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shine to shame her nakedness; she has no need of the veils and wrappings which have a way of disguising her altogether.
Nuna opened the letter; the handwriting was quite unknown, but instinct told her, at once, who was her correspondent.
She changed color while she read; indignant surprise and fear chased each other as she went on; but when she ended, a look of determined indignation was paramount.
The letter was from Patty.
"Dear Mrs. Whitmore,
"Your husband has been dining with us, and we have planned to go abroad together in a week's time. I dare say Mr. Whitmore will write and tell you all about it; but as I know husbands are forgetful, I think it better to invite you myselfto join our party.
"I fancy you will like to go with us, although I believe artists never take their wives about with them on their sketching expeditions, and you are doubtless often left alone, and are used to it. I think this little holiday will be highly advantageous to your husband. Mr. Downes has most influential foreign acquaintances, and you may be sure he will recommend Mr. Whitmore to their notice; and your husband is such a real friend of mine, that 1 feel we shall enjoy our journey together. I take Miss Coppock with me, so that you will always have a companion, even if I cannot be at your service.
"I hope you will come.
"Elinor M. Downes."
Nana rose up, dilating with passion.
"Insolent—yes, I will go; I will not yield Paul tamely up to the amusement of this woman. She does not love him; she could not write of him in this way if she did; but she will not give up his admiration. Oh, how can one woman be so cruel to another!"
She could not follow Mrs. Fag^s advice. There was no use in lying down; her whole body was full of movement; in her vehement anger against Patty the blood seemed to course through her veins like fire. She excused Paul for dining in Park Lane; he might have told her, perhaps, but then it might have been a sudden invitation, unlooked for, when he wrote his note.
Mr. Beaufort came in; and her indignation had to pause; he was more cheerful than usual; he had begun already to look forward to these stray bits of chat with his daughter. It was a change to
find her sweet, loving eyes with a welcome in them, after his late loneliness.
And Nuna had specially exerted herself to amuse him,—had been more like the arch, bright child of former days than the absent, dreamy girl of the months that had followed Mary's death. To-day, she forgot all her new resolutions; forgot her father's presence, even. She sat silent, self-absorbed, till Mr. Beaufort's weary sighs roused her.
He was tired; his head ached; now he came to think of it, he had a nervous pain in his knee, which made him feel quite sick. The clock struck; and Nuna looking at her watch saw that it was time to release Mrs. Fagg. She felt miserable.; she must go now, and leave her poor sad father to his hipped fancies; if she had only been less selfish, if .she had thought of him, he might have changed his whole atmosphere of thought, and have let in such a flood of sunny brightness, that even when alone his brooding fretfulness would have been scared away.
She left him as heavy-hearted as she was herself.
"There's no good in me at all," she thought, sadly: "I may have the will to improve, but I've no memory for it;—as careless in that as in the rest."
Mrs. Beaufort slept sounder to-night, and Nuna slept too.
When she opened her eyes, and saw the room full of light, it seemed to her that she was dreaming. Surely the night had not gone; she had had no rest in sleep; she had been moving from one place to another, always in pursuit of Patty—Patty, who had seemed forever indistinct, though not invisible, and who held a black screen between Nuna and her husband.
Nuna rose softly from the sofa on which she had been lying, and passed into the dressing-room adjoining. She opened the window. How genially the fresh pure air rushed in to release the fevered atmosphere of the sick-room! How sweetly the birds were twittering to each other! The calves were bleating for their mothers in the yard hard by; there was that cheerful stir of country life which tells that another day has begun, and that men and dumb creatures are alike up and ready for it, going forth to their labor with willingness and good cheer.
"And I am not ready for another day," Nuna sighed. "Each day makes my load heavier. Oh, if I could only forget it all!"
The postman's hom sounded earlier than usual.
Jane came up presently with Mrs. Beaufort's breakfast, and a letter for Mrs. Whitmore.
Paul's handwriting this time. Nuna's heart throbbed so, that she stayed in the dressing-room to read. She feared Elizabeth would notice her agitation.
It was only a short letter, to tell her he had been asked to join Lord Charles Seton on a sketching expedition in the interior of France, and Spain; he did not count on being away more than a month or so.
"I will not go if you really dislike the plan," he ended, "but I frankly tell you I am pleased at the prospect of seeing Spain with some one who has already been there. Write, and tell me what you think about it."
Nuna put the letter down, and passed her hand across her forehead, to clear her brain, as it were, from the mist that obscured it.
What was this—falsehood—from Paul?
"Why does he say nothing about her?" she cried, in anguish. "Does he not think I could bear anything easier than deceit? What shall I do? Oh, I shall go mad!"
She had thought Paul cold and neglectful, and careless of her love ;but to deceive her! She had never felt as she did now—his judge.
And yet it was not the same sort of tempest that had risen in her soul at sight of Patty's picture. Something in the truth of Nuna's love told her that Paul was true, although he did not love her; and though this last thought was bitter, and though her jealousy still tried at intervals to gain a hearing, still she could not believe that such a woman as Patty could win more than admiration from her husband.' The agony which gnawed at her heart, which took all light and color from her hopes of winning Paul's love, was his want of trust.
"I see it now," she said, while scalding tears blistered the letter she still held, though she could no longer see it. "He cannot forget my jealousy; he will not mention her name, because he thinks I should never consent to his going with her. In his mercy for my silliness, he would not have told me of any companion
beside Lord Charles Seton. Ah, Paul! Paul!" she sobbed, "you might have trusted your poor, foolish little wife. Neither love nor trust! How am I to live out my life without either? If I could only die and leave him free!"
"Second thoughts are best;" "Impulse is often a dangerous guide ;" and yet, in spite of these two sage maxims, one rarely repents of having answered a letter in the first flush of affectionate feeling.
But Mrs. Beaufort was so disturbed at sight of Nuna's red eyes and swollen eyelids, that she grew restless and feverish; and some hours passed away before Nuna had leisure or quiet.
Her feelings had had time to chill when Mrs. Fagg came to release her.
It was plain that Paul wished to go; and that he had no thought of or desire for her presence on the journey—why should she thwart him?
"If he can be happy away from me for so long, why should I interfere? He certainly will not love me any the better for keeping him against his will, and from what he evidently considers enjoyment."
She writhed at this, but she was fast hardening against her husband.
There is this fearful result attached to selfishness that it never contents itself with injury to its producer; almost every selfish act tends to harden some one or other against whom it is exercised; and, just as water has the magical power of drawing water to itself, selfishness develops the same quality which may have been lying latent elsewhere.
Nuna's would hardly have been called a selfish nature. She had not lived actively for herself; but she had never yet realized the lesson that must be learned sooner or later—and for her own real happiness the sooner a woman learns it the better—that she must live actively for those among whom her lot is cast; and that she may, if she so wills, change every little cross and vexation of daily life into a sacrifice of love—not in that way of self-conscious martyrdom which is only another form of selfishness, but the hidden joy of a heart which is striving, ever so unworthily, to tread the way of the Cross.
Nuna sat thinking.
"Am I never to come to reality in my life ?" she said ; but there were no streaming eyes now; the slender fingers lay listlessly in her lap: they were not twisting and writhing as they had in the morning. "I never remember a time when I was not looking forward; how long is this to go on?" She got up, and paced up and down her bed room. Women like Nuna keep their childhood longer than others; but when they develop, and it is usually some outer shock which causes this development, the growth is startling.
"I am not a child." She stopped suddenly, and looked around her: all those tiny trifles left untouched in her room, memories of the vague dreamy time which suddenly swept away from her forever, had lost interest in her eyes. "I shall never have more faculties than I have now—I shall never have any one to depend on, or consult." Some sobs tried for escape, but she kept them back. "I shall never be younger or prettier—if I ever was pretty :" a scornful pity for herself curled her lips. "Why should I think I can ever be more attractive to Paul than I have been? He only cares for looks in a woman; and he does not care for mine. He dosen't dislike me—his note shows that; besides, till now, I don't think he has tried to deceive me; but he and 1 understand love differently—which of us is right, I wonder?"
Nuna kept walking up and down, thinking, still thinking. Time was slipping away; she knew that Mrs Fagg's visit would soon be over, and then she must return to her post.
The longer she thought, the more useless it seemed to her to indulge hope as to her future life with Paul.
Once a wild idea had come of going away, hiding herself—and so leaving him free to choose a wife who could win his love; though the weeds of neglect had choked much of Nuna's early teaching, her good angel had not been quite repulsed; something within her shrank from a wilful breaking of her marriage vow.
At last, a resolution came; and in her over-wrought state she thought it must be right, because it would give her pain to act it out.
"I must go back to Paul—there is no help for it." She stopped and suppressed, with renewed self-contempt, the leap her heart gave at the thought of seeing him again, "but I must try to live his life, not my own. I must not think him wrong because he cannot love as I love. How do I know that my wild, undisciplined
nature has not made me more craving after love than other women are? I used to laugh at Elizabeth's notions. Was she right, after all? She seems only calmly fond of my father. Mrs. Bright, too— how she is able to talk of her dead husband quietly, peacefully, as if he had only been her friend. Surely, if I strive for indifference, it must come ; and then, when Paul no longer fears being tormented by my jealousy or my love, he may at least treat me with confidence."
She sat down, and wrote, keeping watch on every word, least it should show any impatience of his absence, or anxiety for his return; she tried to write simply, as if Patty's letter had never reached Ashton, and yet, spite of herself, the guarded words had a chill in them, which expressed haughtiness and displeasure.
She finished it at last, and fastened the envelope.
"I have thought too long already; I will send it without more delay.
She went towards the sick-room; Jane came out of the door as she reached it.
"I've been sitting with mistress, please ma'am. Mrs. Fagg said, as you looked so poorly, you mustn't be disturbed ; she's been gone this half-hour. It's too late for the letter, ma'am," she added, glancing at Nuna's hand.
Some days have gone by; the weather has changed; it ought not to be autumn yet, but there is a chilly feel in the evening air. Mrs. Downes shivers as she sits on board the steamer, and she sends Miss Coppock down to fetch warmer wrappings. Lying on the deck near her, almost at her feet, is Lord Charles Seton; and the two men pacing up and down, while they smoke, are Paul Whitmore and Mr. Downes.
Both are silent; and both, though the previous talk between them would not have led them to guess it, are thinking of their wives—thinking, too, that they have respectively just cause for dissatisfaction with them.
Marriage has acted differently on these men, as it must always act on diverse degrees of love. Mr. Dpwnes has been selfish and worldly, but he married his wife only because he loved her; and the very disappointment her cold return to his affection caused, has developed in her husband a patience and an unselfishness which perhaps nothing else might have elicited: the most unselfish wives do not always belong to the least selfish husbands.
Paul often asked himself lately why he had married his wife. The impression that Nuna had made on his fancy, he knew, would easily have been obliterated, and he found himself deprived of the freedom which he considered belonged to him, by the presence of a companion he seemed to have no power of making happy.
"Nuna is discontented by nature," he said to himself, as they paced up and down. "Of course she is superior in many ways to Patty; but how easily she takes life! it refreshes one to hear her silvery laugh, even when she laughs at nothing."
But Paul's face grew graver as he thought of Nuna's last letter: he considered it sullen and rebellious.
"I shall take my time about writing again," he thought. "I can quite fancy she wrote that letter off in a fit of temper. I never knew Nuna had a temper till that affair of the picture. She's jealous again, I suppose, that 1 should get beyond her apron-string. Well, she must come to her senses. I will write as soon as we make a decided halt, and tell her where to address letters. I dare say she's happy enough; in that first letter she said they were all so kind."
At the remembrance of that first letter a thrill of keen disappointment made itself felt. Any one looking at Paul's determined face would have said there was a spasm of jealous anger there—but it was anger against himself. He had read Nuna's first note hurriedly, but its lovingness brought back for a moment the selfcreated vision he had had during his lonely watch on the pier.
He would not have nourished resentment against his wife if he had been better satisfied with himself. He was not quite so much to blame as Nuna had thought him, for when Patty wrote to his wife, Mr. Downes had only given a half-consent to the foreign journey; and it had been at first arranged that Paul and Lord Charles Seton should start together, and join the others at Bruges. But when this plan had been overruled by Mrs. Downes's quiet tact, it seemed to Paul that it would
only vex Nuna, and that, as he meant to keep aloof from the Downes's, there was no occasion to tell his wife the names of all his travelling companions.
As to his visit to Park Lane, he had gone to meet Lord Charles Seton, and really no husband was bound to tell his wife where he passed all his time during her absence; and yet, though he said all this to himself, Paul Whitmore was not happy or content.
"It is all her fault!" His companion's silence gave his thoughts no respite.
"I begin to fancy Nuna is coming out in a truer light: till now I seem never to have understood her. She seemed a sweet, timid creature, without a will of her own. I hate men to ill-use their wives. I'm sure I have always been kind to Nuna—I always mean to be kind—but if she thinks I am going tamely to submit to be managed, she is very much mistaken."
He gave a long weary sigh at the picture his words had called up—a life spent with a jealous woman—jealous of every word or look which he might give to any other, and jealous and exacting as to her own rights.
"Pritchard was right," he said, sullenly. "I ought never to have married unless I could have found some one easy-tempered and indulgent enough to adapt herself to my erratic ways. I am not like other men; and if Nuna really loved me, she would have found that out. My mother always understood me; but then, was there ever a woman like my mother?"
It is a holy and happy thought for a mother to look forward to this sort of canonization in a son's memory; but for the sake of that son's future happiness, and the partner who will share it, it might be well if mothers would teach their darlings to live a little for the happiness of others. Slavish worship, however aptly precepts may be uttered along with it, must teach active selfishness.
An impatient turn in the midst of the walk made Paul look at his companion.
Mr. Downes left him, and went up to his wife.
"Won't you come and walk up and down, Elinor? I think you may take cold sitting there."
"Thank you, no; I am so comfortable. Miss Coppock has brought me a warm shawl;"—she smiled sweetly in her husband's face—"go back to Mr. Whitmore, Maurice; he gets dull if he is left alone."
But Mr. Dowries had been remarking the careless ease of Lord Charles Seton's admiration; he did not choose it to be shown so publicly on the open deck of the steamer. Mr. Downes loved his wife too well to think she would persist in encouraging this admiration if he showed decided disapproval.
"I really think you had better walk up and down," he said, in so grave a voice that Patty looked up with an amused smile on her lips. She saw the vexation in his face.
"You dear old fidget," she said, but she made no attempt to move, and her eyes were not smiling.
Lord Charles looked at Mr. Downes, and he began to have a dim consciousness that all was not as bright as it seemed, and that he was rather in the way. He got up, and strolled after Paul.
Patty sat waiting till he was out of hearing; but her husband's impatience broke loose.
"Why don't you do what I ask? I'm tired of this nonsense." He spoke so roughly, that the blue eyes were raised to his in sudden, unfeigned wonder. Patty was not surprised at her husband's vexation, but she was disturbed that he had found courage to express it; she was disconcerted, too; it seemed to her that the tactics which De Mirancourt had assured her would prove infallible in keeping well with her husband had no( succeeded. This sort of behavior was unjustifiable on his part. She never interfered with him in anything—why should he interfere with her?
"Poor Maurice! I thought he understood himself better. He always says he takes pride and pleasure in seeing me admired. What has Lord Charles done that Maurice has not seen done by others a hundred times before?"
And as long as Mr. Downes was ignorant that Patty could prefer any one's society to his own, he had delighted in the homage paid to her; and, if Patty had loved him, he would have been safe in this delight, even if the worship paid her had been doubled. There is something shielding in love, even in women who have but vague ideas of a higher safeguard. When husband and wife ara truly one—only halves when separated—love makes a woman callous to all but one opinion; perhaps, the truest and most
single-hearted wives are the most simple and the least addicted to primness in their dealings with other men, because it could not occur to them to find any companionship equal to that of their husbands.
But Mr. Downes had gradually, and against his will, arrived at a doubt most humiliating to his self-esteem, and to a higher and better feeling than mere selfesteem. Just now as he came up to Patty and her companions, he had seen a look of weariness, of annoyance even, come upon his wife's face, and this was caused by his approach; she was plainly happier without him. It was not his first warning, but he had been incredulous; and in London Mrs. Downes had been more guarded; she had no simplicity to enable her to dare the world's opinion. Lord Charles Seton, too, had been so bewitched by Patty's picturesque appearance in travelling gear, far more becoming to her loveliness than the dazzling attire she delighted in, that he had forgotten everything as he sat there gazing up into her eyes with undisguised admiration.
His creed was that all beauty was made to be looked at. He had a way of thanking heaven he was free from prejudices, and ancient errors, and of talking of extinct superstitions and the modern growth of thought; he had picked up these notions orally at the university, and probably understood as much about the first as the last. He was the son of a Duke, he was very attractive both in person and" manners, and he expected to succeed to a large property on the death of his cousin, Sir Henry Wentworth; but Paul Whitmore had already discovered him to be shallow-wilted and ignorant, and altogether a most undesirable acquaintance for Mrs. Downes.
Patty had not answered her husband: she wanted him to reconsider the tone in which he had spoken; presently he said more quickly,—
"You will get chilled if you sit too long. Come and walk up and down."
"That's better," said Patty to herself; "But not right yet. He never must get his own way: it doesn't do for men ; if they get it once, then they want to have it always."
"How you tease, you dear old Maurice! Why can't you sit down by me?"
Mr. Downes felt ashamed of himself; he was just beginning a penitent speech.