Happy days succeeded; the lodgings in Piccadilly were nearly deserted, Percy was always either nursing Arthur, playing with the children, or bringing sheets of Byzantine history for revision; and he was much slower in looking over Theodora's copies of them than in writing them himself. There was much grave quiet talk between the lovers when alone together. They were much altered since the time when their chief satisfaction seemed to lie in teasing and triumphing over one another; past troubles and vague prospects had a sobering influence; and they felt that while they enjoyed their present union as an unlooked-for blessing, it might be only a resting point before a long period of trial, separation, and disappointment. It gave a resigned tone to their happiness, even while its uncertainty rendered it more precious.
All mirthfulness, except what the children called forth, was reserved for Arthur's room; but he thought Percy as gay and light-hearted as ever, and his sister not much less so. Percy would not bring their anxieties to depress the fluctuating spirits, which, wearied with the sameness of a sick-room, varied with every change of weather, every sensation of the hour.
Theodora almost wondered at Percy's talking away every desponding fit of Arthur's, whether about his health, his money matters, or their hopes. She said, though it was most trying to hear him talk of never coming down again, of not living to see the children grow up, and never allowing that he felt better, that she thought, considering how much depended on the impression now made, it might be false kindness to talk away his low spirits. Were they not repentance? Perhaps Percy was right, but she should not have dared to do so.
'Theodora, you do not know the difference between reflection and dejection. Arthur's repentance is too deep a thing for surface talk. It does not depend on my making him laugh or not.'
'If anxiety about himself keeps it up--'
'If I let him believe that I do not think he will recover, for the sake of encouraging his repentance, I should be leaving him in a delusion, and that I have no right to do. Better let him feel himself repenting as having to redeem what is past, than merely out of terror, thinking the temptations have given him up, not that he gives them up. Why, when he told me to sell his saddle-horses the other day, and that he should never ride again, it was nothing, and I only roused him up to hope to be out in the spring. Then he began to lament over his beautiful mare,--but when it came to his saying he had sacrificed Violet's drives for her, and that he had been a selfish wretch, who never deserved to mount a horse again, and ending with a deep sigh, and "Let her go, I ought to give her up," there was reality and sincerity, and I acted on it. No, if Arthur comes out of his room a changed character, it must be by strengthening his resolution, not by weakening his mind, by letting him give way to the mere depression of illness.'
'You believe the change real? Oh, you don't know what the doubt is to me! after my share in the evil, the anxiety is doubly intense! and I cannot see much demonstration except in his sadness, which you call bodily weakness.'
'We cannot pry into hidden things,' Percy answered. 'Watch his wife, and you will see that she is satisfied. You may trust him to her, and to Him in whose hands he is. Of this I am sure, that there is a patient consideration for others, and readiness to make sacrifices that are not like what he used to be. You are not satisfied? It is not as you would repent; but you must remember that Arthur's is after all a boy's character; he has felt his errors as acutely as I think he can feel them, and if he is turning from them, that is all we can justly expect. They were more weakness than wilfulness.'