Virginia sits rooted to the spot, a deadly anguish strangling her heart. Then, whilst the divine strains of music still flow on, she feels herself drawn to his heart; his lips meet hers in one long kiss that steals her very soul away from her. He is gone—the music has ceased—the night grows chill—she shivers. “The world well lost,” she mutters to herself, and then, with listless steps, and strange, affrighted eyes, she drags herself up stairs to her room.
In a charming house, surrounded by an acre of ground, turned into a small paradise, a house not more than two miles from Hyde Park Corner, live Philip Vansittart and Virginia Hayward. The neighbourhood knows them as Mr. and Mrs. Vansittart, and has not the very remotest conception that in so perfectly ordered an establishment, there is anything which they would designate as “odd.” If anything could arouse suspicion in the breasts of the servants who wait upon them, and the tradespeople who serve them it would be the extraordinary tenderness subsisting between them; the excessive courtesy and consideration of Mr. Vansittart for Mrs. Vansittart, and the entire absence of that familiarity commonly seen between affectionate husbands and wives, which almost invariably engenders subsequent contempt.
The house is furnished with exquisite taste. Mr. Vansittart is continually bringing home artistic treasures to add to its embellishment. Mrs. Vansittart has a carriage and a fine pair of horses. She seldom, however, drives into town except to the play, or to dine. A great many gentlemen of distinction and rank come to the house, who treat Mrs. Vansittart like a queen, and a few ladies; clever, literary ladies, ladies holding peculiar views—very rarely the consorts of distinguished and well-born men.
Is Philip happy? Is Virginia happy? To this I can only reply by another question. Is any one Happy? They love each other with unfailing tenderness—they are all the world to each other—the thought of separation would be death to them. And yet the heart of either is gnawed by a secret worm. In the midst of his busy life, Philip can never forget that he has sacrificed the woman whom he adores from the very bottom of his soul, and the horrible suspicion will stab him, that he has sacrificed her needlessly. They are living as husband and wife, and yet no feeling of weariness, of satiety, comes near them—each day draws them nearer together; makes them find fresh points in each other to love and admire. Were she his wife, occupying her proper sphere in society, sought after, courted, admired, he with no feeling of self-reproach, she with no consciousness (which she must feel though she never betrays) of cruelty and selfishness on his part; might they not be even happier? He forgets to tell himself that they are happy because no tie binds them—nay, he says secretly in his heart that that tie is the only thing wanting to make