I thought of the Reverend Mother, and then of my own mother, my saint, my angel, who had told me to think of her when I sang that hymn; and then I remembered where I was and what had happened to me.
To thy shelter take me.”
I felt like an outcast. A stifling sensation came into my throat and I dropped to my knees in the darkness. I thought I was broken-hearted.
Not long after that we left Italy on our return to England. We were to reach home by easy stages so as to see some of the great capitals of Europe, but I had no interest in the journey.
Our first stay was at Monte Carlo, that sweet garden of the Mediterranean which God seems to smile upon and man to curse.
If I had been allowed to contemplate the beautiful spectacle of nature I think I could have been content, but Alma, with her honeyed and insincere words, took me to the Casino on the usual plea of keeping her in countenance.
I hated the place from the first, with its stale air, its chink of louis d’or, its cry of the croupiers, its strained faces about the tables, and its general atmosphere of wasted hopes and fears and needless misery and despair.
As often as I could I crept out to look at the flower fetes in the streets, or to climb the hill of La Turbie and think I was on my native rocks with Martin Conrad, or even to sit in my room and watch the poor wounded pigeons from the pigeon-traps as they tumbled and ducked into the sea after the shots fired, by cruel and unsportsmanlike sportsmen, from the rifle-range below.
In Monte Carlo my husband’s vices seemed to me to grow rank and fast. The gambling fever took complete possession of him. At first he won and then he drank heavily, but afterwards he lost and then his nature became still more ugly and repulsive.
One evening towards eight o’clock, I was in my room, trying to comfort a broken-winged pigeon which had come floundering through the open window, when my husband entered with wild eyes.
“The red’s coming up at all the tables,” he cried breathlessly. “Give me some money, quick!”
I told him I had no money except the few gold pieces in my purse.
“You’ve a cheque book—give me a cheque, then.”
I told him that even if I gave him a cheque he could not cash it that night, the banks being closed.
“The jewellers are open though, and you have jewels, haven’t you? Stop fooling with that creature, and let me have some of them to pawn.”
The situation was too abject for discussion, so I pointed to the drawer in which my jewels were kept, and he tore it open, took what he wanted and went out hurriedly without more words.
After that I saw no more of him for two days, when with black rings about his eyes he came in to say he must leave “this accursed place” immediately or we should all be ruined.