Hugh came back no more after that evening. Rachel told herself she knew why—she understood. He could not speak of love and marriage when the man he had injured was on the brink of death. Her heart stood still when she thought of Lord Newhaven, the gentle, kindly man who was almost her friend, and who was playing with such quiet dignity a losing game. Hugh had taken from him his wife, and by that act was now taking from him his life too.
“It was an even chance,” she groaned. “Hugh is not responsible for his death. Oh, my God! At least he is not responsible for that. It might have been he who had to die instead of Lord Newhaven. But if it is he, surely he could not leave me without a word. If it is he, he would have come to bid me good-bye. He cannot go down into silence without a word. If it is he, he will come yet.”
She endured through the two remaining days, turning faint with terror each time the door-bell rang, lest it might be Hugh.
But Hugh did not come.
Then, after repeated frantic telegrams from Lady Newhaven, she left London precipitately to go to her, as she had promised, on the twenty-eighth of November, the evening of the last day of the five months.
“And he went out immediately, and it was night.”
It was nearly dark when Rachel reached Westhope Abbey. A great peace seemed to pervade the long, dim lines of the gardens, and to be gathered into the solemn arches of the ruins against the darkening sky. Through the low door-way a faint light of welcome peered. As she drove up she was aware of two tall figures pacing amicably together in the dusk. As she passed them she heard Lord Newhaven’s low laugh at something his companion said.
A sense of unreality seized her. It was not the world which was out of joint, which was rushing to its destruction. It must be she who was mad—stark mad—to have believed these chimeras.
As she got out of the carriage a step came lightly along the gravel, and Lord Newhaven emerged into the little ring of light by the archway.
“It is very good of you to come,” he said, cordially, with extended hand. “My poor wife is very unwell, and expecting you anxiously. She told me she had sent for you.”
All was unreal—the familiar rooms and passages, the flickering light of the wood fire in the drawing-room, the darkened room, into which Rachel stole softly and knelt down beside a trembling white figure, which held her with a drowning clutch.