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Heartsease or Brother's Wife

Chapter II.23
Not so, bold knight, no deed of thine
Can ever win my hand;
That hope, poor youth, thou must resign,
For barriers 'twixt us stand.
Yet what doth part us I will now reveal,
Nor, noblest one, from thee the truth conceal.--FOUQUE
Arthur guessed rightly. Miss Gardner's first leisure was spent in writing her tidings
to Theodora.
It was on a strange state of mind that they fell. Theodora had gone abroad,
softened and conscious of her faults, but her indomitable will boiling up at each
attempt to conquer them; knowing that her fate hung in the balance, but helpless
in the power of her own pride and temper. Miserable, and expecting to be more
wretched, her outward demeanour, no longer checked by Violet, was more than
ever harsh, capricious, and undutiful, especially under her present deprivation of
the occupations that had hitherto been channels of kindly feeling.
She was less patient than formerly with her aunt, who was in truth more trying.
Quickly gathering the state of affairs with regard to Lord St. Erme, she was very
angry with Lord Martindale for not having consulted her, and at the same time
caressed her great-niece beyond endurance. Besides, it was unbearable to hear
sweet Violet scoffed at. Theodora spoke hastily in her defence; was laughed at
for having been gained over; replied vehemently, and then repented of losing
temper with one so aged and infirm. Her attention to Mrs. Nesbit had been one of
her grounds of self-complacency; but this had now failed her--distance was the
only means of keeping the peace and Theodora left her chiefly to her companion,
Mrs. Garth, a hard-looking, military dame, who seemed so well able to take care
of herself, that there was none of the compassion that had caused Theodora to
relieve poor little Miss Piper.
It was not long before Lord St. Erme persuaded his aunt that her tour in Germany
would not be complete without a visit to Baden-Baden. Mrs. Delaval and Lady
Martindale immediately began to be as intimate as was possible with the latter.
Theodora intended to stand aloof, and to be guarded and scornful; but Lady Lucy
was such an engaging, affectionate, honest-hearted little thing, regarding Miss
Martindale with all her brother's enthusiastic devotion, and so grateful for the
slightest notice, that it really was impossible to treat her with the requisite cold
dignity.
And to admit Lady Lucy to her friendship was much the same thing as admitting
the brother. 'St. Erme' was the one engrossing subject of the young girl's
thoughts and discourse, and it was soon plain that not a conversation passed but
was reported to him. If Theodora expressed an opinion, 'St. Erme's' remarks on it
were certain to be brought to her the next day; if a liking or a wish, he was
instantly taking measures for its gratification. She might try to keep him at a
distance, but where was the use of it when, if his moustached self was safely
poetizing in the Black Forest, his double in blue muslin was ever at her elbow?
 
 
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