"Why, Richard! what's thee doing?" cried Asenath; "thee has thrown away the very best specimen."
"Let it go," he answered, sadly. "I am afraid everything else is thrown away."
"What does thee mean?" she asked, with a look of surprised and anxious inquiry.
"Don't ask me, Asenath. Or--yes, I WILL tell you. I must say it to you now, or never afterwards. Do you know what a happy life I've been leading since I came here?--that I've learned what life is, as if I'd never known it before? I want to live, Asenath,--and do you know why?"
"I hope thee will live, Richard," she said, gently and tenderly, her deep-blue eyes dim with the mist of unshed tears.
"But, Asenath, how am I to live without you? But you can't understand that, because you do not know what you are to me. No, you never guessed that all this while I've been loving you more and more, until now I have no other idea of death than not to see you, not to love you, not to share your life!"
"I knew you would be shocked, Asenath. I meant to have kept this to myself. You never dreamed of it, and I had no right to disturb the peace of your heart. The truth is told now,--and I cannot take it back, if I wished. But if you cannot love, you can forgive me for loving you--forgive me now and every day of my life."
He uttered these words with a passionate tenderness, standing on the edge of the stream, and gazing into its waters. His slight frame trembled with the violence of his emotion. Asenath, who had become very pale as he commenced to speak, gradually flushed over neck and brow as she listened. Her head drooped, the gathered flowers fell from her hands, and she hid her face. For a few minutes no sound was heard but the liquid gurgling of the water, and the whistle of a bird in the thicket beside them. Richard Hilton at last turned, and, in a voice of hesitating entreaty, pronounced her name--
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