Suddenly, out of the memories of her girlhood, she recollected the existence of a woman who had been her friend once in the old happy days, when she had lived with her sister Theodora. It was one of those passing friendships which come and go for a month or two in one’s life.
A pretty, spoilt girl, married four, perhaps five, years ago to a rich man, a banker; who had taken a fancy to Vera, and had pleased herself by decking her out in a quaint costume to figure at a carnival party; who had kissed her rapturously at parting, swearing eternal friendship, giving her her address in London, and making her promise never to be in England without going to see her. And then she had gone her way, and had never come back again the next winter, as she had promised to do; a letter or two had passed between them, and afterwards Vera had forgotten her. But somewhere upstairs she must have got her direction still.
It was to this friend she would go; and, turning her back for a time at least upon Meadowshire and its memories, she would see whether, in the whirl of London life, she could not crush out the pain at her heart, and live down the fatal weakness that had led her astray from all the traditions of her youth, and from that cold and prudent wisdom which had stood her in good stead for so many years.
A MORNING WALK.
And e’en while fashion’s brightest
The heart, distrusting, asks if this be joy.
A bright May morning, cold, it is true, and with a biting wind from the east—as indeed our English May mornings generally are—but sunny and cloudless as the heart can desire. On such a morning people do their best to pretend that it is summer. Crowds turn out into the park, and sit about recklessly on the iron chairs, or lounge idly by the railings; and the women-folk, with that fine disregard of what is, when it is antagonistic of what they wish it to be, don their white cottons and muslins, and put up their parasols against the sun’s rays, and, shivering inwardly, poor things, openly brave the terrors of rheumatism and lumbago, and make up their minds that it shall be summer.
The sunblinds are drawn all along the front windows of a house in Park Lane, and though the gay geraniums and calceolarias in the flower-boxes, which were planted only yesterday, look already nipped and shrivelled up with the cold, the house, nevertheless, presents from the exterior a bright and well-cared-for appearance.
Within the drawing-room are two ladies. One, the mistress of the house, is seated at the writing-table with her back to the room, scribbling off invitations for dear life, cards for an afternoon “at-home,” at the rate of six per minute; the other sits idle in a low basket-chair doing nothing.
There is no sound but the scratching of the quill pen as it flies over the paper, and the chirping of a bullfinch in a cage in the bow-window.