‘My wife’ cried Frank.
And the strange and terrible emphasis he put on the word ‘wife’ proved to me in the fraction of a second that in his heart I was not his wife. A fearful tragedy had swept away the structure of argument in favour of the rights of love which he had built over the original conventionality of his mind. Poor fellow!
He fell back into his chair and covered his eyes.
‘I thank God my mother didn’t live to see this!’ he cried.
And then he rushed to his bedroom and banged the door.
‘My poor girl!’ said Vicary, approaching me. ‘What can I—I’m awfully—’
I waved him away.
‘What’s that?’ he exclaimed, in a different voice, listening.
I ran to the bedroom, and saw Frank lifting a revolver.
‘You’ve brought me to this, Carlotta!’ he shouted.
I sprang towards him, but it was too late.
When I came out of the house, hurried and angrily flushing, I perceived clearly that my reluctance to break a habit and my desire for physical comfort, if not my attachment to the girl, had led me too far. I was conscious of humiliation. I despised myself. The fact was that I had quarrelled with Yvonne—Yvonne, who had been with me for eight years, Yvonne who had remained sturdily faithful during my long exile. Now the woman who quarrels with a maid is clumsy, and the woman who quarrels with a good maid is either a fool or in a nervous, hysterical condition, or both. Possibly I was both. I had permitted Yvonne too much liberty. I had spoilt her. She was fidelity itself, goodness itself; but her character had not borne the strain of realizing that she had acquired power over me, and that she had become necessary to me. So that morning we had differed violently; we had quarrelled as equals. The worst side of her had appeared suddenly, shockingly. And she had left me, demonstrating even as she banged the door that she was at least my mistress in altercation. All day I fought against the temptation to eat my pride, and ask her to return. It was a horrible, a deplorable, temptation. And towards evening, after seven hours of solitude in the hotel in the Avenue de Kleber, I yielded to it. I knew the address to which she had gone, and I took a cab and drove there, hating myself. I was received with excessive rudeness by a dirty and hag-like concierge, who, after refusing all information for some minutes, informed me at length that the young lady in question had quitted Paris in company with a gentleman.
The insolence of the concierge, my weakness and my failure, the bitter sense of lost dignity, the fact that Yvonne had not hesitated even a few hours before finally abandoning me—all these things wounded me. But the sharpest stab of all was that during our stay in Paris Yvonne must have had secret relations with a man. I had hidden nothing from her; she, however, had not reciprocated my candour. I had imagined that she lived only for me....