When he could speak and move again, he put the cheque away in his pocket, and buttoned his coat over it.
“Well, good-night.” Then straightening himself, he fixed her with a pair of burning eyes. “Good-night. Anita will be kind to me—when I die—Anita will be a woman to me. You were never kind—you never thought of any one but yourself. Good-bye. Good luck!”
And walking uncertainly to the door, he opened it and was gone. She heard his slow steps in the farmyard, and the opening of the wicket gate. Then all sounds died away.
For a few minutes she crouched sobbing over the fire, weeping for sheer nervous exhaustion. Then the dread seized her of being caught in such a state by Janet, and she went upstairs, locked her door, and threw herself on her bed. The bruise of an intolerable humiliation seemed to spread through soul and body. She knew that for the first time she had confessed her wretched secret which she had thought so wholly her own—and confessed it—horrible and degrading thought!—to Roger Delane. Not in words indeed—but in act. No innocent woman would have paid the blackmail. The dark room in which she lay seemed to be haunted by Delane’s exultant eyes.
And the silence was haunted too by his last words. There arose in her a reluctant and torturing pity for the wretched man who had been her husband; a pity, which passed on into a storm of moral anguish. Her whole past life looked incredibly black to her as she lay there in the dark—stained with unkindness, and selfishness, and sin.
Which saw her the more truly?—Roger, or Ellesborough?—the man who hated and cursed her, or the man who adored her?
She was struggling, manoeuvring, fighting, to keep the truth from George Ellesborough. It was quite uncertain whether she would succeed. Roger’s word was a poor safeguard! But if she did, the truth itself would only the more certainly pursue and beat her down.
And again, the utter yearning for confession and an unburdened soul came upon her intolerably. The religious psychologist describes such a crisis as “conversion,” or “conviction of sin,” or the “working of grace.” And he knows from long experience that it is the result in the human soul not so much of a sense of evil, as of a vision of good. Goodness had been brought near to Rachel in the personality—the tender self-forgetting trust—of George Ellesborough. It was goodness, not fear—goodness, unconscious of any threatened wrong—that had pierced her heart. Then a thought came to her. Janet!—Janet whose pure and loving life beside her made yet another element in the spiritual forces that were pressing upon her.
She sprang to her feet. She would tell Janet everything—put her poor secret—her all—in Janet’s hands.