Mr. Thronton stood by one of the windows, with his back to the door, apparently absorbed in watching something in the street. But, in truth, he was afraid of himself. His heart beat thick at the thought of her coming. Strong man as he was, he trembled at the anticipation of what he had to say, and how it might be received. He was startled by the sense of the presence of someone else in the room. He turned round. She had come in so gently, that he had never heard her and want with quiet firmness to the door, and shut it.
‘Miss Hale, I was very ungrateful yesterday.’
‘You had nothing to be grateful for’, said she, raising her eyes, and looking full and straight at him, if it will relieve you from even a fancied obligation, speak on.’
‘I do not want to be relieved from any obligation. Fancied or not fancied. I choose to believe that I owe my very life to you to one whom I love, as if she knew not where to find them.’
‘You seem to fancy that my conduct of yesterday was a personal act between you and me, instead of perceiving, as a gentleman would, that any woman, would come forward to shield, a man in danger from the violence of numbers.’
‘And the gentleman thus rescued is forbidden the relief of thanks. I am a man. I claim the right to express my feelings. I know you despise me, allow me to say, it is because you do not understand me. You are unfair and unjust. You look as if you thought it tainted you to be loved by me. You cannot avoid it. I have never loved any woman before> my life has been to busy, my thoughts too much absorbed with other things.’
North and South