In this extract, Aurora finally catches up with Marian in a flower market in Paris. It is the start of Aurora’s coming to understand Marian’s past.

Flower market

                I could not sleep last night, and, tired
Of turning on my pillow and harder thoughts,
Went out at early morning, when the air
Is delicate with some last starry touch,
To wander through the Market-place of Flowers
(The prettiest haunt in Paris), and make sure
At worst that there were roses in the world.
So wandering, musing, with the artist’s eye,
That keeps the shade-side of the thing it loves,
Half-absent, whole-observing, while the crowd
Of young vivacious and black-braided heads
Dipped, quick as finches in a blossomed tree,
Among the nosegays, cheapening this and that
In such a cheerful twitter of rapid speech, –
My heart lept in me, startled by a voice
That slowly, faintly, with long breaths that marked
The interval between the wish and word,
Inquired in stranger’s French, ‘Would that be much,
That branch of flowering mountain-gorse?’ – ‘So much?
Too much for me, then!’ turning the face round
So close upon me that I felt the sigh
It turned with.

‘Marian, Marian’ – face to face –
‘Marian! I find you. Shall I let you go?’
I held her two slight wrists with both my hands;
‘Ah Marian, Marian, can I let you go?’
– She fluttered from me like a cyclamen,
As white, which taken in a sudden wind
Beats on against the palisade. – ‘Let pass,’
She said at last. ‘I will not,’ I replied;
‘I lost my sister Marian many days,
And sought her ever in my walks and prayers,
And, now I find her … do we throw away
The bread we worked and prayed for, – crumble it
And drop it,.. to do even so by thee
Whom still I’ve hungered after more than bread,
My sister Marian? – can I hurt thee, dear?
Then why distrust me? Never tremble so.
Come with me rather where we’ll talk and live
And none shall vex us.

(Aurora Leigh, Book Six, ll.420-58)


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