“How am I to live out my life?” she asked herself, in her anguish.
It had not entered into her head that she could alter it. It did not occur to her to imagine that she could give up anything to which she now stood pledged. To be John Kynaston’s wife, and to love his brother, that was what struck upon her with horror; no other possible contingency had as yet suggested itself to her.
Presently, as she moved slowly onwards, still absorbed in her new-found misfortune, a fresh train of thought came into her mind. She thought no longer about herself, but about him.
“How cruel I was to leave him like that,” she said to herself, reproachfully; “without a word, or so much as a look, of consolation—for, if I suffer, has not he suffered too!”
She forgot that he had asked her for nothing; she only knew that, little enough as she had to give him, she had withheld that little from him.
“What must he think of me?” she repeated to herself, in dismay. “How heartless and how cold I must be in his eyes to have parted from him thus without one single kind word. I might, at least, have told him that I was grateful for the love I cannot take. I wonder,” she continued, half aloud to herself, “I wonder what it is like to be loved by Maurice——” She paused again, this time leaning against the wicket-gate that led out of the park into the high road.
A little smile played for one instant about her lips, a soft, far-away look lingered in her dreaming eyes for just a moment—just the space of time it might take you to count twenty; she let her fancy carry her away—where?
Ah, sweet and perilous reverie! too dear and too dangerous to be safely indulged in. Vera roused herself with a start, passing her hand across her brow as though to brush away the thoughts that would fain have lingered there.
“Impossible!” she said aloud to herself, moving on again rapidly. “I must be a fool to stand here dreaming—I, whose fate is irrevocably fixed; and I would sooner die than alter it. The best match in the county, it is called. Well, so it is; and nothing less would satisfy me. But—but—I think I will see him once again, and wish him good-bye more kindly.”
No; vain, alas! the endeavour
From bonds so sweet to sever,
Poor Wisdom’s chance against a glance
Is now as weak as ever!
The station at Sutton stood perched up above the village on a high embankment, upon which the railway crossed the valley from the hills that lay to the north to those that lay to the south of it. Up at the station it was always draughty and generally cold. To-day, this very early morning, about ten minutes before the first up train is due, it is not only cold and draughty, but it is also wet and foggy. A damp, white mist fills the valley below, and curls up the bare hill sides above; it hangs chillingly about the narrow, open shed on the up side of the station, covering the wooden bench within it with thick beads of moisture, so that no man dare safely sit down on it, and clinging coldly and penetratingly to the garments of a tall young lady in a long ulster and a thick veil, who is slowly walking up and down the platform.