But, all the same, it was hard to bear. He said to himself that he was a doomed and fated man; twice had love and joy and domestic peace been within his grasp, and twice they had been wrested from his arms; these things, it was plain, were not for him. He was too old, he told himself, ever to make a further effort. No, there was nothing before him now but to live out his loveless life alone, to sink into a peevish, selfish old bachelor, and to make a will in Maurice’s favour, and get himself out of the world that wanted him not with as much expedition as might be.
And he loved Vera still. She was still to him the most pure and perfect of women—good as she was beautiful. Her loveliness haunted him by day and by night, till the bitter thought of what might have been and the contrast of the miserable reality drove him half wild with longings which he did not know how to repress. He sat at home in his rooms and moped; there were more streaks of white in his hair than of old, and there were new lines of care upon his brow—he looked almost an old man now. He sat indoors and did nothing. It was April by this time, and the London season was beginning; invitations of all kinds poured in upon him, but he refused them all; he would go nowhere. Now and then his mother came to see him and attempted to cheer and to rouse him; she had even asked him to come down to Walpole Lodge, but he had declined her request almost ungraciously.
He never had much in common with his mother, and he felt no desire now for her sympathy; besides, the first time she had come she had been angry, and had called Vera a jilt, and that had offended him bitterly; he had rebuked her sternly, and she had been too wise to repeat the offence; but he had not forgotten it. Maurice, indeed, he would have been glad to see, but Maurice did not come near him. His regiment had lately moved to Manchester, and either he could not or would not get leave; and yet he had been idle enough at one time, and glad to run up to town upon the smallest pretext. Now he never came. It added a little to his irritation, but scarcely to his misery. On this particular afternoon, as he sat as usual brooding over the past, there came the sudden clatter of carriage wheels over the flagged roadway of the little back street, followed by a sharp ring at his door. It was his mother, of course; no other woman came to see him; he heard the rustle of her soft silken skirts up the narrow staircase, and her pleasant little chatter to the fat old landlady who was ushering her up, and presently the door opened and she came in.