“So long as thou doest well unto thyself men will speak good of thee.”
Surely, surely, it was the best and the wisest thing she could do. And yet even at that moment Eustace Daintree’s pale, earnest face came for one instant before her. What side in all this would he take—he of the pure heart, of the stainless life? If he knew all, what would he say?
Pooh! he was a dreamer—an idealist, a man of impossible aims; his theories, indeed, were beautiful, but impracticable. Vera knew that he expected better things of her; but she had striven to be what he would have desired, and if she had failed, was it her fault? was it not rather the fault of the world and the generation in which her life had been cast?
She had struggled, and she had failed; henceforth let her life be as fate should ordain for her.
“What is it you wish me to say, Lady Kynaston?” she asked, turning suddenly towards Maurice’s mother.
“My dear child, I only want you to say that if John asks you again to be his wife, you will consent, or say only, if you like it better, that you will agree to meet him here. There shall be nothing unpleasant for you; I will write to him and settle everything.”
“If you write to him, I will come,” she said, briefly, and then Lady Kynaston came up to her and kissed her, taking her hands within her own, and drawing her to her with motherly tenderness. “My dear, everybody will think well of you for this.”
And the words ran so nearly in the current of her own bitter thoughts that Vera laughed, shortly and disdainfully, a low laugh of scorn at the world, whose mandates she was prepared to obey, even though she despised herself for doing so.
“You will be glad by-and-by that you were so sensible and so reasonable,” said Lady Kynaston.
“Yes—I dare say I shall be glad by-and-by; and now I am going, dear Lady Kynaston; I have a hansom waiting all this time, and Mrs. Hazeldine will be wondering what has become of me.”
At this moment they both heard the sound of a carriage driving up to the door.
“It must be some visitors,” said Lady Kynaston; “wait a minute, or you will meet them in the hall. Oh, stay, go through this door into the dining-room, and you can get through the dining-room window by the garden round to the front of the house; I dare say you would rather not meet anybody—you might know them.”
“Thank you—yes, I should much prefer to get away quickly and quietly—I will go through the dining-room; do not come with me, I can easily find my way.”
She gathered up her gloves and her veil and opened the door which communicated between the morning-room and the dining-room. She heard the chatter of women’s voices and the fluttering of women’s garments in the hall; it seemed as though they were about to be ushered into the room she was leaving.
She did not want to be seen; besides, she wanted to get away quickly and return to London. She closed the morning-room door behind her, and took a couple of steps across the dining-room towards the windows.