Julia still hesitated. The rain beat on their faces, and when some chilling drops rolled down her neck she instinctively sought shelter in the carriage.
’Drive me to the station as fast as you can. Catch the half-past five to London, and I’ll give you five shillings.’
The leather thong sounded on the starved animal’s hide, the crazy vehicle rocked from side to side, and the wet country almost disappeared in the darkness. Hedges and fields swept past them in faintest outline, here and there a blurred mass, which they recognised as a farm building. His arm was about her, and she heard him murmur over and over again—
‘Dearest Julia, you are what I love best in the world.’
The words thrilled her a little, but all the while she saw Emily’s eyes and heard her voice.
Hubert, however, was full of happiness—the sweet happiness of the quiet, docile creature that has at last obtained what it loves.
Emily awoke shivering; the fire had gone out, the room was in darkness, and the house seemed strange and lonely. She rang the bell, and asked the servant if he had seen Mr. Price. Mr. Price had gone out late in the afternoon, and had not come in. Where was Mrs. Bentley? Mrs. Bentley had gone out earlier in the afternoon, and had not come in.
She suspected the truth at once. They had gone to London to be married. The servant lighted a candle, made up the fire, and asked if she would wait dinner. Emily made no answer, but sat still, her eyes fixed, looking into space. The man lingered at the door. At that moment her little dog bounded into the room, and, in a paroxysm of delight, jumped on his mistress’s lap. She took him in her arms and kissed him, and this somewhat reassured the alarmed servant, who then thought it was no more than one of Miss Emily’s queer ways. Dandy licked his mistress’s face, and rubbed his rough head against her shoulder. He seemed more than usually affectionate that evening. Suddenly she caught him up in her arms, and kissed him passionately. ’Not even for your sake, dearest Dandy, can I bear with it any longer! We are all very selfish, and it is selfish of me to leave you, but I cannot help it.’ Then a doubt crossed her mind, and she raised her head and listened to it. It seemed difficult to believe that he had told her a falsehood—cruel, wicked falsehood—he who had been so kind. And yet—— Ah! yes, she knew well enough that it was all true; something told her so. The lancinating pain of doubt passed away, and she remained thinking of the impossibility of bearing any longer with the life.
An hour passed, and the servant came with the news that Mr. Price and Mrs. Bentley had gone to London; they had taken the half-past five train. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I know they have.’ Her voice was calm. There was a strange hollow ring in it, and the servant wondered. A few minutes after, dinner was announced; and to escape observation and comment she went into the dining-room, tasted the soup, and took a slice of mutton on her plate. She could not eat it. She gave it to Dandy. It was the last time she should feed him. How hungry he was! She hoped he would not care to eat it; he would not if he knew she was going to leave him.