’Dear Bell,—We are much relieved by your letter. It is of course impossible to stay among those mountains for the rest of the winter; I hope uncle will very soon be well enough to come south. The plan of living at Eastbourne for a time is no doubt a good one. You’ll have Mrs. Ormonde to talk to. She is very nice, though I’ve generally found her a little serious: but then she’s like you in that. I think it’s a pity people trouble themselves about things that only make them gloomy.
’I have a little piece of news for you. It really looks as if I was going to be married. In fact, I’ve said I would be, and I think it likely I shall keep my word. My name will be Mrs. Dalmaine. Don’t you remember Mr. Egremont speaking of Mr. Dalmaine and calling him names? From that moment I made up my mind that he must be a very nice man, and when we made his acquaintance I found that I wasn’t so far wrong. You see, poor Mr. Egremont so hates everything and everybody that’s practical. Now I’m practical, as you know, so it’s right I should marry a practical man. Papa has the highest opinion of Mr. Dalmaine’s abilities; he thinks he has a great future in politics. Wouldn’t it be delightful if one’s husband really became Prime Minister or something of the kind!
’Do you know, it really is a pity that Mr. Egremont is going on in this way! He’s going to spend enormous sums of money in establishing a library in Lambeth. It’s very good of him, of course, but we are all so sure it’s a mistake. Shall I tell you my own view? Mr. Egremont is an idealist, and idealists are not the people to do serious work of this kind. The real social reformers are the hard-headed, practical men, who at heart care only for their own advancement. If you think, I’m sure you’ll find this is true. You see that I am beginning to occupy myself with serious questions. It will be necessary in the wife of an active politician. But if you could hint to Mr. Egremont that he is going shockingly astray! He dined with us the other night, and doesn’t look at all well. I am so afraid lest he is doing all this just because you tell him to. Is it so?
’But I have fifty other letters to write. My best love to uncle; tell him to get well as quickly as possible. I wonder that dreadful lonely place hasn’t killed you both. I shall be so glad to see you again, for I do really like you, Bell, and I know you are awfully wise and good. Think of me sometimes and hope that I shall be happy. —Yours affectionately,
LIGHTS AND SHADOWS
Egremont’s face, it was true, showed that things were not altogether well with him. It was not ill-health, but mental restlessness, which expressed itself in the lines of his forehead and the diminished brightness of his eyes. During the last two months of the year he had felt a constant need of help, and help such as would alone stead him he could not find.