Vera did what was most pleasant and also most natural to her—she did nothing. She was by habit and by culture essentially indolent. The southern blood she inherited, the life of the Italian fine lady she had led, made her languid and fond of inaction. To lie late in bed, to sip chocolate, and open her letters before she rose; to be dressed and re-dressed by a fashionable lady’s maid; to recline in luxurious carriages, and to listen lazily to the flattery and adulation that had surrounded her—that had been Vera’s life from morning till night ever since she grew up.
How, with such antecedents, was she to enter suddenly into all the activity of an English clergyman’s home? There were the schools, and the vestry meetings, and the sick and the destitute to be fretted after from Monday morning till Saturday night—Eustace and Marion hardly ever had a moment’s respite or a leisure hour the whole week; whilst Sunday, of course, was the hardest day’s work of all.
But Vera could not turn her life into these things. She would not have known how to set about them, and assuredly she had no desire to try.
So she wandered about the garden in the summer time, or sat dreamily by the fire in winter. She gathered flowers and decorated the rooms with them; she spoilt the children, she quarrelled with their grandmother, but she did nothing else; and the righteous soul of Eustace Daintree was disquieted within him on account of her. He felt that her life was wasted, and the responsibility of it seemed, to his over-sensitive conscience, to rest upon himself.
“The girl ought to be married,” he would say to his wife, anxiously. “A husband and a home of her own is what she wants. If she were happily settled she would find occupation enough.”
“I don’t see whom she could marry, Eustace; men are so scarce, and there are so many girls in the county.”
“Well, she might have had Barry.” Barry was a curate whom Vera had lately scorned, and who had, in consequence of the crushed condition of his affections, incontinently fled. “And then there is Gisburne. Why couldn’t she marry Gisburne? He is quite a catch, and a good young man too.”
“Yes, it is a pity; perhaps she may change her mind, and he will ask her again after Christmas; he told me as much.”
“You must try and persuade her to think better of it by then, my dear. Now I must be off to old Abraham, and be sure you send round the port to Mary Williams; and you will find the list for the blanket club on my study table, love.”
Her husband started on his morning rounds, and Marion, coming down into the drawing-room, found old Mrs. Daintree haranguing Vera on the same all-important topic.
“I am only speaking for your good, Vera; what other object could I have?” she was saying, as she dived into the huge basket of undarned socks on the floor before her, and extracted thereout a ragged specimen to be operated upon. “It is sheer obstinacy on your part that you will not accept such a good offer. And there was poor Mr. Barry, a most worthy young man, and his second cousin a bishop, too, quite sure of a living, I should say.”