His mother was a widow and he was her only son. If he died by his own hand it would break her heart. Hugh groaned, and thrust the thought from him. It was too sharp. He could not suffer it.
His sin, not worse than that of many another man, had found him out. He had done wrong. He admitted it, but this monstrous judgment on him was out of all proportion to his offence. And, like some malignant infectious disease, retribution would fall, not on him alone, but on those nearest him, on his innocent mother and sister. It was unjust, unjust, unjust!
A very bitter look came into his face. Hugh had never so far hated any one, but now something very like hatred welled up in his heart against Lady Newhaven. She had lured him to his destruction. She had tempted him. This was undoubtedly true, though not probably the view which her guardian angel would take of the matter.
Among the letters which the servant had brought him he suddenly recognized that the topmost was in Lady Newhaven’s handwriting. Anger and repulsion seized him. No doubt it was the first of a series. “Why was he so altered? What had she done to offend him?” etc., etc. He knew the contents beforehand, or thought he knew them. He got up deliberately, threw the unopened note into the empty fireplace, and put a match to it. He watched it burn.
It was his first overt act of rebellion against her yoke, the first step along the nearest of the many well-worn paths that a man takes at random to leave a woman. It did not occur to him that Lady Newhaven might have written to him about his encounter with her husband. He knew Lord Newhaven well enough to be absolutely certain that he would mention the subject to no living creature, least of all to his wife.
“Neither will I,” he said to himself; “and as for her, I will break with her from this day forward.”
The little pink notes with the dashing, twirly handwriting persisted for a week or two and then ceased.
* * * * *
Hugh was a man of many social engagements. His first impulse, when later in the day he remembered them, was to throw them all up and leave London. But Lord Newhaven would hear of his departure, and would smile. He decided to remain and to go on as if nothing had happened. When the evening came he dressed with his usual care, verified the hour of his engagement, and went out to dine with the Loftuses.
What the Bandar-log think
now the jungle will think later.
—Maxim of the Bandar-log, Rudyard Kipling.
It was Sybell Loftus’s first season in London since her second marriage with Mr. Doll Loftus. After a very brief sojourn in that city of frivolity she had the acumen to discover that London society was hopelessly worldly and mercenary; that people only met to eat and to abuse each other; that the law of cutlet for cutlet was universal; that young men, especially those in the Guards, were garrisoned by a full complement of devils; that London girls lived only for dress and the excitement of husband-hunting. In short, to use her own expression, she “turned London society inside out.”