“You drew the short lighter, and you let me think all the time he had,” said Rachel, her voice almost inaudible in its fierce passion. “You drew it, and you let him die instead of you, as any one who knew him would know he would. And when he was dead you came to me, and kept me in ignorance even—that time—when I said I trusted you.”
The remembrance of that meeting was too much.
Rachel turned her eyes on Lady Newhaven, who was watching her terror-stricken.
“I said I would not give him up, but I will,” she said, violently. “You can take him if you want him. What was it you said to me, Hugh? That if you had drawn the short lighter you would have had to abide by it. Yes, that was it. Your whole intercourse with me has been one lie from first to last. You were right, Violet, when you said he ought to marry you. It will be another lie on the top of all the others.”
“It was what Edward wished,” faltered his widow. “He says so in the letter that has just been burned.”
“Lord Newhaven wished it,” said Rachel, looking at the miserable man between them. “Poor Lord Newhaven! First his honor. Then his life. You have taken everything he had. But there are still his shoes.”
“Rachel!” said Hugh, suddenly, and he fell on his knees before her, clasping the hem of her gown.
She pushed him violently from her, tearing her gown in releasing it from his frenzied grasp.
“Leave me,” she whispered. Her voice was almost gone. “Coward and liar, I will have nothing more to do with you.”
He got upon his feet somehow. The two gray desperate faces spent with passion faced each other. They were past speech.
He read his death-warrant in her merciless eyes. She looked at the despair in his without flinching.
He stood a moment, and then feeling his way, like one half blind, left the room, unconsciously pushing aside Lady Newhaven, whom both had forgotten.
She gave one terrified glance at Rachel, and slipped out after him.
I thought, “Now, if I had been a woman, such
As God made women, to save men by love—
By just my love I might have saved this man.”
—ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.
“Has Lady Newhaven been here?” said the Bishop, coming into the study, his hands full of papers. “I thought I saw her carriage driving away as I came up.”
“She has been here.”
The Bishop looked up suddenly, his attention arrested by Rachel’s voice. There is a white heat of anger that mimics the pallor of a fainting fit. The Bishop thought she was about to swoon, until he saw her eyes. Those gentle faithful eyes were burning. He shrank as one who sees the glare of fire raging inside familiar windows.
“My poor child,” he said, and he sat down heavily in his leather arm-chair.