Read Heartsease; Or, The Brother’s Wife Part 119

Heartsease; Or, The Brother’s Wife is a Webnovel made by Charlotte M. Yonge.
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Read WebNovel Heartsease; Or, The Brother’s Wife Part 119

‘There is one thing to be thankful for!’ said Theodora. The visit was very short; Emma hardly spoke or raised her eyes, and Theodora hoped that some of her timidity arose from repentance for her false judgment of Violet. To Theodora, she said–‘You shall see Theresa’s explanation,’

and Theodora deserved credit for not saying it would be a curiosity.

Lady Elizabeth did as she had not done since Theodora was a little child; she put her arm round her neck and kissed her affectionately, murmuring, ‘Thank you, my dear.’

This little scene seemed to brace Theodora for the trial of the evening.

Percy had offered to sit up that night with Arthur, and she had to receive him, and wait with him in the drawing-room till he should be summoned. It was a hard thing to see him so distant and reserved, and the mere awkwardness was unpleasant enough. She could devise nothing to say that did not touch on old times, and he sat engrossed with a book the reviewal of which was to be his night’s employment.


Should this new-blossomed hope be coldly nipped, Then were I desolate indeed.

–Philip van Artevelde–H. TAYLOR

The night was apt to be the worst time with Arthur; and Violet generally found him in the morning in a state of feverish discomfort and despondency that was not easily soothed. Anxious to know how he had fared with his new attendant, she came in as early as possible, and was rejoiced to find that he had pa.s.sed an unusually comfortable night, had been interested and cheered by Percy’s conversation, and had slept some hours.

Percy’s occupation, in the meantime, was shown by some sheets of ma.n.u.script on the table near the fire.

‘I see you have not been losing time,’ said Violet.

‘I fear–I fear I have,’ he answered, as rather nervously he began to gather up some abortive commencements and throw them into the fire.

‘Take care, that is mine,’ exclaimed she, seeing the words ‘Mrs.

Martindale,’ and thinking he had seized upon a letter which he had written to her from Worthbourne on Arthur’s business. She held out her hand for it, and he yielded it, but the next moment she saw it was freshly written; before she could speak she heard the door closed, and Arthur sleepily muttered, ‘Gone already.’ Dreading some new branch of the Boulogne affair, she sat down, and with a beating heart read by the firelight:–

‘I can bear it no longer! Long ago I committed one great folly, and should have been guilty of a greater, if you had not judged more wisely for me than I for myself. You did, indeed, act “kindly as ever”; and I have thanked you for it a thousand times, since I came to my senses in the dismal alt.i.tude of my “sixieme etage” at Paris.

‘No disrespect to your sister, to whom I did greater injustice than I knew, in asking her to seal my mistake. I threw away a rough diamond because its sharp edges scratched my fingers, and, in my fit of pa.s.sion, tried to fill up its place with another jewel. Happily you and she knew better! Now I see the diamond sparkling, refined, transcendent, with such chastened l.u.s.tre as even I scarce dared to expect!

‘These solitary years of disappointment have brought me to a sense of the harshness and arrogance of my dealings with the high nature that had so generously intrusted itself to me. There was presumption from the first in undertaking to mould her, rudeness in my attempts to control her, and precipitate pa.s.sion and jealousy in resenting the displeasure I had provoked; and all was crowned by the absurd notion that pique with her was love of your sister!

‘I see it all now, or rather I have seen it ever since it was too late; I have brooded over it till I have been half distracted, night after night! And now I can hardly speak, or raise my head in her presence.

I must have her pardon, whether I dare or not to ask one thing more. I never was sure that her heart was mine; my conduct did not deserve it, whatever my feelings did. If she accepted me from romance, I did enough to open her eyes! I am told she accepts Lord St. Erme–fit retribution on me, who used to look down on him in my arrogant folly, and have to own that he has merited her, while I–

‘But, at least, I trust to your goodness to obtain some word of forgiveness for me without disturbing her peace of mind. I would not expose her to one distressing scene! She has gone through a great deal, and the traces of grief and care on that n.o.ble countenance almost break my heart. I would not give her the useless pain of having to reject me, and of perceiving the pain I should not be able to conceal.

‘I commit myself to your kindness, then, and entreat of you, if the feeling for me was a delusion, or if it is extinct, to let me know in the manner least painful to you; and, when she can endure the subject, to tell her how bitterly I have repented of having tried to force humility on her, when I stood in still greater need of the lesson, and of having flown off in anger when she revolted at my dictation. One word of forgiveness would be solace in a life of deserved loneliness and disappointment.’

Trembling with gladness, Violet could hardly refrain from rousing Arthur to hear the good news! She hastily wrote the word ‘Try!’ twisted it into a note, and sent it down in case Mr. Fotheringham should still be in the house. The missive returned not, and she sat down to enjoy her gladness as a Sunday morning’s gift.

For Violet, though weak, anxious, and overworked, was capable of receiving and being cheered by each sunbeam that shone on herself or on her loved ones. Perhaps it was the reward of her resignation and trust, that even the partic.i.p.ation (as it might almost be called) of her husband’s suffering, and the constantly hearing his despondence, could not deprive her of her hopefulness. Ever since the first two days she had been buoyed up by a persuasion of his recovery, which found food in each token of improvement; and, above all, there was something in Arthur that relieved the secret burden that had so long oppressed her.

She was free to receive solace and rejoice in the joy of others; and when Theodora met her in the morning, eye and lip were beaming with a suppressed smile of congratulation, that hardly suited with the thin, white face.

‘Arthur’s comfortable night has done you both good,’ said Theodora.

‘Percy is a better nurse than I.’

‘Oh, yes! it is all Percy’s doing!’ said Violet, there checking herself; but laughing and blushing, so that for a moment she looked quite girlishly pretty.

No more was heard of Mr. Fotheringham till Johnnie came home from the afternoon’s service, and reported that the owl-man was in the drawing-room with Aunt Theodora.

At church Johnnie had seen his papa’s good-natured friend in the aisle, and with his hand on the door of the seat and his engaging face lifted up, had invited him in.

Innocent Johnnie! he little knew what tumultuous thoughts were set whirling through his aunt’s mind. The last time Percy had joined her at church, the whole time of the service had been spent in the conflict between pride and affection. Now there was shame for this fresh swarm of long-forgotten sins, and as the recollection saddened her voice in the confession, foremost was the sense of sacrilege in having there cherished them, and turned her prayer into sin. No wonder she had been for a time yielded up to her pride and self-will!

As silently as usual they walked home from church, and she would at once have gone up-stairs, but he said, in a low, hoa.r.s.e voice, as her foot was on the step, ‘May I speak to you?’

She turned. It was so strangely like that former occasion that she had a curious bewildered feeling of having pa.s.sed through the same before; and perhaps she had, in her dreams. Scarcely conscious, she walked towards the fire.

‘Can you forgive me?’ said the same husky voice.

She raised her eyes to his face. ‘Oh, Percy!’–but she could say no more, cut short by rising sobs; and she could only hide her face, and burst into tears.

He was perfectly overwhelmed. ‘Theodora, dearest! do not! I have been too hasty,’ he exclaimed, almost beside himself with distress, and calling her by every affectionate name.

‘Never mind! It is only because I have become such a poor creature!’

said she, looking up with a smile, lost the next moment in the uncontrollable weeping.

‘It is my fault!–my want of consideration! I will go–I will call Mrs.


‘No, no, don’t, don’t go!’ said Theodora, eagerly–her tears driven back. ‘It was only that I am so foolish now.’

‘It was very wrong to be so abrupt–‘

‘No! Oh! it was the relief!’ said Theodora, throwing off her shawl, as if to free herself from oppression. Percy took it from her, placed her in the arm-chair, and rendered her all the little attentions in his power with a sort of trembling eagerness, still silent; for she was very much exhausted,–not so much from present agitation as from the previous strain on mind and body.

It seemed to give a softness and tenderness to their reunion, such as there never had been between them before, as she leant back on the cushions he placed for her, and gazed up in his face as he stood by her, while she rested, as if unwilling to disturb the peace and tranquillity.

At last she said, ‘Did I hear you say you had forgiven me?’

‘I asked if you could forgive me?’

‘I!’ she exclaimed, rousing herself and sitting up,–‘I have nothing to forgive! What are you thinking of?’

‘And is it thus you overlook the presumption and harshness that–‘

‘Hush!’ said Theodora; ‘I was unbearable. No man of sense or spirit could be expected to endure such treatment. But, Percy, I have been very unhappy about it, and I do hope I am tamer at last, if you will try me again.’

‘Theodora!’ cried Percy, hardly knowing what he said. ‘Can you mean it?

After all that is past, may I believe what I dared not feel a.s.sured of even in former days?’

‘Did you not?’ said Theodora, sorrowfully. ‘Then my pride must have been even worse than I supposed.’


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