As soon as my eyes have fallen upon, and certainly recognized him, by a double impulse I draw back behind the curtain of the box, and look at Roger. He, too, has seen him; I can tell it in an instant by his face, and by the expression of his eyes, as they meet mine. I try to look back unflinchingly, indifferently, at him. I would give ten years of my life for an unmoved complexion, but it is no use. Struggle as I will against it, I feel that rush, that torrent of vivid scarlet, that, retiring, leaves me as white as my gown. Oh! it is hard, is not it, that the lying changefulness of a deceitful skin should have power to work me such hurt?
“Are you faint?” Roger asks, bending toward me, and speaking in a low and icy voice; “shall I get you a glass of water?”
“No, thank you!” I reply, resolutely, and with no hesitation or stammer in my tone, “I am not at all faint.”
But, alas! my words cannot undo what my false cheeks, with their meaningless red and their causeless white, have so fully done.
The season is over now; every one has trooped away from the sun-baked squares, and the sultry streets of the great empty town. I have never done a season before, and the heat and the late hours have tired me wofully. Often, when I have gone to a ball, I have longed to go to bed instead. And, now that we are home again, it would seem to me very pleasant to sit in leisurely coolness by the pool, and to watch the birth, and the prosperous short lives, of the late roses, and the great bright gladioli in the garden-borders. Yes, it would have seemed very pleasant to me—if—(why is life so full of ifs? “Ifs” and “Buts,” “Ifs” and “Buts,” it seems made up of them! Little ugly words! in heaven there will be none of you!)—if—to back and support the outward good luck, there had been any inward content. But there is none! The trouble that I took with me to London, I have brought back thence whole and undiminished.
“It is September now; so far has the year advanced! We are well into the partridges. Their St. Bartholomew has begun. Roger is away among the thick green turnip-ridges and the short white stubble all the day. I wish to Heaven that I could shoot, too, and hunt. It would not matter if I never killed any thing—indeed, I think—of the two—I had rather not; I had rather have a course of empty bags and blank days than snuff out any poor, little, happy lives; but the occupation that these amusements would entail would displace and hinder the minute mental torments I now daily, in my listless, luxurious idleness, endure. I am thinking these thoughts one morning, as I turn over my unopened letters, and try, with the misplaced ingenuity and labor one is so apt to employ in such a case, to make out from the general air of their exteriors—from their superscriptions—from their post-marks, whom they are from. About one there is no doubt. It is from Barbara. I have not heard from Barbara for a fortnight or three