81. Virginia Replies

Inglorion takes Virginia’s arm again, and they walk further down the post road. Finally she says again, “I hardly know what to say.” Her manner is calm, but he can tell that she’s puzzled and confused.

“My dear, only three answers are possible: Yes, no, or a request for time to think it over. Why do you hesitate?”

“I hardly know. Your worldly position — the money and so on — I don’t mind those things, though you do, and should. How I’ve lived…”

He says, “That’s immaterial to me. I would say that I considered it carefully and set it aside, but in fact I’ve never cared about that at all, and can’t pretend to.” They walk a bit further. Finally he says, “You talk of your past, the life you’ve led, as if I might suddenly object to it. I don’t think that’s what’s troubling you.”

“It’s not.”

Inglorion finds her silences hard to bear. He wants to overwhelm her with protestations of love, or to interrogate her, ask her if she loves him now, if she could ever love him. He wants to bury her in pleas and tender bullying. Instead, he keeps his mouth firmly shut.

She says, “I’m afraid. I’m sorry. It’s stupid. It’s nothing you’ve done. But it frightens me terribly.”

This is hard for Inglorion. He’s terribly agitated and excited. He feels strong conviction, and has worked himself up into a passion of desire and tenderness. It seems unjust that she should feel reluctant, especially for such an ill-defined reason. She pauses, waits for him to speak. She expects a flood of protestations and promises, and can feel that he’s vibrating with the need to say them. He waits for her to go on.

Finally she says, “I keep thinking of the other Lucius, the night he died. My Lucius was only 13, a child, but it was impossible to conceal the circumstances from him. He knew everything.”

He feels her hand trembling. He stops walking, pulls her towards him. She resists for a moment, confused, and then burrows up against his shoulder, sobbing. He strokes her hair, says, “Oh, honey. I’m so sorry.”

After awhile, her tears stop. She fishes out her handkerchief, blows her nose, tucks it away. She won’t look up at him.

He kisses the top of her head. Finally he says quietly, “My whole life, I’ve done everything that I could to keep women safe — my sister, my daughter. You know that. If you marry me, I will protect you, and I swear that I would cut off my own hand before I would hurt you.” She’s still looking down, shaking her head. “I know, honey. It goes beyond any promise I can make.”

They walk in silence a little longer. “We should turn back,” he says. He sounds sad. She glances up at him. His face, normally so bright and mobile, is still and grave.

She realizes how hard it is for him to ask, to wait, to trust. He’s suffering.

He feels her gaze, looks over. He says impulsively, “Virginia, you needn’t love me — not yet. But I wish you could trust me, and let me love you.”

She hears herself say, “I will.”

He blinks rapidly, says, “What?”

“I will.”

His eyes blaze with joy, and he pulls her close, kisses her hard, harder than he realizes or intends, breaking off occasionally to say, “I love you so much — you won’t regret it — I promise — oh, Virginia —” and his passion is so strong and reckless that she thinks he might just push her up against a tree trunk and consummate their marriage right there, on the deserted post road. He breaks off, laughs. “I’m sorry — I’m just so happy! We’ll find Father Nate.” He kisses her hand, grips it tightly as he leads her back.

Virginia tells Inglorion the story of the other Lucius’s death here.

For the first episode of Inglorion’s adventures, click here.

For a linked table of contents, listing all of Inglorion and Valentine’s adventures, click here.

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