leave, for I was too much excited to remain.
‘Well, then! let us be as we were,’ replied she, frankly placing her hand in mine; and while I held it there, I had much difficulty to refrain from pressing it to my lips;—but that would be suicidal madness: I had been bold enough already, and this premature offering had well-nigh given the death-blow to my hopes.
It was with an agitated, burning heart and brain that I hurried homewards, regardless of that scorching noonday sun—forgetful of everything but her I had just left—regretting nothing but her impenetrability, and my own precipitancy and want of tact—fearing nothing but her hateful resolution, and my inability to overcome it—hoping nothing—but halt,—I will not bore you with my conflicting hopes and fears—my serious cogitations and resolves.