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Between my aunt and me there had been something, in this connexion,
since the night of my return, which I cannot call a restraint, or
an avoidance of the subject, so much as an implied understanding
that we thought of it together, but did not shape our thoughts into
words. When, according to our old custom, we sat before the fire
at night, we often fell into this train; as naturally, and as
consciously to each other, as if we had unreservedly said so. But
we preserved an unbroken silence. I believed that she had read, or
partly read, my thoughts that night; and that she fully
comprehended why I gave mine no more distinct expression.

This Christmas-time being come, and Agnes having reposed no new
confidence in me, a doubt that had several times arisen in my mind
- whether she could have that perception of the true state of my
breast, which restrained her with the apprehension of giving me
pain - began to oppress me heavily. If that were so, my sacrifice
was nothing; my plainest obligation to her unfulfilled; and every
poor action I had shrunk from, I was hourly doing. I resolved to
set this right beyond all doubt; - if such a barrier were between
us, to break it down at once with a determined hand.

It was - what lasting reason have I to remember it! - a cold,
harsh, winter day. There had been snow, some hours before; and it
lay, not deep, but hard-frozen on the ground. Out at sea, beyond
my window, the wind blew ruggedly from the north. I had been
thinking of it, sweeping over those mountain wastes of snow in
Switzerland, then inaccessible to any human foot; and had been
speculating which was the lonelier, those solitary regions, or a
deserted ocean.

'Riding today, Trot?' said my aunt, putting her head in at the

'Yes,' said I, 'I am going over to Canterbury. It's a good day for
a ride.'

'I hope your horse may think so too,' said my aunt; 'but at present
he is holding down his head and his ears, standing before the door
there, as if he thought his stable preferable.'

My aunt, I may observe, allowed my horse on the forbidden ground,
but had not at all relented towards the donkeys.

'He will be fresh enough, presently!' said I.
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