“You never loved me,” she said.
He did not answer, but he looked gravely at her for a moment, and she was ashamed.
“Why don’t you divorce me if you think me so wicked?”
“For the sake of the children,” he said, with a slight change of voice.
Teddy, the eldest, had been born in this room. Did either remember that gray morning six years ago?
There was a silence that might be felt.
“Who drew the short lighter?” she whispered, before she knew that she had spoken.
“I am not here to answer questions,” he replied. “And I have asked none. Neither, you will observe, have I blamed you. But I desire that you will never again allude to this subject, and that you will keep in mind that I do not intend to discuss it with you.”
He laid down the Imitation and moved towards his own room.
With a sudden movement she flung herself upon her knees before him and caught his arm. The attitude suggested an amateur.
“Which drew the short lighter?” she gasped, her small upturned face white and convulsed.
“You will know in five months’ time,” he said. Then he extricated himself from her trembling clasp and left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.
For the sin ye do by two and two
ye must pay for one by one!
When Hugh awoke the morning after Lady Newhaven’s party the day was already far advanced. A hot day had succeeded to a hot night. For a few seconds he lay like one emerging from the influence of morphia, who feels his racked body still painlessly afloat on a sea of rest, but is conscious that it is drifting back to the bitter shores of pain, and who stirs neither hand nor foot for fear of hastening the touch of the encircling, aching sands on which he is so soon to be cast in agony once more.
His mind cleared a little. Rachel’s grave face stood out against a dark background—a background darker surely than that of the summer night. He remembered with self-contempt the extravagant emotion which she had aroused in him.
“Absurd,” Hugh said to himself, with the distrust of all sudden springs of pure emotion which those who have misused them rarely escape. And then another remembrance, which only a sleeping-draught had kept at bay, darted upon him like a panther on its prey.
He had drawn the short lighter.
He started violently, and then fell back trembling.
“Oh, my God!” he said, involuntarily.
He lay still, telling himself that this dreadful nightmare would pass, would fade in the light of common day.
His servant came in noiselessly with a cup of coffee and a little sheaf of letters.
He pretended to be asleep; but when the man had gone he put out his shaking hand for the coffee and drank it.
The mist before his mind gradually lifted. Gradually, too, the horror on his face whitened to despair, as a twilight meadow whitens beneath the evening frost. He had drawn the short lighter. Nothing in heaven or earth could alter that fact.