As long as there had been plenty to do and see, Laura had enjoyed her life on the Continent, and had fed herself with hope. So many people as passed before her, it would be strange, she thought, if not one of them had been made for her, not one was to give her the love she wanted, the devotion she knew she could return.
It was certainly strange, and yet it came to pass, though the travelled fool returned, improved in style, dress, and even in appearance, while her conversation was naturally more amusing than before, for she had seen most places and things that people like to talk of.
Not one man had asked her to spend her life with him, and she came back more given to flights of fancy than ever, but far better acquainted with herself and more humble, for she had spent so much of her time (in imagination) with Joseph that she had become accustomed to his slightly provincial accent, and had ceased to care about it. Joseph, however, did not speak like his good father, and he had been endowed with as much learning as he would consent to acquire, Swan having felt a great ambition to make him a certified schoolmaster, but Joseph having been at an early age rather an idle young dog, had tormented his father into letting him take to a mere handicraft, and had left school writing a hand almost like copperplate, and being a very fair accountant, but without thirst for knowledge, and without any worthy ambition.
Laura had always known that nothing but a desert island was wanted, and she could be his contented wife; but a desert island was not to be had, such things are getting rare in the world, and she now thought that any remote locality, where nobody knew her, would do.
But where was Joseph?
She had certainly gone away without giving him any interview, she had persistently kept away, yet though she was doing what she could, by fits and starts, to forget him, that perverse imagination of hers always pictured him as waiting, constant, ready. There was a particular tree in the glen behind which she had so frequently represented him to herself as standing patiently while she approached with furtive steps, that when she came home and went to look at it, there was a feeling almost akin to surprise in her mind at seeing the place drenched in sparkling dew, and all overgrown with moss. Footsteps that are feigned never tread anything down; they leave no print, excepting in the heart that feigns them.
When Laura saw this place in the glen, she perceived plainly that there was no one with whom she might be humbly happy and poor—not even a plumber!
This form of human sorrow—certainly one of the worst—is not half enough pitied by the happy.
Of course Laura was a fool—nobody claims for her that she was not; but fools are not rare, either male or female; as they arrange the world and its ways in great measure, it is odd that they do not understand one another better, and whether Laura showed her folly most or least in thinking that she could have been obscurely happy as the wife of a man who belonged to a different class of life from her own (she herself having small intellectual endowments, and but little culture), is a subject too vast, too overwhelming, for decision here; it ought to have a treatise in twelve volumes all to itself.