Heartsease or Brother's Wife
Some heavy business hath my lord in hand,
And I must know it, else he loves me not.--King Henry IV
Miss Gardner's departure threw the rest of the party more together, and
Theodora did not hold herself as much aloof as before. Indeed she perceived
that there were occasions when Arthur seemed to be returning to his preference
for her. She had more conversation, and it often fell on subjects of which the
bride had no knowledge, while the sister was happy in resuming old habits.
Sometimes Violet was entertained; but one day when they were riding, the talk
was going on eagerly on some subject of which she knew nothing, while they
rode faster than she liked, and she fancied she was insecure in her saddle.
Twice she timidly called Arthur; but he was too much absorbed to attend to her,
without a degree of scream, which she did not feel would be justified. Each
moment she grew more alarmed and miserable, and though at last, when he
perceived that she wanted him, he was off his horse in a moment and set all to
rights, she completely forgot her distress,--the charm had been broken, she was
no longer his first thought.
The sensation of loneliness often returned during the next few weeks; there was
no real neglect, and she would not so have felt it if she had not depended on him
alone, and so long enjoyed his exclusive attention. His fondness and petting
were the same, but she perceived that he found in his sister a companionship of
which she did not feel capable. But to Theodora herself, whenever she
succeeded in engrossing Arthur, it seemed a victory of sisterly affection and
sense over beauty and frivolity.
Arthur was anxious to know the family politics, and resumed the habit of
depending on his sister for gathering intelligence from Mrs. Nesbit. On her he
bestowed his complaints that his father would not see things as he wished, and
with her talked over his projects. In truth, he could not bear to disclose to his wife
the footing on which he stood,-- looking on her as a mere child, sure to be
satisfied, and not requiring to be consulted.
Theodora gave him tidings of the proposal that he should settle in the village, and
finding him undecided, threw all her weight into the opposite scale. She sincerely
believed she was consulting his happiness and the harmony of the family by
speaking of the irksomeness of living there with nothing to do, and by assisting
him in calculating how large an income would be necessary to enable him to
keep hunters, go from home, &c., without which he declared it would be
intolerable, and as there was little probability of his father allowing him so much,
continuing in his profession was the only alternative.
Violet saw them in frequent consultation, and once John said something to her of
his hopes of seeing her at Brogden; then, finding her in ignorance, drew back,
but not till he had said enough to make her restless at hearing no more. She
would, of course, have preferred living in the country; but when she figured to
herself Arthur always with Theodora, and herself shut up in the little parlour she
had seen in the rain, she grew extremely disconsolate.