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And the summer wore away and the dripping autumn came, and with each
week, each day almost, Josiah seemed to shrivel.
It was not very noticeable at first, after the ten days of sharp illness
which had prostrated him when he received the fatal letter.
He appeared to recover almost from that, and they went down to
Bessington Hall at the beginning of July. But there was no further talk
of a second honeymoon.
Theodora's tenderness and devotion never flagged. If her heart was
broken she could at least keep her word, and try to make her husband
happy. And so each one acted a part, with much zeal for the other's
It was anguish to Josiah to see his wife's sweet face grow whiter and
thinner; she was so invariably bright and cheerful with him, so
considerate of his slightest wish.
His pride and affection for her had turned into a sort of adoration as
the days wore on. He used to watch her silently from behind a paper, or
when she thought he slept. Then the mask of smiles fell from her, and he
saw the pathetic droop of her young, fair head and the mournful gloom
that would creep into her great, blue eyes.
And he was the stumbling-block to her happiness. She had sent away the
man she loved in order to stay and be true to him, to minister to his
wants, and do her utmost to render him happy. Oh, what could he do for
her in return? What possible thing?
He lavished gifts upon her; he lavished gifts upon her sisters, upon her
father; their welfare, he remembered, was part of the bargain. At least
she would know these--her dear ones--had gained by it, and, so far, her
sacrifice had not been in vain.
This thought comforted him a little. But the constant gnawing ache at
his heart, and the withdrawal of all object to live for, soon began to
tell upon his always feeble constitution.
Of what use was anything at all? His house or his lands! His pride in
his position--even his title of "squire," which he often heard now. All
were dead-sea fruit, dust and ashes; there never would be any Browns of
Bessington in the years to come. There never would be anything for him,
never any more.
For a week in September Captain and Mrs. Dominic Fitzgerald had paid
them a visit, and the brilliant bride had cheered them up for a little
and seemed to bring new life with her. She expressed herself as
completely satisfied with her purchase in the way of a husband; it was
just as she had known, three was a lucky number for her, and Dominic was
her soul's mate, and they were going to lead the life they both loved,
of continual movement and change and gayety.
But the situation at Bessington distressed her.
"Why, my dear, they are just like a couple of sick paroquets," she said
to her husband. "Mr. Brown don't look long for this world, and Theodora
is a shadow! What in the Lord's name has been happening to them?"
But Dominic could not enlighten her. Before they left she determined to
ascertain for herself.
The last evening she said to Theodora, who was bidding her good-night in
"I had a letter from your friend Lord Bracondale last week, from Alaska.
He asks for news of you. Did you see him after he came from Paris? He
was only a short while in England, I understand."
"Yes, we saw him once or twice," said Theodora, "and we made the
acquaintance of his sister."
"He always seemed to be very fond of her. Is she a nice sort of woman?"
"I hear the mother is clean crazy with him for going off again and not
marrying that heiress they are so set upon. But why should he? He don't
want the money."
"No," said Theodora.
"Was he at Beechleigh when you were there?"
"And Miss Winmarleigh, too?"
"Yes, she was there."
"Oh!" said Mrs. Fitzgerald. "A great lump of a woman, isn't she?"
"She is rather large."
This was hopeless--a conversation of this sort--Jane Fitzgerald decided.
It told her nothing.
Theodora's face had become so schooled it did not, even to her
step-mother's sharp eyes, betray any emotion.
"I am glad if the folly is over," she thought to herself. "But I
shouldn't wonder if it Wasn't something to do with it still, after all.
If it is not that, what can it be?" Then she said aloud: "He is going
through America, and we shall meet him when we get back in November,
most likely. I shall persuade him to come down to Florida with us, if I
can. He seems to be aimlessly wandering round, I suppose, shooting
things; but Florida is the loveliest place in the world, and I wish you
and Josiah would come, too, my dear."
"That would be beautiful," said Theodora, "but Josiah is not fit for a
long journey. We shall go to the Riviera, most probably, when the
weather gets cold."
"Have you no message for him then, Theodora, when I see him?"
And now there was some sign. Theodora clasped her hands together, and
she said in a constrained voice:
"Yes. Tell him I hope he is well--and I am well--just that," and she
walked ever to the dressing-table and picked up a brush, and put it down
"I shall tell him no such thing," said her step-mother, kindly, "because
I don't believe it is true. You are not well, dear child, and I am
worried about you."
But Theodora assured her that she was, and all was as it should be, and
nothing further could be got out of her; so they kissed and wished each
other good-night. And Jane Fitzgerald, left to herself, heaved a great
Next day, after this cheery pair had gone, things seemed to take a
The mention of Hector's name and whereabouts had roused Theodora's
dormant sorrows into activity again; and with all her will and
determination to hide her anguish, Josiah could perceive an added note
of pathos in her voice at times and less and less elasticity in her
Once he would have noticed none of these things, but now each shade of
difference in her made its impression upon him.
And so the time wore on, their hearts full of an abiding grief.
When October set in Josiah caught a bad cold, which obliged him to keep
to his bed for days and days. He did not seem very ill, and assured his
wife he would be all right soon; but by November, Sir Baldwin Evans, who
was sent for hurriedly from London, broke it gently to Theodora that her
husband could not live through the winter. He might not even live for
many days. Then she wept bitter tears. Had she been remiss in anything?
What could she do for him? Oh, poor Josiah!
And Josiah knew that his day was done, as he lay there in his splendid,
silk-curtained bed. But life had become of such small worth to him that
he was almost glad.
"Now, soon she can be happy--my little girl," he said to himself, "with
the one of her class. It does not do to mix them, and I was a fool to
try. But her heart is too kind ever to quite forget poor old Josiah
And this thought comforted him. And that night he died.
Then Theodora wept her heart out as she kissed his cold, thin hand.
When they got the telegram in New York at Mrs. Fitzgerald's mansion,
Hector was just leaving the house, and Captain Fitzgerald ran after him
down the steps.
"My son-in-law, Josiah Brown, is dead," he said. "My wife thought you
would be interested to hear. Poor fellow, he was not very old
Hector almost staggered for a moment, and leaned against the gilded
balustrade. Then he took off his hat reverently, while he said, in his
deep, expressive voice:
"There lived no greater gentleman."
And Captain Fitzgerald wondered if he were mad or what he could mean,
as he watched him stride away down the street.
But when he told his wife, she understood, for she had just learned from
Hector the whole story.
And perhaps--who knows? Far away in Shadowland Josiah heard those words,
"There lived no greater gentleman." And if he did--they fell like balm
on his sad soul.
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