The days passed, however—empty useless days, frittered away in frivolous occupations, or wasted in melancholy idleness; and John Saltram did not come, or came so rarely that the only effect of his visits was to keep up the fever and restlessness of the widow’s mind.
She had fancied that life would be so bright for her when the day of her freedom came; that she would reap so rich a harvest of happiness as a reward for the sacrifice which she had made in marrying old Michael Branston, and enduring his peevishness and ill-health with tolerable good-humour during the half-dozen years of their wedded life. She had fancied this; and now her release had come to her, and was worthless in her sight, because the one man she cared for had proved himself cold and indifferent.
In spite of his coldness, however, she told herself that he loved her, that he had loved her from the earliest period of their acquaintance.
She was a poor weak little woman, the veriest spoilt child of fortune, and she clung to this belief with a fond foolish persistence, a blind devoted obstinacy, against which the arguments of Mrs. Pallinson were utterly vain, although that lady devoted a great deal of time and energy to the agreeable duty which she called “opening dear Adela’s eyes about that dissipated good-for-nothing Mr. Saltram.”
To a correct view of this subject Adela Branston’s eyes were not to be opened in any wise. She was wilfully, resolutely blind, clinging to the hope that this cruel neglect on John Saltram’s part arose only from his delicacy of feeling, and tender care for her reputation.
“But O, how I wish that he would come to me!” she said to herself again and again, as those slow dreary days went by, burdened and weighed down by the oppressive society of Mrs. Pallinson, as well as by her own sad thoughts. “My husband has been dead ever so long now, and what need have we to study the opinion of the world so much? Of course I wouldn’t marry him till a year, or more, after poor Michael’s death; but I should like to see him often, to be sure that he still cares for me as he used to care—yes, I am sure he used—in the dear old days at Maidenhead. Why doesn’t he come to me? He knows that I love him. He must know that I have no brighter hope than to make him the master of my fortune; and yet he goes on in those dismal Temple chambers, toiling at his literary work as if he had not a thought in the world beyond earning so many pounds a week.”
This was the perpetual drift of Mrs. Branston’s meditations; and in the absence of any sign or token of regard from John Saltram, all Mrs. Pallinson’s attempts to amuse her, all the fascinations and accomplishments of the elegant Theobald, were thrown away upon an unreceptive soil.