'The first mistaken impulse of an undisciplined heart.' Those words of Mrs. Strong's were constantly recurring to me, at this time; were almost always present to my mind. I awoke with them, often, in the night; I remember to have even read them, in dreams, inscribed upon the walls of houses. For I knew, now, that my own heart was undisciplined when it first loved Dora; and that if it had been disciplined, it never could have felt, when we were married, what it had felt in its secret experience.
'There can be no disparity in marriage, like unsuitability of mind and purpose.' Those words I remembered too. I had endeavoured to adapt Dora to myself, and found it impracticable. It remained for me to adapt myself to Dora; to share with her what I could, and be happy; to bear on my own shoulders what I must, and be happy still. This was the discipline to which I tried to bring my heart, when I began to think. It made my second year much happier than my first; and, what was better still, made Dora's life all sunshine.
But, as that year wore on, Dora was not strong. I had hoped that lighter hands than mine would help to mould her character, and that a baby-smile upon her breast might change my child-wife to a woman. It was not to be. The spirit fluttered for a moment on the threshold of its little prison, and, unconscious of captivity, took wing.
'When I can run about again, as I used to do, aunt,' said Dora, 'I shall make Jip race. He is getting quite slow and lazy.'
'I suspect, my dear,' said my aunt quietly working by her side, 'he has a worse disorder than that. Age, Dora.'
'Do you think he is old?' said Dora, astonished. 'Oh, how strange it seems that Jip should be old!'
'It's a complaint we are all liable to, Little One, as we get on in life,' said my aunt, cheerfully; 'I don't feel more free from it than I used to be, I assure you.'
'But Jip,' said Dora, looking at him with compassion, 'even little Jip! Oh, poor fellow!'