Marriage decidedly was what Vera had to look to. She was in no way averse to the idea, only she intended to look at the subject from the most practical and matter-of-fact point of view.
She was not going to render herself wretched for life by rashly consenting to marry Mr. Gisburne, or any other equally unsuitable husband that her friends might choose to press upon her. Vera differed in one important respect from the vast majority of young ladies of the present day—she had no vague and indistinct dreams as to what marriage might bring her. She knew exactly what she wanted from it. She wanted wealth and position, because she knew what they were and what life became without them; and because she knew that she was utterly unfitted to be the wife of any one but a rich man.
And therefore it was that Vera looked from the square red house behind her over the wide gardens and broad lawns, and down the noble avenues that spread away into the distance, and said to herself, “This is what will suit me, to be mistress of a place like this; I should love it dearly; I should find real happiness and pleasure in the duties that such a position would bring me. If Sir John Kynaston comes here, it is he whom I will marry, and none other.”
As to what her feelings might be towards the man whom she thus proposed to marry it cannot be said that Vera took them into consideration at all. She was not, indeed, aware whether or no she possessed any feelings; they had never incommoded her hitherto. Probably they had no existence. Such vague fancy as had been ever roused within her had been connected with a photograph seen once in a writing-table drawer. The photograph of Sir John Kynaston! The reflection did not influence her in the least, only she said to herself also, “If he is like his photograph, I should be sure to get on with him.”
She was an odd mixture, this Vera. Ambitious, worldly-wise, mercenary even, if you will; conscious of her own beauty, and determined to exact its full value; and yet she was tender and affectionate, full of poetry and refinement, honest and true as her own fanciful name.
The secret of these strange contradictions is simply this. Vera has never loved. No one spark of divine fire has ever touched her soul or warmed the latent energies of her being. She has lived in the thick of the world, but love has passed her scatheless. Her mind, her intellect, her brain, are all alive, and sharpened acutely; her heart slumbers still. Happier for her, perhaps, had it never awakened.
She leant upon the stone parapet, supporting her chin upon her hand, dreaming her dreams. Her hat lay by her side, her long dark dress fell in straight heavy folds to her feet. The yellow leaves fluttered about her, the peacocks strutted up and down, the gardeners in the distance were sweeping up the dead leaves on the lawns, but Vera stirred not; one motionless, beautiful figure giving grace, and life, and harmony to the deserted scene.