M. W. Praed.
But it was not until Captain and Mrs. Maurice Kynaston had been at home for more than a fortnight that Vera came back to her brother-in-law’s house.
She had kept away, poor girl, as long as she could. She had put off the evil hour of her return as long as possible. The Hazeldines had gone to Scotland, and Vera had, in desperation, accepted an invitation to stay with some acquaintances whom she neither knew very well nor liked overmuch. It had kept her from Sutton a little longer. But the visit had come to an end at last, and what was she to do? She had no other visits to prolong her absence, and her sister wrote to her perpetually, urging her to return. Her home was at Sutton; she had no other place to go to. She had told Sir John that in absence from his brother lay her only hope of safety. But where was she to seek that safety? Where find security, when he; reckless, or, perchance, heedless of her danger, had come to plant himself at her very doors? They should have been far as the poles asunder, and a malevolent fate had willed that the same parish should contain them.
For whatever Maurice did, Vera in no way underrated the danger. Too well she knew her own heart; too surely she estimated the strength of a passion which, repressed and thwarted, and half-smothered, as it had been within her, yet burnt but the fiercer and the wilder. For that is the way with love: if it may not flourish and thrive openly and bravely before the eyes of the world, it will eat into the very heart and life, till all that is fair and sweet in the garden of the soul is choked and blighted and overgrown, till the main-spring of life becomes poisoned, and all things that are happy, withered and dried up.
In Vera’s love for Maurice there had been nothing of joy, and all of pain. There had never been for her that sweet illusion of dawning affection—that intangible sense of delight in the consciousness of an unspoken sympathy that is the very essence of a happy love. She had no memories that were serene and untroubled—no days of calm and delicious happiness to recall. His first conscious look had been a terror to her; his words of hopeless love had given her a shock that had been almost physical; and his few passionate kisses had burnt into her very soul till they had seemed to have been printed upon her lips in fire. Vera’s love had brought her no good thing that she could count. But it had done one thing for her: if it had cursed her life, it had purified her soul.
The Vera who had come back to Sutton Vicarage in August was no longer the same woman who had stood months ago on the terrace at Kynaston among the falling autumn leaves, and who had told herself that it was money alone that was worth living for.
She came back to everything that was full of pain, and to much in which there was absolute fear.
Five minutes after she had entered the vicarage drawing-room her tortures began.