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Miss Coppock went; but the spell over Paul was broken. He smiled when Patty looked at him again, and the flush faded from his face.
"You do not give me up because the picture is finished," she said softly ; " you will come and see me sometimes, unless indeed it bores you to come."
"That is not likely ;"—and then he looked grave—"but a man who has his way to make in the world has no time for visiting."
Patty's eyes sparkled with anger; she could not understand him; still she said with her most winning sweetness, "Goodby ; I know you will come."
Stephen Pritchard had not improved in his travels. According to Jeremy Tayl.or, niuch travelling is not- likely to raise a man's mind, however much it may widen it. When Paul Whitmore reached Harwich, he found his friend with looser notions than ever about life.
"Either I've grown more straitlaced, old fellow, or else your free-thinking has gone ahead since we parted company."
"By which you mean to insinuate that I have deteriorated. Stop a bit; let us argue the point, as an old aunt of mine has a way of saying when you ask her to lend you money in a hurry. In the first place, as to body, look at yourself, and then look at me. You are, of course, the best-looking man of the two, inasmuch as you are not blessed with a Roman nose turned upside down, which I take mine to be; and you have black eyes instead of boiled gooseberries under your brows ; but I'm speaking of health, sir. You are pale, and thin, and sallow ; you look worried to death; whereas my portlv visage has grown so smooth and rosy, that Care couldn't drive a furrow across it, if she tried : there's an elasticity of health on it which resists all impression from without."
"Care comes usually from within." Paid was vexed, and amused at the same time.
"Don't be in a hurry, I'm coming to that, and don't forget also that I've been living under sunny skies, where life is treated more rationally than it is in our breathless little island. I've been enjoying existence abroad - not using life as a machine full of faculties for making the
largest possible amount of money in the shortest possible amount of time. Care may come from within, but it won't come of itself; it comes chiefly from the contemplation of some possible or ideal future. Paul, my dear,fellow, I gave you all the warning I could, but you wouldn't listen. I'm sorry for you, but you are the very last man who ought to have married."
Paul made no answer. He thought Pritchard was trespassing beyond any right of friendship. He felt sorry their companions had left them to finish the evening together.
They were sitting near the window, and could see the lights glittering over the shadowy town, and hear the swell of the waves plashing against the pier.
"Paul,"—Pritchard's voice was as soft as a woman; it sounded strangely sweet in the dim silence,—"you musn't get huffed if I speak my mind. I shall look upon you as a youngster when you have a grey beard. Just now I said I hadn't a care or an anxiety, but I've got them in looking at you. I should like to know what's amiss. I've not seen such trouble in your face since that tune when you first came back from Ashton. Stop; I've not done; what I mean is this— marriage is a mistake for such a man as you are; and if you and your wife are not happy together, part at once, and save each other a life's misery.
Paul started up; but Pritchard would be heard out.
i" I speak for her sake quite as much as for yours. She has a soul that will never be satisfied with any love that does not match hers. Bless you "—he tried to laugh, ashamed of his own earnestness —" I understand women: they're best studied through their eyes—when they are true women, that's to say; but for all that .they were never meant to torment a man's life out to satisfy their conceptions of what life ought to be: therefore I say if a man isn't happy with his wife, it's a far kinder act to separate from her than to break her heart by constant disappointments."
Paul had stood grasping the back of his chair while he listened.
"Unless you mean us to quarrel, Pritchard, you must avoid the subject altogether,"—he was deeply offended, and his voice showed it; "but it seems better to tell you, once for all, you are quite mistaken: my wife and I are very hap
He left the room. He would not go out; he was afraid Pritchard might follow him, or that he might meet the two artists, wtio just then would have been most unwelcome.
He went upstairs into his bedroom, and threw open the window. It had been a great effort to keep his hands off Pritchard. That he should dare to speak of his married life to him at all was unbearable; but that he should have studied Nuna so as to give him (Paul) a new insight into her heart, had been so startling, that astonishment had for the time held anger within bounds. It blazed out now fierce and unchecked.
That a free thinking, pleasure-loving being like Pritchard should presume to give his advice on so sacred and delicate a subject as married happiness, was intolerable.
"What can he know about it?" said Paul; "what can he know about the love of any pure good woman, or about how it should be prized and cherished?"
He pulled up short here, as if his thoughts had run against a stone wall; but they went on again, glancing aside from the question he had asked.
"Strange that he should have formed that opinion of Nuna! I wonder what he got it from—her eyes, he said ;" and Paul sat pondering till the lights grew brighter in the deepening blackness, and the hum of voices in the street below his window grew hushed, and left the dull plash of the waves to unbroken monotony. Was Nuna dissatisfied? He had told Pritchard he and his wife were happy together ; happy—-and then he began to question the meaning of the word.
"Why did I marry?" he asked himself not repiningly, but in earnest seriousness—and the answer came, he had married for happiness, with a yearning for that pure bliss which his own early memories had taught him was to be found in a loving union, in a true home.
He had been young at the time of his father's death, but still he had distinct detached memories of seeing his parents together. He recalled these now; he was trying to discover whether his notion of married happiness was not something fantastic and unreal.
"I've read that our capacity for happiness is larger than is our power of gratifying it, and this is one of the means by which we are taught to aspire to the perfect love of heaven; but yet I fancy there may be intense happiness on earth for those who have full sympathy in its enjoyment: surely, so simple, so uncostly a thing as domestic happiness is within the reach of all."
You laugh at Paul for thinking this, you say he is visionary, he has none of that valuable and popular quality which those who have no other faculty label "invaluable common sense ;" but your common sense may help you here, if you remember that Paul Whitmore had seen little of married life, and that the few families he knew intimately were happy and united.
It seemed to him, as his thoughts travelled back to childish days, that his father and mother were always associated in his recollections—and then he remembered to have heard that they were not happy apart: almost Nuna's own words when she said good-by to him. How wistful she had looked; and he had thought her tiresome not to take his absence more as a matter of course. A feeling of self-reproach came—how often he had left Nuna, and they had not been married a year!
"Though, in the love I am thinking of, time would make no difference, unless indeed affection became deepened and intensified by daily growth—a growth quickened by acts of love, done for the sake of one another."
He was getting less visionary, you see, but he was still vague; he still trusted in love itself too much as a sheet-anchor, without premising that the love must be so pure, so perfect, so really heaven-born, as to make the home in which it hides itself from wordly eyes an earthly Paradise. He knew what he meant and what he wanted; memory told him, and something nearer than memory, that he was the child of such a home: but as yet Paul only knew it might be; he did not grasp that the treasure he sought lay on his own hearthstone, and might be his if he really loved Nuna as she loved him. If he had asked Nana why she married,, she could not have given the same deliberate answer. She would probably have said that life would have been intolerable away from Paul; if she had been older, and so had gained insight into her own nature, she would have known that the overmastering love she bore to Paul had so united her to him that she had no separate existence. Left alone away from him, life became gray and neutraltinted,—she was like a chrysalis; her own life lay shrivelled in the past; only the presence of her love could quicken her pulses and rouse her from apathy and vacancy. No one had ever warned Nuna against idolatry; all other love since Mary's death had been thrown back on the ardent young soul, as the cold gray rock flings back the waves on the stones of the beach. Paul had drawn out her hidden love, kindled it, all unconscious of its intense and ardent power, till Nuna had grown to believe that there was no happiness that could satisfy so exacting a nature as her own. From the first she had a consciousness that she had been easily won, that her love had existed before Paul's had. It was her character to take blame to herself; it had not occurred to her, except in petulant, quickly repented of moments, seriously to doubt the strength of her husband's love.
While Paul sat thinking, it came to him that two subjects were continually trying to piece themselves together in his mind, and that from this very persistence there must be some mysterious affinity between them—the love of his father and his mother, and Pritchard's mention of Nuna. He called up the vision of her eyes ; there seemed to him to be reproach in their lovely tenderness. Was he unhappy away from Nuna? No ;—he tried to answer Yes; but he remembered that of his own free will he had settled to stay a day longer with Pritchard than he had at first intended.
He was uneasy and restless; he got up and walked .about. Pritchard's advice came back, and he felt more angry than ever that he should have given occasion for such an expression of opinion; and as he raised his head haughtily, and threw back his hair with the old familiar action, Nuna's eyes, pleading, tender,—how passionately tender!—seemed to be looking from the dark corner of the room.
Paul's head lowered suddenly, and his hand clasped over his eyes. He was not trying to shut out the picture he had seen, 4e was concentrating thought on it. His
heart swelled and throbbed with a strange mixture of sorrow and joy; sorrow in which remorse was mingled, and joy full of anticipation. Yes, he had wronged his wife; he had not been untrue lo her: in his heart Paul still thought he had behaved admirably and with rare self-denial in his interviews with Mrs. Downes, but he ought not to have kept a secret from Nuna.
"I never will have another," he said; "I'll tell her everything, and she's such a darling, for the very telling her she'll forgive at once."
In his usual impulsive fashion he settled to go home directly. Why not? it was not ten o'clock yet. He packed his bag, went down and wrote a note to Pritchard, who had gone to bed, and then found that no train left till six o'clock next morning
This news set his impatience so ablaze that he went out, left his bag at the station, and resolved to pass the time awake.
He made his way to the pier and sat there, looking out over the sea, grown so quiet and still now, that its vast smooth face seemed to vex his restlessness. He sat thinking still of Nuna; had he given her much unhappiness? The only time he had ever suspected she might have grief which she hid away was on that night when he had been startled at the fire in her eyes; he had warned her against jealousy then, and he remembered the strange echo his words had had to him; he remembered, too, that on that same night had come the note from Mr. Downes.
"It would be terrible to make her jealous," he said thoughtfully; but he was thinking more of the disunion and strife it would cause than of the pain to Nuna's heart. He wondered now at the fascination he had found in those sittings in Park Lane, and side by side with the tender passion of his wife's eyes he saw that last look of Patty's. He turned from it with a feeling of reproach; he asked himself how he would like Nuna to look into any man's eyes as Patty had thus looked into his—into Will Bright"s, for instance.
"What a Pharisee I'm growing!" he scoffed at himself. "Bright himself could not be narrower—as if women know what their eyes say; it's just a trick of expression: I have heard Nuna herself complain of her stepmother's lectures about this. Poor darling! she hasn't an idea of the way in which her eyes betray her.
And yet, that last look of Patty's, judge it as leniently as he would, had suddenly robbed her of the charm which had held him in thrall ; it had brought back his first shrinking. Which was the real woman, he asked himself, as he sat there in darkness —the Patty he had grown to believe in, or the artificial, worldly creature he had recognized at his first meeting with Mrs. Downes?
But Nuna's claims upon him had been strengthening even while his mind had wandered from them. He was angry with himself for thus wasting his thoughts away from her.
He did not attempt to analyze his feelings,—there was a blissful certainty of coming joy in them which was too exciting for such a process; but he felt that Nuna had never seemed so precious—felt, too, in a half-real way, as a man feels who is suddenly told that a familiar book in his library is of rare value, not to be purchased for money.
He might have got a clue to the change in himself if he had remarked his complacency regarding Pritchard; he had forgotten all about his friend's unpalatable advice.
By the time twelve o'clock sounded over the silent town, Paul felt so reconciled to life that he went back to the inn, and, finding his room still disengaged, went to bed and slept soundly till Boots roused him for his early journey.
Nuna had not slept all night; and now, as she sat before her untasted breakfast, her eyes looked hard and bright, and there was a feverish spot on each cheek, which showed that want of rest had not overmastered the inward trouble that was working in her heart. Literally at work in every pulse-beat, it seemed to thrill over her whole body; a feeling till now latent had been roused to active life.
On the night before, she had sat up later than usual. Paul would be home the next evening; only twenty-four hours before she saw him; would he come, or should she get a letter to say, as he had said before, that he should stay away yet another day?
"How can I bear it?" she had said on this evening; "if he only could once know what his presence is to me, he would come, I know he would."
Nuna had never been able to conceive herself as necessary to Paul as he was to_ her: without fathoming th^ shallowness of her husband's affection for her, she had accepted as a disappointment, but still as an inevitable fact, that women were made for men, and not men for women; and . when her imagination grew rebellious of the curb she strove to lay on it, and pictured earthly joys, more intense than any she had known, in the heart to heart communion of two souls made one by love, she had tried to school herself by the conviction that she was not worthy of Paul, and that she got as much of his affection as she could hope for.
"I was too easily won," she said. "Why else has he been so cold and silent lately? I am not companion enough for
him, and he gets dull—ah ! but "and
she remembered how lovingly he had urged her to go to Gray's Farm.
"But that was to go away from him," and she smiled through the tears in her eyes. For the present her grief lay hushed within her; she had nothing actually to complain of, she tried to hope that time would work a change.
"If you please, ma'am," said the prim maid, "here's a man with a picture from the frame-maker's. He's not quite sure if he was to bring it here or to Park I.ane; but he says, as it's so late, he'll leave it now and call again in the morning to know if it's right."
"Very well," said Nnna; "say your master is out, and I don't know if it is right, but he can bring the picture in."
A man came in, almost staggering under the weight he carried, but Nuna was preoccupied,— she did not look round even to see where he placed the picture.
The man went out again, the servant followed him, and the door was closed.
The strange feeling of depression which had hung over Nuna lately was still heavy upon her. She felt nervous, and wished suddenly that the studio was not so large, so that the shadowy, far-off corners might lose the gloomy terrors which she thought oppressed her.
"I'll go to bed," she said; "I have sat up till I'm tired out. I believe I am afraid of that huge picture ; I wonder what it can be. The best way is to look at it."
She had shrunk from doing this, remembering Paul's dislike to be questioned about his portraits; but in his absence it was such a dear delight to gaze on something that his hand had touched—something created by the mind she so worshipped.
The picture had been placed against the bookcase; Nuna had been sitting at the table with her'back towards it. She took her reading lamp, and went close up to it; her eyes did not at once reach the face; she was arrested by the marvellous painting of the hands, the grace of the attitude; "so simple, so unstudied," she said. "Paul has given this fine lady the freshness of a country girl."
She started so violently when her eyes reached the face that she nearly upset her lamp—started with a kind of superstitious terror—a terror which raised the hair on her teirfples, and bathed her forehead in sudden dew then a scornful smile of incredulity curved her lips; she raised the lamp higher, and took a still closer survey.
She did not start this time. Something seemed to steel her against any outward emotion. Her heart felt dead, stony while she stood, still as the picture itself, taking in every detail of Patty's exceeding loveliness.
She came back to the table at last, set the lamp down, and stood thinking with fixed eyes and clasped hands.
Not for long. Nuna felt on a sudden that if she stayed near the portrait she sliould do it a mischief. She made no effort against the wild tempest that had risen in her bosom. She had tried, at first, to tell herself that there was some
accidental likeness, but conviction stifled this. It was Patty, and she had sought Paul out, and tried to rekindle his old love.
"Oh, God!" moaned Nuna, " take me in mercy! How am I to live, if Paul loves her?"
The night was full of torture. She had spent it mostly in walking up and clown her bedroom, pressing her bare feet on the carpet with the longing after pain that mental agony creates; and now this morning she was not really calmer, only stilled by exhaustion.
She had tried to pray, but her dry, parched tongue had uttered words which her heart gave no voice to; and now, as she thought of the hours she was doomed to pass alone in the same room with that smiling, lovely face, her despair grew to frenzy, and she wrung her hands.
Nuna had none of the helpless feebleness which makes some women seek for instant support against sorrow—a feebleness which, if rightly guided, brings true help to the seeker, or, in another way it may be, deepens her misery. Paul had been the rock on which all her hopes had anchored. She only relied on Paul's counsel and will, and now Paul had no more love for her. She must go on loving him; he was a part of her being now; but pride, every true womanly feeling, Nuna thought, must prevent her from showing her love.
"He has separated us by his own act," and the words pierced through her as she spoke them. "Oh, Paul! could you have kept this secret from me if you had ever loved me at all?"
She had no power to withdraw herself from the hateful picture, so she sat through the morning, dry-eyed, waiting for her husband's return.
(To be continued.)
* Chambers's Journal.
IN KAMTCHATKA AND THE COUNTRY OF THE KORAKS.
Thk Russo-American Telegraph Company's exploring parties have clone a great deal for the extension of knowledge, and the intellectual amusement of mankind. The grand project, abandoned on the adoption of the Atlantic cable, has produced for us stay-at-home travellers some of the most delightful books we have ever enjoyed. Mr. Whymper, Mr. Hell, and
Mr. Kennan* have each opened up for us immense tracts of the great earth, hitherto unknown, and carried us through scenes of surpassing interest. The tremendous icefields of the Alaska Territory, the awful canons of the Colorado country, are
* Tent Life in Siberia. By George Kennan. New York: Cj. P. Putnam & Sons.