How he laboured under an apprehension not uncommon to persons in his degree, to whom the use of pen and ink is an event, that he couldn′t append his name to a document, not of his own writing, without committing himself in some shadowy manner, or somehow signing away vague and enormous sums of money; and how he approached the deeds under protest, and by dint of the Doctor′s coercion, and insisted on pausing to look at them before writing (the cramped hand, to say nothing of the phraseology, being so much Chinese to him), and also on turning them round to see whether there was anything fraudulent underneath; and how, having signed his name, he became desolate as one who had parted with his property and rights; I want the time to tell. Also, how the blue bag containing his signature, afterwards had a mysterious interest for him, and he couldn′t leave it; also, how Clemency Newcome, in an ecstasy of laughter at the idea of her own importance and dignity, brooded over the whole table with her two elbows, like a spread eagle, and reposed her head upon her left arm as a preliminary to the formation of certain cabalistic characters, which required a deal of ink, and imaginary counterparts whereof she executed at the same time with her tongue. Also, how, having once tasted ink, she became thirsty in that regard, as tame tigers are said to be after tasting another sort of fluid, and wanted to sign everything, and put her name in all kinds of places. In brief, the Doctor was discharged of his trust and all its responsibilities; and Alfred, taking it on himself, was fairly started on the journey of life.
′Britain!′ said the Doctor. ′Run to the gate, and watch for the coach. Time flies, Alfred.′
′Yes, sir, yes,′ returned the young man, hurriedly. ′Dear Grace! a moment! Marion - so young and beautiful, so winning and so much admired, dear to my heart as nothing else in life is - remember! I leave Marion to you!′
′She has always been a sacred charge to me, Alfred. She is doubly so, now. I will be faithful to my trust, believe me.′
′I do believe it, Grace. I know it well. Who could look upon your face, and hear your voice, and not know it! Ah, Grace! If I had your well-governed heart, and tranquil mind, how bravely I would leave this place to-day!′
′Would you?′ she answered with a quiet smile.
′And yet, Grace - Sister, seems the natural word.′
′Use it!′ she said quickly. ′I am glad to hear it. Call me nothing else.′
′And yet, sister, then,′ said Alfred, ′Marion and I had better have your true and steadfast qualities serving us here, and making us both happier and better. I wouldn′t carry them away, to sustain myself, if I could!′
′Coach upon the hill-top!′ exclaimed Britain.
′Time flies, Alfred,′ said the Doctor.
Marion had stood apart, with her eyes fixed upon the ground; but, this warning being given, her young lover brought her tenderly to where her sister stood, and gave her into her embrace.
′I have been telling Grace, dear Marion,′ he said, ′that you are her charge; my precious trust at parting. And when I come back and reclaim you, dearest, and the bright prospect of our married life lies stretched before us, it shall be one of our chief pleasures to consult how we can make Grace happy; how we can anticipate her wishes; how we can show our gratitude and love to her; how we can return her something of the debt she will have heaped upon us.′
The younger sister had one hand in his; the other rested on her sister′s neck. She looked into that sister′s eyes, so calm, serene, and cheerful, with a gaze in which affection, admiration, sorrow, wonder, almost veneration, were blended. She looked into that sister′s face, as if it were the face of some bright angel. Calm, serene, and cheerful, the face looked back on her and on her lover.
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