There they had suffered a serious shock. It turned out that her husband had deceived them, and that he was really a poor and quite nameless person, only remotely related to the family he claimed to belong to.
Nevertheless Alma had “won out” at last. By digging deep into her father’s treasury she got rid of her treacherous husband, and going “way out west,” she had been able, in due time, to divorce him.
Since then she had resumed her family name, being known as Madame Lier, and now she was on her way to Egypt to spend the season at Cairo.
“And you?” she said. “You stayed long at the convent—yes?”
I answered that I had, and then in my fluttering voice (for some of the old spell of her presence had come sweeping back upon me) I replied one by one to the questions she asked about the Reverend Mother, the “Reverend Mother Mildred,” Sister Angela and Father Giovanni, not to speak of myself, whom she had always thought of as “Margaret Mary” because I had looked so innocent and nun-like.
“And now you are married!” she said. “Married so splendidly, too! We heard all about it. Mother was so interested. What a lucky girl you are! Everybody says your husband is so handsome and charming. He is, isn’t he?”
I was doing my utmost to put the best face upon my condition without betraying the facts or simulating sentiments which I could not feel, when a boat from the shore pulled up at the ship’s side, and my husband stepped on to the deck.
In his usual morose manner he was about to pass without speaking on his way to his state-room, when his eyes fell on Alma sitting beside me. Then he stopped and looked at us, and, stepping up, he said, in a tone I had never heard from him before:
“Mary, my dear, will you not present me to your friend?”
I hesitated, and then with a quivering of the lips I did so. But something told me as I introduced my husband to Alma, and Alma to my husband, and they stood looking into each other’s eyes and holding each other’s hands (for Alma had risen and I was sitting between them), that this was the most momentous incident of my life thus far—that for good or ill my hour had struck and I could almost hear the bell.
From that hour forward my husband was a changed man. His manner to me, so brusque before, became courteous, kind, almost affectionate. Every morning he would knock at the door of my state-room to ask if I had slept well, or if the movement of the steamer had disturbed me.
His manner to Alma was charming. He was up before breakfast every day, promenading the deck with her in the fresh salt air. I would slide back my window and hear their laughter as they passed, above the throb of the engines and the wash of the sea. Sometimes they would look in upon me and joke, and Alma would say:
“And how’s Margaret Mary this morning?”