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meet. Her beauty, her accomplishments, would be present, and was there no danger to the newer love if that memory were frequently brought back?
If he had not loved Annabel, be she who she might! If this love for herself had been his first love, how thankful she would have been! The love she gave him was her first; never had she loved Gilbert Grail, though she had thought her friendship for him deserved the dearer name. Her first love, truly, and would it not he her last?
Very often, when she had sat down to her hook, thoughts of this kind would come and distract her. What to her were the kings of old Eastern lands, the conquests of Rome, the long chronicles dense with forgotten battle and woe? So easily she could have yielded to her former habits, and have passed hour after hour in reverie. What-- she wondered now--had she dreamed of in those far-off days? Was it not foresight of the mystery one day to rule her life? Had she not visioned these sorrows and these priceless joys, when as yet unable to understand them? Indeed, sometimes there seemed no break between then and now. She longed unconsciously for what was now come, that was all. Everything had befallen so naturally, so inevitably, step by step, a rising from vision to vision.
Would the future perfect her life's progress?
But Lydia was not forgotten. To her she wrote long letters, telling all that she might tell. The one thing of which she would most gladly have spoken to her sister must never be touched upon. For in one respect Lydia was against her--fixedly against her; she had come to know that too well. Lydia bitterly resented Egremont's coming between her sister and Gilbert; she hoped his name would never again be spoken, and that all remembrance of him would pass away. This made no difference to Thyrza's love. When she met Lydia it was always with the same passionate joy. Their meetings took place in a private room at the hotel Mrs. Ormonde always used. Lydia never made any inquiry; whatever she might tell about herself, Thyrza had to tell unasked. It would have made a great difference had there been no secret to keep beyond that comparatively unimportant one of where Thyrza was living. But Thyrza resolved to breathe no word till the two years were gone by. Would it, then, make a coldness between her and her sister? It should not; her happiness should not have that great flaw.
When the spring came, Thyrza knew a falling off in her health. The pain at her heart gave her more trouble, and she had days of such physical weakness that she could do little work. With the reviving year her passion became a yearning of such intensity that it seemed to exhaust her frame. For all her endeavours it was seldom during these weeks that she could give attention to her books; even her voice failed for a time, and when she resumed the suspended lessons, she terrified her teacher by fainting just as he was taking leave of her. Mrs. Ormonde came, and there was a very grave conversation between her and Dr. Lambe, who was again attending Thyrza. It was declared that the latter had been over-exerting herself; work of all kind was prohibited for a season. And when a week or two brought about little, if any, improvement, Thyrza was taken to Eastbourne, to her old quarters in Mrs. Guest's house.
There Lydia spent two days with her.
The elder sister could not give herself to full enjoyment of these days. Much as she delighted to be with Thyrza, there was always one and the same drawback to her pleasure in the meetings. Thyrza was so unfeignedly cheerful that Lydia could by no effort get rid of her suspicion that she was being deceived. She shrank from reopening the subject, because it was so disagreeable to her to pronounce Egremont's name; because, too, she could not betray doubt without offending Thyrza. It was hard to distrust Thyrza, yet how account for the girl's most strange apparent happiness? Even now, though under troubled health, her sister's spirits were good. Far more easily Lydia could have suspected Mrs. Ormonde of some duplicity, yet here she was checked by instincts of gratitude, and by a sense of shame. Mrs. Ormonde did not certainly impress her as likely to be deceitful. Still, though she would not specify accusation, Lydia felt, was convinced indeed, that something very material was being kept from her. It was a cruel interference with the completeness of her sympathy in all the conversation between Thyrza and herself.
'So you are friends again with Mary Bower,' Thyrza said, soon after they had met. 'Do you go and have tea with her on Sundays sometimes?'
'No, she comes to me.'
'And you go to chapel?' Thyrza laughed, seeing Lydia look down.
'Poor Lyddy, what a trial it always was to you! Do you mind it so much now?'
They were sitting on the beach. Lydia picked up pebbles and threw them away.
'I don't think about it as I used to, Thyrza,' she replied, quietly, after a short pause. 'I go now because I like to go.'
'Do you, dear?' Thyrza said, doubtfully, feeling there was a change and not understanding it. 'You always liked the singing, you know.'
'Yes, I like the singing. But there's more than that. I like it all now.'
'Do you?' said Thyrza, in yet a more uncertain voice.
Lydia looked up and smiled brightly.
'We won't talk about it now, dearest. Some day we will, though--a good long talk. When we are again together. If we ever shall be together again, Thyrza.'
'I think so, Lyddy. I hope so. At all events, we shall see each other very often.'
'Very often? Not always together?'
Thyrza was silent, but said presently:
'Perhaps. We can't tell, Lyddy.'
'But you don't _think_ we shall. You don't _hope_ we shall.' Thyrza did not speak.
'No,' Lydia went on, very sadly, 'that's all over and gone. There's something between us, and now there always will be, always. It's very hard for me to lose you like this.'
'Don't speak about it now, Lyddy,' her sister murmured. 'It isn't true that there'll always be something between us. You'll see. But don't speak about it now, dear.'
Lydia brightened, and found other subjects, Then Thyrza said:
'You never told me, Lyddy, what it was that first made you break off with Mary. You know you never would tell me. Is it still a secret?'
'No. I can tell you if you like.'
'It was because Mary spoke against Mr. Ackroyd. I still don't think that she ought to have spoken as she did, and Mary owns she was unkind; but I understand better now what she meant.'
'What was it she said?'
'It was about his having no religion, and that, because he had none, he did things he couldn't have done if he'd felt in the right way.'
'Yes, I understand,' Thyrza mused. She added: 'He's still not married?'
'Why not?--Lyddy, I don't believe they ever will be married.'
'And I don't either, dear.'
Thyrza looked quickly at her sister. Lydia was again playing with pebbles, not quite smiling, but nearly.
'You don't. Then what has happened? Won't you tell me?'
'I don't think they suit each other.'
'But there's something else, I'm sure there is. You said, 'And I don't either,' in such a queer way. How do you know they don't suit each other?'
'Since grandad's death, you know, I've often been to Mrs. Poole's. She tells me things sometimes. You mustn't think I ever ask, Thyrza. You know that isn't my way. But Mrs. Poole often speaks about her brother. Only two days ago, she told me he wasn't going to marry Totty.'
'Really? And I don't think you'd have said a word about it if I hadn't made you. It's broken off for good?'
'I believe it is.'
Neither spoke for a while. Then Thyrza said:
'I suppose you see Mr. Ackroyd sometimes at the house?'
'Sometimes,' the other replied, heedlessly.
'Does he talk to you, Lyddy?'
'A little. Just a little, sometimes.'
'But _why_ has he broken off with Totty? What does Totty say about it?'
'I believe she was the first to ask him to break off. I met her a week ago, and she looked very jolly, as if something good had happened to her. I suppose she's glad to be free again.'
'How queer it all is, Lyddy! Now you might mention things like this in your letters. If there's anything else of the same kind happens, remember you tell me.'
'I don't see how there can be. Unless they begin over again.'
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