“You miserable woman! do not kneel to me. If it were not unmanly, I could spurn you with my foot. Do you know, girl, you who swore to love me till time had passed—yes, and for all eternity, you who do love me at this moment—and therein lies your shame—that you have killed me? You have murdered my heart. I trusted you, Angela, I trusted you, I gave you all my life, all that was best in me; and now in reward— degraded as you are—I must always love you as much as I despise you. Even now I feel that I cannot hate you and forget you. I must love you, and I must despise you.”
She gazed up at him like a dumb beast at its butcher; she could not speak, her voice had gone.
“And yet, when I think of it, I have something to thank you for. You have cleared my mind of illusions. You have taught me what a woman’s purity is worth. You did the thing well, too! You did not crush me by inches with platitudes, bidding me forget you and not think of you any more, as though forgetfulness were possible, and thought a tangible thing that one could kill. You struck home in silence, once and for all. Thank you for that, Angela. What, are you crying? Go back to the brute whom you have chosen, the brute whose passion or whose money you could prefer to me, tell him that they are tears of happiness, and let him kiss them quite away.”
“Oh, Arthur—cruel—Arthur!” and nature gave way. She fell fainting on the grass.
Then, when he saw that she could not understand or feel any more, his rage died, and he too broke down and sobbed, great, gasping sobs. And the frightened dog crept up and licked first her face and then his hand.
Kneeling down, Arthur raised her in his arms and strained her to his heart, kissing her thrice upon the forehead—the lips he could not touch. Then he placed her on the seat, leaning her weight against the tree, and, motioning back the dog, he went his way.
Arthur took the same path by which he had come—all paths were alike to him now—but before he had gone ten yards he saw the figure of George Caresfoot, who appeared to have been watching him. In George’s hand was a riding-whip, for he had ridden from the scene of the fire, and was all begrimed with smoke and dirt. But this Arthur did not notice.
“Hullo,” he began; “what——” and then he hesitated; there was a look in Arthur’s eyes which he did not like.
But, if George hesitated, Arthur did not. He sprang at him like a wild cat, and in a second had him by the throat and shoulder. For a moment he held him there, for in his state of compressed fury George was like a child in his hands. And as he held him a fierce and almost uncontrollable desire took possession of him to kill this man, to throw him down and stamp the life out of him. He conquered it, however, and loosed the grip on his throat.