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What it was most impossible to get rid of was the cruel idea that,
whatever I had seen, Miles and Flora saw MORE--things terrible
and unguessable and that sprang from dreadful passages of intercourse
in the past. Such things naturally left on the surface,
for the time, a chill which we vociferously denied that we felt;
and we had, all three, with repetition, got into such splendid
training that we went, each time, almost automatically, to mark
the close of the incident, through the very same movements.
It was striking of the children, at all events, to kiss me inveterately
with a kind of wild irrelevance and never to fail--one or the other--
of the precious question that had helped us through many a peril.
"When do you think he WILL come? Don't you think we OUGHT
to write?"--there was nothing like that inquiry, we found
by experience, for carrying off an awkwardness. "He" of course
was their uncle in Harley Street; and we lived in much profusion
of theory that he might at any moment arrive to mingle in our circle.
It was impossible to have given less encouragement than he had done
to such a doctrine, but if we had not had the doctrine to fall back upon
we should have deprived each other of some of our finest exhibitions.
He never wrote to them--that may have been selfish, but it was a part
of the flattery of his trust of me; for the way in which a man
pays his highest tribute to a woman is apt to be but by the more
festal celebration of one of the sacred laws of his comfort;
and I held that I carried out the spirit of the pledge given not
to appeal to him when I let my charges understand that their own
letters were but charming literary exercises. They were too beautiful
to be posted; I kept them myself; I have them all to this hour.
This was a rule indeed which only added to the satiric effect of my being
plied with the supposition that he might at any moment be among us.
It was exactly as if my charges knew how almost more awkward
than anything else that might be for me. There appears to me,
moreover, as I look back, no note in all this more extraordinary
than the mere fact that, in spite of my tension and of their triumph,
I never lost patience with them. Adorable they must in truth
have been, I now reflect, that I didn't in these days hate them!
Would exasperation, however, if relief had longer been postponed,
finally have betrayed me? It little matters, for relief arrived.
I call it relief, though it was only the relief that a snap brings
to a strain or the burst of a thunderstorm to a day of suffocation.
It was at least change, and it came with a rush.