There was a fire in the bedroom and I sat down in front of it. Many forces were warring within me. I was trying to fix my thoughts and found it difficult to do so.
Some time passed. My husband’s man came in with the noiseless step of all such persons, opened one of the portmanteaux and laid out his master’s combs and brushes on the dressing table and his sleeping suit on the bed. A maid of the hotel followed him, and taking my own sleeping things out of the top tray of my trunk she laid them out beside my husband’s.
“Good-night, my lady,” they said in their low voices as they went out on tiptoe.
I hardly heard them. My mind, at first numb, was now going at lightning speed. Brought face to face for the first time with one of the greatest facts of a woman’s life I was asking myself why I had not reckoned with it before.
I had not even thought of it. My whole soul had been so much occupied with one great spiritual issue—that I did not love my husband (as I understood love), that my husband did not love me—that I had never once plainly confronted, even in my own mind, the physical fact that is the first condition of matrimony, and nobody had mentioned it to me or even hinted at it.
I could not plead that I did not know of this condition. I was young but I was not a child. I had been brought up in a convent, but a convent is not a nursery. Then why had I not thought of it?
While sitting before the fire, gathering together these dark thoughts, I was in such fear that I was always conscious of my husband’s movements in the adjoining room. At one moment there was the jingling of his glass against the decanter, at another moment the smell of his cigarette smoke. From time to time he came to the door and called to me in a sort of husky whisper, asking if I was in bed.
“Don’t keep me long, little girl.”
I shuddered but made no reply.
At last he knocked softly and said he was coming in. I was still crouching over the fire as he came up behind me.
“Not in bed yet?” he said. “Then I must put you to bed.”
Before I could prevent him he had lifted me in his arms, dragged me on to his knee and was pulling down my hair, laughing as he did so, calling me by coarse endearing names and telling me not to fight and struggle.
But the next thing I knew I was back in the sitting-room, where I had switched up the lights, and my husband, whose face was distorted by passion, was blazing out at me.
“What do you mean?” he said. “I’m your husband, am I not? You are my wife, aren’t you? What did you marry for? Good heavens, can it be possible that you don’t know what the conditions of matrimony are? Is that what comes of being brought up in a convent? But has your father allowed you to marry without. . . . And your Aunt—what in God’s name has the woman been doing?”