The journal of Gilbert Markham

28th October 1827

Fergus has retreated to his room on account of a sore head and no inclination of telling mother that it was fair retribution for his impertinence in church this morning. The indignity of being struck on the side in full view of Eliza Millward by my own little brother still pains me. That she surveyed me with as much interest as always but took great pains to appear modest, though improper given the place and circumstances, was a small thrill of assurance.

For, oh, how I was struck by the look I received from our handsome stranger. How it torn at the equilibrium of a mundane Sunday morning – at once chilly and scorching, familiar and full of doubt. Rose had warned me I would call her a perfect beauty but her musings did not prepare me for the inexpressible tug from the depths of my stranger's eyes.

While her eyes were veiled in her act of reading the prayer book I could find small faults in her features and safely indulge in the judgement of her character, in imaginings of a sour disposition.

But she looked at me once and her features reflected what she must have seen plain upon my countenance: bare disguise of awe and eyes that could not be willed away. All the while she silently scorned me I could barely weather the fire that coursed through my being and burned up the very air from my lungs.

My thoughts are scarcely more ordered now as I reflect upon such provocation. I can see how such a lady might think me the impudent, immature and presumptuous son of a sort of gentleman farmer. I felt keenly my disadvantage of age, rank, fortune, intellect... I think I need not enumerate all the many ways she made me feel her inferior. But I thought then as I think now that I can perhaps make her change her mind.

My mother's words to our fair recluse not above two days ago still echo in my ears – "... you have been married and probably – I must say almost certainly - will be again." and her reported response – "I am certain I never shall". I now wish I had attended to Rose's prattle of every detail of their visit to Mrs. Graham, so that I might have any detail, however scant, upon which to base my opinions.

I retreated earlier to my room this evening to put pen to paper and clear my head of such riot of tumultuous thoughts; now supposing Mrs. Graham still too attached to the memory of her deceased husband, then supposing her so marked by bitter experience that she would not entertain any thoughts of further matrimony.

I might not have enjoyed the intimate company of women above a few stolen kisses from girls in the village but I am not ignorant of the joys and perils that befall women upon marriage. I am at present too distraught to cast Mrs Graham in this circumstance or that, and altogether inexpressibly unhappy that she might have lived through such experience at all, be it favourable or otherwise.

How does one make such a lady change her mind? How did wretched Jacob, a deceitful wanderer with no fortune to his name, win Rachel's heart with nothing but a trinket? And here there is no father to impress with hard work, only the haughty lady in the draughty Hall. I must remember to heed the Reverend Millward's sermons in future in case further guidance might be imparted.

How does one entreat such a lady to even be in our society when she has so clearly refused friendly advances from all folk? How can it be contrived to find some time alone with her and appeal to her heart until her eyes have softened and she has acquiesced to come closer?

May God forgive my transgression for my eyes have not seen it but my mind has most assuredly conceived of her tall frame leaning against mine, all warmth and softness, our two figures so close as to make one shadow in the dim light of the first quarter moon like the one I see outside. In my mind her upturned face makes her eyes shine with the dim glow of the moon and her mouth is no longer thin or compressed, but gloriously moist from the endless sweetness of our kisses.

My body grows so warm now. I must dampen the embers of the fire in my room. The Reverend preached that the apostle said it is better to marry than to burn and I suppose I have only just fully understood his meaning. Wise words but the difficulty might lie in their execution. I am grateful that as I snuff the candle by which I write and remove my garments in preparation for blessed sleep, no one but myself will behold my abject condition.