Eustace Daintree looks round at her sharply. He sees that she is very white, and that there are tears upon her cheeks.
“Why, Vera!” he cries, standing still, you have not listened to a word I have been saying. “What is the matter, child? Why are you crying?”
They are in the vicarage garden now; among the beds of scarlet geraniums, and the tall hollyhocks, and the glaring red gladioli; a whole bank of greenery, rhododendrons and lauristinas, conceals them from the windows of the house; a garden bench sheltered beneath a nook of the laurel bushes is close by.
With a sudden gesture of utter misery Vera sinks down upon it, and bursts into a passion of tears.
“My dear child; my poor Vera! What is it? What has happened? What can be the reason of this?”
Mr. Daintree is infinitely distressed and puzzled; he bends over her, taking her hand between his own. There is something in this wild outburst of grief, from one habitually so calm and self-contained as Vera, that is an absolute shock to him. He had learnt to love her very dearly; he had thought he had understood all the workings of her candid maiden soul; he had fancied that the story of her broken engagement was no secret to him, that it was but the struggle of a conscientious nature after what was true and honest. It had seemed to him that there had been no mystery in her conduct, for he could appreciate all her motives. And surely, as she had done right, she must be now at peace. He had told himself that the pure instincts of a naturally stainless soul had triumphed in Vera over the carelessness and worldliness of her early training; and lo, here was the passionate weeping of a tempest-tossed woman, whose agony he could not fathom, and whose sorrows he knew not how to divine.
“Vera, will you not tell me?” he asked her, in his distress. “Will you not make a friend of me? My dear, forget that I am a clergyman; remember only that I am your brother, and that I shall know how to feel for you—for you, my dear sister.”
But she could not tell him. There are some troubles that must be kept for ever buried within our own souls; to speak of some things is only to make them worse. Only she choked back her sobs, and lifted her face, white and tear-stained; there was a look of hunted despair in her eyes, that bewildered, and even half-terrified him.
“Tell me,” she said, with a sort of anger, “tell me, you that are a clergyman—Do you think God has made us only to torment us? You have got a daughter, Eustace; pray God, night and morning, that she may have a hard heart, and that she may never have one gleam of womanly tenderness within her; for only so are women happy!”
He did not answer her wild words. Instinctively he felt that common-place speeches of rebuke or of consolation would be trivial and out of place before the great anguish of her heart. The man’s soul was above the narrow limits of his training; he felt, dimly, that here was something with which it were best not to intermeddle, some trouble for which he could offer no consolation.