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The year came round to Christmas-time, and I had been at home above
two months. I had seen Agnes frequently. However loud the general
voice might be in giving me encouragement, and however fervent the
emotions and endeavours to which it roused me, I heard her lightest
word of praise as I heard nothing else.

At least once a week, and sometimes oftener, I rode over there, and
passed the evening. I usually rode back at night; for the old
unhappy sense was always hovering about me now - most sorrowfully
when I left her - and I was glad to be up and out, rather than
wandering over the past in weary wakefulness or miserable dreams.

I wore away the longest part of many wild sad nights, in those
rides; reviving, as I went, the thoughts that had occupied me in my
long absence.

Or, if I were to say rather that I listened to the echoes of those
thoughts, I should better express the truth. They spoke to me from
afar off. I had put them at a distance, and accepted my inevitable
place. When I read to Agnes what I wrote; when I saw her listening
face; moved her to smiles or tears; and heard her cordial voice so
earnest on the shadowy events of that imaginative world in which I
lived; I thought what a fate mine might have been - but only
thought so, as I had thought after I was married to Dora, what I
could have wished my wife to be.

My duty to Agnes, who loved me with a love, which, if I disquieted,
I wronged most selfishly and poorly, and could never restore; my
matured assurance that I, who had worked out my own destiny, and
won what I had impetuously set my heart on, had no right to murmur,
and must bear; comprised what I felt and what I had learned. But
I loved her: and now it even became some consolation to me, vaguely
to conceive a distant day when I might blamelessly avow it; when
all this should be over; when I could say 'Agnes, so it was when I
came home; and now I am old, and I never have loved since!'

She did not once show me any change in herself. What she always
had been to me, she still was; wholly unaltered.
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