To a certain point, we may follow with philosophic curiosity, step by step, the progress of mental anguish, but when that point is passed, analysis loses its interest; the vocabulary of pain has exhausted itself, the phenomena already noted do but repeat themselves with more rapidity, with more intensity—detail is lost in the mere sense of throes. Perchance the mind is capable of suffering worse than the fiercest pangs of hopeless love combined with jealousy; one would not pretend to put a limit to the possibilities of human woe; but for Mallard, at all events this night did the black flood of misery reach high-water mark.
What joy in the world that does not represent a counter-balance of sorrow? What blessedness poured upon one head but some other must therefore lie down under malediction? We know that with the uttermost of happiness there is wont to come a sudden blending of troublous humour. May it not be that the soul has conceived a subtle sympathy with that hapless one but for whose sacrifice its own elation were impossible?
ECHO AND PRELUDE
At Villa Sannazaro, the posture of affairs was already understood. When Eleanor Spence, casually calling at the pension, found that Cecily was unable to receive visitors, she at the same time learnt from Mrs. Lessingham to what this seclusion was due. The ladies had a singular little conversation, for Eleanor was inwardly so amused at this speedy practical comment on Mrs. Lessingham’s utterances of the other day, that with difficulty she kept her countenance; while Mrs. Lessingham herself, impelled to make the admission without delay, that she might exhibit a philosophic acceptance of fact, had much ado to hide her chagrin beneath the show of half-cynical frankness that became a woman of the world. Eleanor—passably roguish within the limits of becoming mirth—acted the scene to her husband, who laughed shamelessly. Then came explanations between Eleanor and Miriam.
The following day passed without news, but on the morning after, Miriam had a letter from Cecily; not a long letter, nor very effusive, but telling all that was to be told. And it ended with a promise that Cecily would come to the villa that afternoon. This was communicated to Eleanor.
“Where’s Mallard, I wonder?” said Spence, when his wife came to talk to him. “Not, I suspect, at the old quarters, It would be like him to go off somewhere without a word. Confound that fellow Elgar!”
“I’m half disposed to think that it serves Mr. Mallard right,” was Eleanor’s remark.
“Well, for heartlessness commend me to a comfortable woman.”
“And for folly commend me to a strong-minded man.”
“Pooh! He’ll growl and mutter a little, and then get on with his painting.”
“If I thought so, my liking for him would diminish. I hope he is tearing his hair.”