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Weekly tips on great novels to read.
Next morning, over a rather late breakfast in his sitting-room at
Claridge's, Josiah's second post came in.
All had gone well with his business in the City the day before, and in
the afternoon he had run down to Bessington Hall, returning late at
feeling unusually well and self-important, and his thoughts
turned to pleasant things: To the delight of having Theodora once more
as a wife; of his hope of founding a family--the Browns of
Bessington--why not? Had not a boy at the gate called him squire?
"Good-day to 'e, squire," he had said, and that was pleasant to hear.
If only his tiresome cough would keep off in the autumn, he might
himself shoot the extensive coverts he had ordered to be stocked on the
estate. He had heard there were schools for would-be sportsmen to learn
the art of handling a gun, and he would make inquiries.
All the prospect was fair.
He picked up his letters and turned them over. Nothing of importance.
Ah, yes! there was Theodora's. The first letter she had ever written
him, and such a long one! What could the girl have to say? Surely not
all that about trains! He opened the envelope with a knife which lay by
his plate, and this is what he read--read with whitening face and
sinking heart: "BEECHLEIGH, June 5th.
HECTOR, MY BELOVED!--Oh, for this last time I must think
of you as that! Dearest, we are parted now and may never meet
again, and the pain of it all kept me silent yesterday, when my
heart was breaking with the anguish and longing to tell you how I
loved you, how you were not going away suffering alone. Oh, it has
all crept upon us, this great, great love! It was fate, and it was
useless to struggle against it. Only we must not let it be the
reason of our doing wrong--that would be to degrade it, and love
should not live in an atmosphere of degradation. I could not go
away with you, could not have you for my lover without breaking a
bargain--a bargain over which I have given my word. Of course I did
not know what love meant when I was married. In France one does not
think of that as connected with a husband. It was just a duty to be
got through to help papa and my sisters. But my part of the bargain
was myself, and in return for giving that I have money and a home,
and papa and Sarah and Clementine are comfortable and happy. And as
Josiah has kept his side of it, so I must keep mine, and be
faithful to him always in word and deed. Dearest, it is too
terrible to think of this material aspect to a bond which now I
know should only be one of love and faith and tenderness. But it
is a bond, and I have given my word, and no happiness could come
to us if I should break it, as Josiah has not broken his. And oh,
Hector, you do not know how good he has always been to me, and
generous and indulgent! It is not his fault that he is not of our
class, and I must do my utmost to make him happy, and atone for
this wound which I have unwittingly given him, and which he is, and
must always remain, unconscious of. Oh, if something could have
warned me, after that first time we met, that I would love you--had
begun to love you--even then there would have been time to draw
back, to save us both, perhaps, from suffering. And yet, and yet, I
do not know, we might have missed the greatest and noblest good of
all our lives. Dearest, I want you to keep the memory of me as
something happy. Each year, when the spring-time comes and the
young fresh green, I want you to look back on our day at
Versailles, and to say to yourself, 'Life cannot be all sad,
because nature gave the earth the returning spring.' And some
spring must come for us, too--if only in our hearts.