“Of course I do. I don’t think that any woman could have lived with you as long as I have and not want to get rid of you. On the other hand, as you know—as in your heart you know perfectly well,” she went on, “I have remained a faithful wife to you, and it is not my intention to have you take advantage of a situation for which you were entirely responsible. You will have to remember, Henry, that the reason for my leaving your house in the middle of the night will scarcely help your case.”
Dredlinton stood and glared at his wife, his eyes narrowing, his mean little mouth curled.
“Josephine,” he cried, “I don’t care a damn about your leaving my house, then or at any time, but the more I think of it, the stranger it seems to me that this friend of yours, Wingate, should come to the office and threaten me for my connection with the B. & I., and at the moment of leaving offer to sell wheat. I am getting a little suspicious about your friend, my lady. I have given them the tip at Scotland Yard and I only hope they take advantage of it.”
“Why single out Mr. Wingate?” she asked, “He certainly is not alone in his antipathy to your company.”
“Don’t I know that?” Dredlinton exclaimed angrily. “Don’t I get a dozen threatening letters a day? Men take me on one side and reason with me in the club. I had a Cabinet Minister at the office this afternoon. I begin to get the cold shoulder wherever I turn, but, damn it all, don’t you understand that we must have money?”
Josephine regarded him with a cold lack of sympathy in her face.
“I understand that you have had about a hundred thousand pounds of mine,” she remarked.
“Like your generosity, my dear, to remind me of it,” he sneered. “To you it seems, I suppose, a great deal of money. To me—well, I am not sure that it was fair compensation for what I have never had.”
“What you have never had, you never deserved, Henry.”
He flung himself towards the door.
“Josephine,” he said, looking back, “do you know you are one of the few women in the world I can’t even talk to? You freeze me up every time I try. I wonder whether the man who is so anxious to stand in my shoes—”
She was suddenly erect, her eyes flaming. He shuffled out and slammed the door after him with a little nervous laugh.
Josephine was herself again within a few moments of her husband’s departure. She stood perfectly still for some time, as though listening to his departing footsteps. Then she crossed the room and pressed the bell twice. Once more she listened. The change in her expression was wonderful. She was expectant, eager, thrilled with the contemplation of some imminent happening. Her vigil came suddenly to an end, as the door was opened and closed again a little abruptly. It was no servant who had obeyed her summons; it was Wingate who entered, unannounced and alone.