She read on. The poem, after all, turned out to be but a lover’s appeal to his mistress to give over coyness and use time while she might; but Dorothea wondered why its solemn language should have hit her namesake’s fancy, and, turning a few more pages, discovered that this merry dead girl had chosen and copied out other verses which were more than solemn. How had she dug these gloomy gems out of Donne, Ford, Webster, and set them here among loose songs and loose epigrams from Wit’s Remembrancer and the like? for gems they were, though Dorothea did not know it nor whence they came. Dorothea had small sense of poetry: it was the personal interest which led her on. To be sure the little animal (she had already begun to construct a picture of her) might have secreted these things for no more reason than their beauty, as a squirrel will pick up a ruby ring and hide it among his nuts. But why were they, all so darkly terrible? Had she, being young, been afraid to die? Rather it seemed as if now and then, in the midst of her mirth, she had paused and been afraid to live.
And in the end she had married a Devonshire squire, which on the face of it is no darkly romantic thing to do. But it was over the maiden that our Dorothea pondered, until by and by the small shade took features and a place in her leisure time: a very companionable shade, though tantalising; and innocent, though given to mischievously sportive hints. Dorothea sometimes wondered what her own fate would have been, with this naughtiness in her young blood—and this seriousness.
It was sentiment, of course; but it is also a fact that this ghost of a kinswoman brought help to her. For such a hurt as hers the specific is to get away from self and look into such human thought as is kindly yet judicial. Some find this help in philosophy, many more in wise Dorothea had no philosophy, and no human being to consult; for admirably as Endymion had behaved, he remained a person with obvious limits. The General held aloof: she had no reason to fear that he suspected her secret. And so Natura inventrix, casting about for a cure, found and brought her this companion of her own sex from between the covers of a book.
I set down the fact merely and its share in Dorothea’s recovery.
GENERAL ROCHAMBEAU TELLS A STORY;
AND THE TING-TANG RINGS FOR THE LAST TIME
More than a year had passed when, one February morning, as he left the breakfast table, Endymion handed Dorothea a slip of paper.
“Do you think we can entertain at dinner next Wednesday? If you can manage it, I wish these invitations written out and despatched before noon.”
“Next Wednesday?” Dorothea’s eyebrows went up. Invitations to dine at Bayfield had always, as we know, been issued just three weeks ahead.
“If it will not inconvenience you,” he answered; and his manner added, as plainly as words, “I beg that you will not press for my reasons.” He was booted already for his ride into Axcester.