"SEVEN months have passed, my dear Dick, since my 'inhuman obstinacy' (those were the words you used) made you one of the witnesses at my marriage to Miss Dulane, sorely against your will. Do you remember your parting prophecy when you were out of the bride's hearing? 'A miserable life is before that woman's husband--and, by Jupiter, he has deserved it!'
"Never, my dear boy, attempt to forecast the future again. Viewed as a prophet you are a complete failure. I have nothing to complain of in my married life.
"But you must not mistake me. I am far from saying that I am a happy man; I only declare myself to be a contented man. My old wife is a marvel of good temper and good sense. She trusts me implicitly, and I have given her no reason to regret it. We have our time for being together, and our time for keeping apart. Within our inevitable limits we understand each other and respect each other, and have a truer feeling of regard on both sides than many people far better matched than we are in point of age. But you shall judge for yourself. Come and dine with us, when I return on Wednesday next from the trial trip of my new yacht. In the meantime I have a service to ask of you.
"My wife's niece has been her companion for years. She has left us to be married to an officer, who has taken her to India; and we are utterly at a loss how to fill her place. The good old lady doesn't want much. A nice-tempered refined girl, who can sing and play to her with some little taste and feeling, and read to her now and then when her eyes are weary--there is what we require; and there, it seems, is more than we can get, after advertising for a week past. Of all the 'companions' who have presented themselves, not one has turned out to be the sort of person whom Lady Howel wants.
"Can you help us? In any case, my wife sends you her kind remembrances; and (true to the old times) I add my love."
~ On the day which followed the receipt of this letter, Dick paid a visit to Lady Howel Beaucourt.
"You seem to be excited," she said. "Has anything remarkable happened?"
"Pardon me if I ask a question first," Dick replied. "Do you object to a young widow?"