“I suppose he did it to please you.”
“That was just it, simply to please me.”
Rachel was not so astonished as Lady Newhaven expected. She certainly was rather wooden, the latter reflected. The story went on. It became difficult to tell, and, according to the teller, more and more liable to misconstruction. Rachel’s heart ached as bit by bit the inevitable development was finally reached in floods of tears.
“And you remember that night you were at an evening party here,” sobbed Lady Newhaven, casting away all her mental notes and speaking extempore. “It is just a fortnight ago, and I have not slept since, and he was here, looking so miserable”—(Rachel started slightly)—“he sometimes did, if he thought I was hard upon him. And afterwards, when every one had gone, Edward took him to his study and told him he had found us out, and they drew lots which should kill himself within five months—and I listened at the door.”
Lady Newhaven’s voice rose half strangled, hardly human, in a shrill grotesque whimper above the sobs which were shaking her. There was no affectation about her now.
Rachel’s heart went out to her the moment she was natural. She knelt down and put her strong arms round her. The poor thing clung to her, and, leaning her elaborate head against her, wept tears of real anguish upon her breast.
“And which drew the short lighter?” said Rachel at last.
“I don’t know,” almost shrieked Lady Newhaven. “It is that which is killing me. Sometimes I think it is Edward, and sometimes I think it is Hugh.”
At the name of Hugh, Rachel winced. Lady Newhaven had mentioned no name in the earlier stages of her story while she had some vestige of self-command; but now at last the Christian name slipped out unawares.
Rachel strove to speak calmly. She told herself there were many Hughs in the world.
“Is Mr. Hugh Scarlett the man you mean?” she asked. If she had died for it, she must have asked that question.
“Yes,” said Lady Newhaven.
A shadow fell on Rachel’s face, as on the face of one who suddenly discovers, not for the first time, an old enemy advancing upon him under the flag of a new ally.
“I shall always love him,” gasped Lady Newhaven, recovering herself sufficiently to recall a phrase which she had made up the night before. “I look upon it as a spiritual marriage.”
A square-set man and
“Dick,” said Lord Newhaven, laying hold of that gentleman as he was leaving Tattersall’s, “what mischief have you been up to for the last ten days?”