“The grand passion of her life is yet to come,” said Rachel.
“I hope not,” said Grace.
“You may be certain of that,” said Rachel. “Feminine women always have it one time or other in their lives; only superior ones are exempt. But I hope I may have influence enough to carry her past it, and prevent her taking any step that might be injurious to the children.”
“Thought is free, as sages tells
Free to rove, and free to soar;
But affection lives in bondage,
That enthrals her more and more.”
An old friend lived in the neighbourhood who remembered Fanny’s father, and was very anxious to see her again, though not able to leave the house. So the first day that it was fine enough for Mrs. Curtis to venture out, she undertook to convey Fanny to call upon her, and was off with a wonderfully moderate allowance of children, only the two youngest boys outside with their maid. This drive brought more to light about Fanny’s past way of life and feelings than had ever yet appeared. Rachel had never elicited nearly so much as seemed to have come forth spontaneously to the aunt, who had never in old times been Fanny’s confidante.
Fanny’s life had been almost a prolonged childhood. From the moment of her marriage with the kind old General, he and her mother had conspired to make much of her; all the more that she was almost constantly disabled by her state of health, and was kept additionally languid and helpless by the effects of climate. Her mother had managed her household, and she had absolutely had no care, no duty at all but to be affectionate and grateful, and to be pretty and gracious at the dinner parties. Even in her mother’s short and sudden illness, the one thought of both the patient and the General had been to spare Fanny, and she had been scarcely made aware of the danger, and not allowed to witness the suffering. The chivalrous old man who had taken on himself the charge of her, still regarded the young mother of his children as almost as much of a baby herself, and devoted himself all the more to sparing her trouble, and preventing her from feeling more thrown upon her by her mother’s death. The notion of training her to act alone never even occurred to him, and when he was thrown from his horse, and carried into a wayside-hut to die, his first orders were that no hurried message