She had stopped crying, but was sobbing sadly.
"I cannot bear this, love. Your sorrow is absolute pain to me; but it is worse to feel how indifferent you are--how little you care about our separation."
He dropped her hand. She burst into a fresh fit of crying.
"I may have to join my mother in Paris; I don't know when I shall see you again. Oh, Ruth!" said he vehemently, "do you love me at all?"
She said something in a very low voice; he could not hear it, though he bent down his head--but he took her hand again.
"What was it you said, love? Was it not that you did love me? My darling, you do! I can tell it by the trembling of this little hand; then you will not suffer me to go away alone and unhappy, most anxious about you? There is no other course open to you; my poor girl has no friends to receive her. I will go home directly, and return in an hour with a carriage. You make me too happy by your silence, Ruth."
"Oh, what can I do?" exclaimed Ruth. "Mr. Bellingham, you should help me, and instead of that you only bewilder me."
"How, my dearest Ruth? Bewilder you! It seems so clear to me. Look at the case fairly! Here you are, an orphan, with only one person to love you, poor child!--thrown off, for no fault of yours, by the only creature on whom you have a claim, that creature a tyrannical, inflexible woman; what is more natural (and, being natural, more right) than that you should throw yourself upon the care of the one who loves you dearly--who would go through fire and water for you--who would shelter you from all harm? Unless, indeed, as I suspect, you do not care for him. If so, Ruth, if you do not care for me, we had better part--I will leave you at once; it will be better for me to go, if you do not care for me.