Little Sir John ground his teeth, and twisted his pippen-like face into a scowl that looked absurdly out of place on anything so jovial.
“Curse you,” he said, “even now you dare to defy me. Do you know, you woman fiend, that at this moment I almost think I love you?”
“Of course I know it. If you did not love me, you would not take all this trouble to try to crush me. But this conversation is very long; shall we put an end to it?”
Sir John sat still a moment, thinking, and gazing at the splendid Sphinx-browed creature before him with a mixture of hatred and respect. Then he rose, and spoke.
“Anne, you are a wonderful woman! I cannot do it, I cannot utterly ruin you. You must be exposed—I could not help that, if I would—and we must separate, but I will be generous to you; I will allow you five hundred a year, and you shall live where you like. You shall not starve.”
She laughed a little as she answered.
“I am starving now: it is long past luncheon time. As for your five hundred a year that you will give me out of the three or four thousand I have given you, I care nothing for it. I tell you I am tired of it all, and I never felt more superior to you than I do now in the moment of your triumph. It wants a stronger hand than yours to humble me. I may be a bad woman, I daresay I am, but you will find, too late, that there are few in the world like me. For years you have shone with a reflected light; when the light goes out, you will go out too. Get back into your native mud, the mental slime out of which I picked you, contemptible creature that you are! and, when you have lost me, learn to measure the loss by the depths to which you will sink. I reject your offers. I mock at your threats, for they will recoil on your own head. I despise you, and I have done with you. John Bellamy, good-bye;” and, with a proud curtsey, she swept from the room.
That evening it was rumoured that Sir John Bellamy had separated from his wife, owing to circumstances which had come to his knowledge in connection with George Caresfoot’s death.
That same afternoon, Lady Bellamy ordered out the victoria with the fast trotting horse, and drove to the Abbey House. She found Philip pacing up and down the gravel in front of the grey old place, which had that morning added one more to the long list of human tragedies its walls had witnessed. His face was pale, and contorted by mental suffering, and, as soon as he recognized Lady Bellamy, he made an effort to escape. She stopped him.
“I suppose it is here, Mr. Caresfoot?”
“I wish to see it.”