'I am not blaming you, Dora. We have both a great deal to learn. I am only trying to show you, my dear, that you must — you really must' (I was resolved not to give this up) — 'accustom yourself to look after Mary Anne. Likewise to act a little for yourself, and me.'
'I wonder, I do, at your making such ungrateful speeches,' sobbed Dora. 'When you know that the other day, when you said you would like a little bit of fish, I went out myself, miles and miles, and ordered it, to surprise you.'
'And it was very kind of you, my own darling,' said I. 'I felt it so much that I wouldn't on any account have even mentioned that you bought a Salmon — which was too much for two. Or that it cost one pound six — which was more than we can afford.'
'You enjoyed it very much,' sobbed Dora. 'And you said I was a Mouse.'
'And I'll say so again, my love,' I returned, 'a thousand times!'
But I had wounded Dora's soft little heart, and she was not to be comforted. She was so pathetic in her sobbing and bewailing, that I felt as if I had said I don't know what to hurt her. I was obliged to hurry away; I was kept out late; and I felt all night such pangs of remorse as made me miserable. I had the conscience of an assassin, and was haunted by a vague sense of enormous wickedness.
It was two or three hours past midnight when I got home. I found my aunt, in our house, sitting up for me.
'Is anything the matter, aunt?' said I, alarmed.
'Nothing, Trot,' she replied. 'Sit down, sit down. Little Blossom has been rather out of spirits, and I have been keeping her company. That's all.'
I leaned my head upon my hand; and felt more sorry and downcast, as I sat looking at the fire, than I could have supposed possible so soon after the fulfilment of my brightest hopes. As I sat thinking, I happened to meet my aunt's eyes, which were resting on my face. There was an anxious expression in them, but it cleared directly.
'I assure you, aunt,' said I, 'I have been quite unhappy myself all night, to think of Dora's being so. But I had no other intention than to speak to her tenderly and lovingly about our home-affairs.'
MY aunt nodded encouragement.
'You must have patience, Trot,' said she.
'Of course. Heaven knows I don't mean to be unreasonable, aunt!'
'No, no,' said my aunt. 'But Little Blossom is a very tender little blossom, and the wind must be gentle with her.'
I thanked my good aunt, in my heart, for her tenderness towards my wife; and I was sure that she knew I did.
'Don't you think, aunt,' said I, after some further contemplation of the fire, 'that you could advise and counsel Dora a little, for our mutual advantage, now and then?'
'Trot,' returned my aunt, with some emotion, 'no! Don't ask me such a thing.'
Her tone was so very earnest that I raised my eyes in surprise.
'I look back on my life, child,' said my aunt, 'and I think of some who are in their graves, with whom I might have been on kinder terms. If I judged harshly of other people's mistakes in marriage, it may have been because I had bitter reason to judge harshly of my own. Let that pass. I have been a grumpy, frumpy, wayward sort of a woman, a good many years. I am still, and I always shall be. But you and I have done one another some good, Trot, — at all events, you have done me good, my dear; and division must not come between us, at this time of day.'
'Division between us!' cried I.
'Child, child!' said my aunt, smoothing her dress, 'how soon it might come between us, or how unhappy I might make our Little Blossom, if I meddled in anything, a prophet couldn't say. I want our pet to like me, and be as gay as a butterfly. Remember your own home, in that second marriage; and never do both me and her the injury you have hinted at!'
I comprehended, at once, that my aunt was right; and I comprehended the full extent of her generous feeling towards my dear wife.
'These are early days, Trot,' she pursued, 'and Rome was not built in a day, nor in a year. You have chosen freely for yourself'; a cloud passed over her face for a moment, I thought; 'and you have chosen a very pretty and a very affectionate creature. It will be your duty, and it will be your pleasure too — of course I know that; I am not delivering a lecture — to estimate her (as you chose her) by the qualities she has, and not by the qualities she may not have. The latter you must develop in her, if you can. And if you cannot, child,' here my aunt rubbed her nose, 'you must just accustom yourself to do without 'em. But remember, my dear, your future is between you two. No one can assist you; you are to work it out for yourselves. This is marriage, Trot; and Heaven bless you both, in it, for a pair of babes in the wood as you are!'