Strangely enough, as she sat there musing all her life came back in review before her. The old days at Rome, with the favourite sister who was dead and gone; her own gay, careless life, with its worldly aims and desires; her first arrival at Sutton, her determination to make herself Sir John Kynaston’s wife, and then her fatal love for his brother; it all came back to her again. All kinds of little details that she had long forgotten came flooding in upon her memory. She remembered how she had first seen Maurice standing at the foot of the staircase, with the light of the lamp upon his handsome head; and then, again, how one morning she and he had stood together in this very place by the Bath, and how she had told him, shuddering, that it would be dreadful to be drowned there, and she had cried out in a nameless terror that she wished she had not seen it for the first time with him by her side; and then Helen had come down from the house and joined them, and they had all three gone away together. She smiled a little to herself over that foolish, reasonless terror. The quiet pool of water did not look dreadful to her now—only cool, and still, and infinitely restful.
By-and-by other thoughts came into her mind. She recalled her interview with old Lady Kynaston at Walpole Lodge, when she had so nearly promised her to give back her hand to her eldest son, when she would have done so had it not been for that sight of Maurice’s face in the adjoining room. She wondered what Lady Kynaston had thought of her sudden change of mind; what she had been able to make of it; whether she had ever guessed at what had been the truth. It seemed only yesterday that the old lady had told her to be wise and brave, and to begin her life over again, and to make the best of the good things of this world that were still left to her.
“There is a pain that goes right through the heart,” Maurice’s mother had said to her; “I who speak to you have felt it. I thought I should die of it, but you see I did not.”
Alas! did not Vera know that pain all too well; that heartache that banishes peace by day and sleep by night, and that will not wear itself out?
And yet other women had borne it, and had lived and been even happy in other ways; but she could not be happy. Was it because her heart was deeper, or because her sense of pain was greater than that of others?
Vera could not tell. She only wished, and longed, and even prayed that she might have the strength to become Denis Wilde’s wife; that she might taste once more of peace, if not of joy; and yet all her longings and all her prayers only made her realize the more how utterly the thing was beyond her power.
To Maurice, and Maurice alone, belonged her life and her soul, and Vera felt that it would be easier for her to be true to the sad, dim memory of his love than to give her heart and her allegiance to any other upon earth.
So she sat and mused, and pondered, and the amber light in the east faded away into palest saffron, and the solemn shadows deepened and lengthened upon the still bosom of the water.