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Desperate Remedies

8. The Events Of Eighteen Days
Miss Aldclyffe's tenderness towards Cytherea, between the hours of her
irascibility, increased till it became no less than doting fondness. Like Nature in
the tropics, with her hurricanes and the subsequent luxuriant vegetation effacing
their ravages, Miss Aldclyffe compensated for her outbursts by excess of
generosity afterwards. She seemed to be completely won out of herself by close
contact with a young woman whose modesty was absolutely unimpaired, and
whose artlessness was as perfect as was compatible with the complexity
necessary to produce the due charm of womanhood. Cytherea, on her part,
perceived with honest satisfaction that her influence for good over Miss Aldclyffe
was considerable. Ideas and habits peculiar to the younger, which the elder lady
had originally imitated as a mere whim, she grew in course of time to take a
positive delight in. Among others were evening and morning prayers, dreaming
over out-door scenes, learning a verse from some poem whilst dressing.
Yet try to force her sympathies as much as she would, Cytherea could feel no
more than thankful for this, even if she always felt as much as thankful. The
mysterious cloud hanging over the past life of her companion, of which the
uncertain light already thrown upon it only seemed to render still darker the
unpenetrated remainder, nourished in her a feeling which was scarcely too slight
to be called dread. She would have infinitely preferred to be treated distantly, as
the mere dependent, by such a changeable nature--like a fountain, always
herself, yet always another. That a crime of any deep dye had ever been
perpetrated or participated in by her namesake, she would not believe; but the
reckless adventuring of the lady's youth seemed connected with deeds of
darkness rather than of light.
Sometimes Miss Aldclyffe appeared to be on the point of making some absorbing
confidence, but reflection invariably restrained her. Cytherea hoped that such a
confidence would come with time, and that she might thus be a means of
soothing a mind which had obviously known extreme suffering.
But Miss Aldclyffe's reticence concerning her past was not imitated by Cytherea.
Though she never disclosed the one fact of her knowledge that the love-suit
between Miss Aldclyffe and her father terminated abnormally, the maiden's
natural ingenuousness on subjects not set down for special guard had enabled
Miss Aldclyffe to worm from her, fragment by fragment, every detail of her
father's history. Cytherea saw how deeply Miss Aldclyffe sympathized--and it
compensated her, to some extent, for the hasty resentments of other times.
Thus uncertainly she lived on. It was perceived by the servants of the House that
some secret bond of connection existed between Miss Aldclyffe and her
companion. But they were woman and woman, not woman and man, the facts
were ethereal and refined, and so they could not be worked up into a taking
story. Whether, as old critics disputed, a supernatural machinery be necessary to
an epic or no, an ungodly machinery is decidedly necessary to a scandal.
Another letter had come to her from Edward--very short, but full of entreaty,
asking why she would not write just one line--just one line of cold friendship at