Watch and Ward (unsourced edition)/VI
ROGER had assured his cousin that he meant to return home, and indeed, after Nora’s departure, he spent a fortnight in the country. But finding he had no patience left for solitude, he again came to town and established himself for the winter. A restless need of getting rid of time caused him to resume his earlier social habits. It began to be said of him that now he had disposed of that queer little girl that he had picked up Heaven knew where (whom it was certainly very good-natured of Mrs. Keith to take off his hands), he was going to look about him for a young person whom he might take to his home in earnest. Roger felt as if he were now establishing himself in society in behalf of that larger personality into which his narrow singleness was destined to expand. He was paving the way for Nora. It seemed to him that she might find it an easy way to trend. He compared her attentively with every young girl he met; many were prettier, some possessed in larger degree the air of “brightness”; but none revealed that deep-shrined natural force, lurking in the shadow of modesty like a statue in a recess, which you hardly know whether to denominate humility or pride.
One evening, at a large party, Roger found himself approached by an elderly lady who had known him from his boyhood and for whom he had a traditional regard, but with whom of late years he had relaxed his intercourse, from a feeling that, being a very worldly old woman, her influence on Nora might be pernicious. She had never smiled on the episode of which Nora was the heroine, and she hailed Roger’s reappearance as a sign that this episode was at an end and that he had repented of his abrupt eccentricity. She was somewhat cynical in her shrewdness, and, so far as she might, she handled matters without gloves.