—And why not? Had not she, also, cause to know what cruelties men will commit in the name of religion?
Her heart was wrathful as well as pitiful. Her lord had given her no warning of the auto-da-fe, and she now suspected that in suggesting this Sunday morning drive he had purposely decoyed her to it. Presently, as the crowd began to clear, he confirmed the suspicion.
“Since we are here, we may as well see the sp—” He was going to say “sport,” but, warned by a sudden stiffening of her body, he corrected the word to “spectacle.” “They erect a grand stand on these occasions; or, if you prefer, we can bribe them to give room for the chaise.”
He bent forward and called to the coachman, “Turn the mules’ heads, and follow!”
“Indeed I will not,” she said firmly. “Do you go—if such crimes amuse you. . . . For me, I shall walk home.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “It is the custom of the country. . . . But, as for your walking, I cannot allow it for a moment. Juan shall drive you home.”
She glanced at him. His eyes were fixed on the opposite side of the square, and she surprised in them a look of recognition not intended for her. Following the look, she saw a chaise much like their own, moving slowly with the throng, and in it a woman seated.
Ruth knew her. She was Donna Maria, Countess of Montalagre; and of late Sir Oliver’s name had been much coupled with hers.
This Ruth did not know; but she had guessed for some time that he was unfaithful. She had felt no curiosity at all to learn the woman’s name. Now an accident had opened her eyes, and she saw.
Her first feeling was of slightly contemptuous amusement. Donna Maria, youthful wife of an aged and enfeebled lord, passed for one of the extremely devout. She had considerable beauty, but of an order Ruth could easily afford to scorn. It was the bizarrerie of the affair that tickled her, almost to laughter—Donna Maria’s down-dropt gaze, the long lashes veiling eyes too holy-innocent for aught but the breviary; and he—he of all men!—playing the lover to this little dunce, with her empty brain, her narrow religiosity!
But on afterthought, she found it somewhat disgusting too.
“I thank you,” she said. “Juan shall drive me home, then. It will not, I hope, inconvenience you very much, since I see the Countess of Montalagre’s carriage across the way. No doubt she will offer you a seat.”
He glanced at her, but her face was cheerfully impassive.
“That’s an idea!” he said. “I will run and make interest with her.”
He alighted, and gave Juan the order to drive home. He lifted his hat, and left her. She saw Donna Maria’s start of simulated surprise. Also she detected, or thought she detected, the sly triumph of a woman who steals a man.
All this she had leisure to observe; for Juan, a Gallician, was by no means in a hurry to turn the mules’ heads for home. He had slewed his body about, and was gazing wistfully after the throng.