“I am not going to be married; I have broken it off.”
It had been a great blow to them, but neither the prayers of her weeping sister, nor the angry indignation of old Mrs. Daintree, nor even the gentle remonstrances of her brother-in-law could serve to alter her determination, nor would she enter into any explanation concerning her conduct.
It was not pleasant, of course, to be reviled and scolded, to be questioned and marvelled at, to be treated like a naughty child in disgrace; and then, whenever she went out, to feel herself tabooed by her acquaintances as a young woman who had behaved very disgracefully; or else to be stared at as a natural curiosity by persons whom she hardly knew.
But she lived through all this bravely. There was a certain amount of unnatural excitement which kept up her courage and enabled her to face it. It was no more than what she had expected. The glow of her love and her impulse of self-sacrifice were still upon her; her nerves had been strung to the uttermost, and she felt strong in the knowledge of the justice and the right of her own conduct.
But by-and-by all this died away. Sir John left the neighbourhood; people got tired of talking about her broken-off marriage; there was no longer any occasion for her to be brave and steadfast. Life began to resume for her its normal aspect, the aspect which it had worn in the old days before Sir John had ever come down to Kynaston, or ever found her day-dreaming in the churchyard upon Farmer Crupps’ family sarcophagus. The tongue of the sour-tempered old lady, snapping and snarling at her with more than the bitterness of old, and the suppressed sighs and mournful demeanour of her sister, whose sympathy and companionship she had now completely forfeited, and who went about the house with a face of resigned woe and the censure of an ever implied rebuke in her voice and manner.
Only the vicar took her part somewhat. “Let her alone,” he said, sometimes, to his wife and mother; “she must have had a better reason than we any of us know of; the girl is suffering quite enough—leave her alone.”
And she was suffering. The life that she had doomed herself to was almost unbearable to her. The everlasting round of parish work and parish talk, the poor people and the coal-clubs—it was what she had come back to. She had been lifted for a short time out of it all, and a new life, congenial to her tastes and to her nature, had opened out before her; and yet with her own hands she had shut the door upon this brighter prospect, and had left herself out in the darkness, to go back to that life of dull monotony which she hated.