But John Chetwynd was far from being this. He had felt his wife’s desertion far too deeply to show his scars, nor was he a man to wear his heart upon his sleeve; but as time went by and the utter callousness of Bella’s conduct came home to him, he realised to the full that she was unworthy of a single pang, and he became reconciled to the inevitable. His profession claimed every spare moment, and for a man ill at ease there is no specific like hard work. By-and-by as the years rolled on, another distraction presented itself. He became interested in one of his patients, the only daughter of the Duke of Huddersfield, Lady Ethel Claremont, and this interest blossomed into something stronger and warmer—something that at last he dignified by the name of love, though he was by no means without misgivings as to whether it could ever really lay claim to the title.
Certain it was that there was no more of the old exultation about his heart that had formed so large a part of his former courtship; there were no extravagances, no quickened pulses—rapture’s warmth had yielded to the mildest of after-glows; but there was no reason that it should not prove as satisfactory in the long run. It is an open question whether the doctor, popular though he undoubtedly was, would have been considered an eligible suitor from the maternal point of view, had it not been that just about this time fortune elected to bestow another favour upon him; his career had reached its apex, and (again through sheer good luck, as John Chetwynd modestly declared) he was offered a baronetcy.
Now, every man is flattered and gratified that his merits should be recognised, and Chetwynd was no exception to the general rule, but there were a good many bitters mingled with the sweets, and the hidden thorn among the rose-leaves had a nasty trick of obtruding itself. This step in social advancement materially helped his cause with Lady Ethel, and the Duchess of Huddersfield deigned to smile graciously upon her future son-in-law.
Ethel Claremont was an excellent girl, precisely the type he ought to marry. Decorous, with an ease and repose about her manner that were eminently patrician, she would be even more admirable as a wife than as a fiancee, but he could have found it in him to wish that she were just a little less faultless, a little more “human,” he would have said, only that the word has not a pleasant ring; yet it was not easy to substitute another unless it were “womanly.”
“Pshaw!” he cried angrily, “who am I that I should be exacting, with such a past, such a history? and yet I am ready to quarrel with perfection, I who can never be grateful enough! A little wealth and the love of a charming woman—what more can I possibly desire? It is strange how soon one becomes accustomed to changes in life, and how quickly an emotion fades into a memory. If I could but feel as I felt when I was struggling along battling with the hundred and one difficulties which