They had both good sense, and did not rail at evil fortune. It had done neither any mischief to be absorbed in love of the other through the most passionate years of their lives. Mrs. Gardiner had remonstrated often and kindly against their folly, but had put no decisive veto on it, in the hope that they would grow out it. And, in a manner, they had grown out of it. Six years ago, if they had been allowed, they would have married without counting the cost; but those six years had brought them experience of the world, of themselves, and of each other, and they feared the venture. If Mr. Cecil Burleigh had been without ambition, his secretaryship would have maintained them a modest home; but neither had he a mind for the exclusive retired pleasures of the domestic hearth, nor she the wish to forego the delights of society. There was no romance in poverty for Julia Gardiner. It was too familiar; it signified to her shifts, privations, expediencies, rude humiliations, and rebuffs. And that was not the life for Mr. Cecil Burleigh. Their best friends said so, and they acquiesced. From this it followed that the time was come for them to part. Julia was twenty-four. The present opportunity of settling herself by a desirable marriage lost, she might never have another—might wear away youth, beauty, expectation, until no residuum were left her but bitterness and regret. She would have risked it at a word from Cecil, but that word was not spoken. He reasoned with himself that he had no right to speak it. He was not prepared to give all for love, though he keenly regretted what he resigned. He realized frankly that he lost in losing Julia a true, warm sympathizer in his aspirations, and a loving peace in his heart that had been a God’s blessing to him. Oh, if there had been only a little more money between them!
He reflected on many things, but on this most, and as he reflected there came a doubt upon him whether it was well done to sever himself from the dear repose he had enjoyed in loving her—whether there might not be a more far-sighted prudence in marrying her than in letting her go. Men have to ask their wives whether life shall be a success with them or not. And Julia had been so much to him, so encouraging, such a treasure of kindness! Whatever else he might win, without her he would always miss something. His letters to her of six years were a complete history of their course. Was it probable that he would ever be able to write so to the rosy-cheeked little girl on board the Foam? Julia was equal with him, a cultivated woman and a perfect companion.
But what profit was there in going back upon it? They had determined that it must not be. In a few days he was expected at Abbotsmead: Norminster wanted to hear from him. A general election impended, and he had been requested to offer himself as a candidate in the Conservative interest for that ancient city. Mr. Fairfax was already busy in his behalf, and Mr. John Short, the Conservative lawyer, was extremely impatient for his appearance upon the stage of action.