And with the last word, in the drunkenness of his rage, he lifted his arm and struck me with the back of his hand across the cheek.
The physical shock was fearful, but the moral infamy was a hundred-fold worse. I can truly say that not alone for myself did I suffer. When my mind, still going at lightning speed, thought of Martin, who loved me so tenderly, I felt crushed by my husband’s blow to the lowest depths of shame.
I must have screamed, though I did not know it, for at the next moment Price was in the room and I saw that the housekeeper (drawn perhaps, as before, by my husband’s loud voice) was on the landing outside the door. But even that did not serve to restrain him.
“No matter,” he said. “After what has passed you may not enjoy to-morrow’s ceremony. But you shall go through it! By heaven, you shall! And when it is over, I shall have something to say to your father.”
And with that he swung out of the room and went lunging down the stairs.
I was still standing in the middle of the floor, with the blow from my husband’s hand tingling on my cheek, when Price, after clashing the door in the face of the housekeeper, said, with her black eyes ablaze:
“Well, if ever I wanted to be a man before to-day!”
News of the scene went like wildfire through the house, and Alma’s mother came to comfort me. In her crude and blundering way she told me of a similar insult she had suffered at the hands of the “bad Lord Raa,” and how it had been the real reason of her going to America.
“Us married ladies have much to put up with. But cheer up, dearie. I guess you’ll have gotten over it by to-morrow morning.”
When she was gone I sat down before the fire. I did not cry. I felt as if I had reached a depth of suffering that was a thousand fathoms too deep for tears. I do not think I wept again for many months afterwards, and then it was a great joy, not a great grief, that brought me a burst of blessed tears.
But I could hear my dear good Price crying behind me, and when I said:
“Now you see for yourself that I cannot remain in this house any longer,” she answered, in a low voice:
“Yes, my lady.”
“I must go at once—to-night if possible.”
“You shall. Leave everything to me, my lady.”
The bell rang, but of course I did not go down to dinner.
As soon as Price had gone off to make the necessary arrangements I turned the key in the lock of my door, removed my evening gown, and began to dress for my flight.
My brain was numb, but I did my best to confront the new situation that was before me.
Hitherto I had been occupied with the problem of whether I should or should not leave my husband’s house; now I had to settle the question of where I was to go to.