'I do not know what it was, but it was under great provocation, and you did not understand him then.'
'No, you and Hugh drove me to him, and in seeing him pleased with anything I can do for him, there is solid happiness. I have learnt to enter into his affection and deep feeling and anxieties, and I would not have missed these four years of reciprocity with him for anything! And I shall get on better with mamma now. I fancy she has a different nature after all, from what my aunt forced on her. Well, then, you know I have long set up for a maiden aunt, and there is John, who might want a housekeeper. Or if I am of no use to my own folks, there are the poor always. Perhaps I may come to Emma Brandon's priory. It would be fine discipline to be under Mother Theresa.
This unexpected pleasantry Violet could only answer by a groan.
'Seriously,' continued Theodora, 'my doubt would be whether it would be right to turn to such a course only when one has nothing else to do. It is a different thing from giving the energies and wishes and visions of youth, as Emma has done. I could only offer the worn-out. But that is speculation. There is present duty at home and in the village, and brightness in your children, and my hopes are on John. I have used him vilely, because he tried to teach me to take to you, and I do long to see him and ask his pardon, and you will help me, so that he shall believe in my sorrow, and we will be a sober old brother and sister together.'
'I believe he wishes for nothing more. He will feel your having worked for him, instead of saving anything of your own.'
'I had little to care for: my childhood had few recollections, and I had nothing of Helen's. It was a pleasure to work for him. Do you know, when I saw that marble chess-table which had belonged to the parsonage, and which Percy had left in John's charge, a horrid feeling came that I would not save it for Jane, and I left it. Then I remembered that was a nasty spiteful bit of revenge, and I hated myself, and dashed in when I really did know that it was not safe. I was altogether mad, I believe. I felt desperate, and rather enjoyed facing danger for it. And then I felt the heat of the fire from the gallery again, and the spout from the fire-engine came, and the smoke was so thick that I missed my footing with that great heavy thing, and fell down-stairs to the first landing, and I believe that must have been what hurt my hand and side so much.'
Then as she heard Violet's tightened breath at the thought of the frightful peril,
'Well for me I did not perish with these wild thoughts! I am glad I have told you at last. I have felt as if I ought to confess it, and yet I was ashamed. Is the thing safe?'