People grow used to pain; it dies down at intervals, and becomes quite bearable, especially when no one see it or guesses at it.
They had a very merry picnic on the hilltop, enjoying those mundane consolations of food and drink which Auntie was expected always to have forth-coming, and which those young people did by no means despise, nor Mr. Roy neither. He made himself so very pleasant with them all, looking thoroughly happy, and baring his head to the spring breeze with the eagerness of a boy.
“Oh, this is delicious! It makes me feel young again. There’s nothing like home. One thing I am determined upon: I will never quit bonnie Scotland more.”
It was the first clear intimation he had given of his intentions regarding the future, but it thrilled her with measureless content. If only he would not go abroad again, if she might have him within reach for the rest of her days—able to see him, to talk to him, to know where he was and what he was doing, instead of being cut off from him by those terrible dividing seas—it was enough! Nothing could be so bitter as what had been; and whatever was the mystery of their youth, which it was impossible to unravel now—whether he had ever loved, or loved her and crushed it down and forgotten it, or only felt very kindly and cordially to her, as he did now, the past was—well, only the past!—and the future lay still before her, not unsweet. When we are young, we insist on having every thing or nothing; when we are older, we learn that “every thing” is an impossible and “nothing” a somewhat bitter word. We are able to stoop meekly and pick up the fragments of the children’s bread, without feeling ourselves to be altogether “dogs”.
Fortune went home that night with a not unhappy, almost a satisfied, heart. She sat back in the carriage, close beside that other heart which she believed to be the truest in all the world, though it had never been hers. There was a tremendous clatter of talking and laughing and fun of all sorts, between David Dalziel and the little Roys on the box, and the Misses Moseley sitting just below them, as they had insisted doing, no doubt finding the other two members of the party a little “slow.”
Nevertheless Mr. Roy and Miss Williams took their part in laughing with their young people, and trying to keep them in order; though after a while both relapsed into silence. One did at least, for it had been a long day and she was tired, being, as she had said, “not so young as she had been.” But if any of these lively young people had asked her the question whether she was happy, or at least contented, she would have never hesitated about her reply. Young, gay, and prosperous as they were, I doubt if Fortune Williams would have changed lots with any one of them all.
As it befell, that day at Balcarras was the last of the bright days, in every sense, for the time being. Wet weather set in, as even the most partial witness must allow does occasionally happen in Scotland, and the domestic barometer seemed to go down accordingly. The girls grumbled at being kept in-doors, and would willingly have gone out golfing under umbrellas, but Auntie was remorseless. They were delicate girls at best, so that her watch over them was never-ceasing, and her patience inexhaustible.