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and more painful to be borne. And yet, but for those few words, she would have been comforted by the interview. She rejoiced to see him as he now was, and the conversation about Eve had been an unspeakable relief. It cast to the winds every old surmise that of late his affection to her had become a warmer feeling; she perceived bow unfounded this had been. He had spoken unreservedly at last; and had he been so deeply touched as she had once feared, never could he have breathed a syllable as to Eve's present fate, even to her, his old friend. Of that she was assured.
You have been weaving again a dark web of feeling and thought, which holds you fast, as though it were of iron strength, while in reality it is but a spider's web.
sat by the fireside in the breakfast
room, half reading, half thinking. Her seat was a low one, and she bent forward as she read. Sir Mark, passing noiselessly in from the library, paused a moment at the door, and saw the dejected attitude, the sadness of the face, with the grave profile, and strangely thin cheek. Her curls were knotted back and covered by a little lace cap, which suited ill a head which nature had meant to look always fresh and girlish. What is so mournful as premature age and suffering in features which seem fitted only to reflect youth and gladness ?
She was pretty still, but the peculiar charm and piquancy of her appearance were gone.
"Where is Mordaunt ? and Sir Mark came carelessly in, that she might not guess he had watched her. One hand thrust her little volume into the pocket of her dress, the other put back the stray hair which, mindful of its onceloved liberty, crept curling back to her white brow.
"Mordaunt? I do not know. I have not seen him.'
Mr. Daresford walked out early, my lady,' said a servant, hastening to arrange the breakfast upon the table.
'Pray do not wait for him,' Eve pleaded, with that restless eagerness that nothing and
one of hers should inconvenience her husband, which had grown habitual to her, and secretly painful to Sir Mark.
'I am in no hurry,' he said, coldly; and then added, there is no one for whom I am more bound to wait than your cousin. I fear I often keep him waiting, and I don't think he ever before returned me the compliment. I will wait the more willingly,' he continued, seeing they were again alone, and anxious to have some topic of mutual interest, ‘if he has gone to Carisbroke.'
Eve looked up quickly for an instant, with
no rising blush such as would once have tinged her cheek at the supposition. She felt only fear lest Sir Mark should ask why she went so seldom.
'I never asked you, Eve, why that has never become more than friendship ?'
'I could not have answered, for I do not know.'
Have you never suspected it?'
• It was never hinted at or dreamed of,' Eve answered, quietly.
' But you—you are quick of sight-did you never suspect ?' Eve hesitated only an instant.
She was growing daily more scrupulously truthful. Not till within the last two or three years. You know she was engaged to poor Walter Carisbroke, and people always say she will never marry.'
• Do women never make a mistake,' Sir Mark asked, “and fancy a girlish liking a passion never to be extinguished ? I should suppose they do, as well as men. But I have more faith in the love which ripens in riper years, and is the fruit of judgment as well as imagination.'
Eve could not look up now, tears were in her eyes; and yet those last words thrilled her with something half pain, half pleasure—a faint, new, struggling hope.
"Walter Carisbroke was better and wiser than any one I ever saw.
She can scarcely find an object worthier love.'
'Not even Mordaunt; who is, to me, worth more than all the other men I know?
I hope I am right, and that a woman can and does love twice.'
Eve started, partly from pleasure at this praise of Mordaunt—the warmest praise she ever heard her husband utter—and partly because Mordaunt entered as the last sentence was spoken. It fell distinctly on his ears, but little heeded at the instant, or construed as referring to his own history. He thought only of the novelty of finding them both in earnest and, as it appeared, confidential conversation, for both wore a somewhat confused aspect. He wished he had had occasion more frequently to feel his presence an interruption.
'I dare say you thought I was modest and industrious, and, disdaining to wait for your late breakfast, had hurried to town by the earliest train ; but I have only been taking a morning walk.'