They were not very exalted or very much to be admired, these dreams of Vera’s girlhood. But neither were they quite so coarse and unlovely as would have been those of a purely mercenary woman. She was free from the vulgarity of desiring the man’s money and his name from any desire to raise herself above her relations, or to feed her own vanity and ambition at their expense. It was only that, marriage being a necessity for her, to marry anything but a rich man would have been, with her tastes and the habits to which she had been brought up, the sheerest and rankest folly. She thought she could make a good wife to any man whose life she would like to share—that is to say, a life of ease and affluence. She knew she would make a very bad wife to a poor man. Therefore she determined upon so carving out her own fortunes that she should not make a failure of herself. It was worldly wisdom of the purest and simplest character.
She was as much determined as ever upon winning Kynaston’s owner if he was to be won. Only she wished, with a little sigh, that he had happened to be the man in the photograph. She hardly knew why she wished it—but the wish was there.
She sat bending over her fire, with all her soft, dark hair loose about her face and flowing down her back, and her eyes fixed dreamily upon the flames. Her past life came back to her, her old life in the whirl and turmoil of pleasure which had suited her so well. She compared it, a little drearily, with the present; with the humdrum routine of the vicarage; with the parish talk about the old women and the schools; and the small tittle-tattle about the schoolmaster and the choir, going on around her all day; with old Mrs. Daintree’s sharp tongue and her sister’s meek rejoinders. She was very tired of it. It did not amuse her. She was not exactly discontented with her lot. Eustace and her sister were very kind to her, and she loved them dearly; but she did not live their life—she was with them, but not of them. As for herself, for her interests and her delights, they stagnated amongst them all. How long was it to last?
And Kynaston, by contrast, appeared very fair, with its smooth lawns and its terrace walks, and its great desolate rooms, that she would so well understand how to fill with life and brightness; but Kynaston’s master counted for very little to her. She knew the power of her own beauty so well. Experience had taught her that Vera Nevill had but to smile and to win; it had been so easy to her to be loved and wooed.
“Only,” she said to herself, as she stood up before her fire, and stretched up her arms so that her long hair fell back like a cloud around her, “only he is a different sort of man to what I had pictured him. It will, perhaps, not be such an easy matter to win a man like that.”
She went to bed and dreamt—not of Sir John Kynaston—but of the man whose pictured face once seen had haunted her ever since.