The flaming vortex of thoughts, hopes, desires which enveloped her, was so intense as almost to evoke a sense of the physical presence of the subject of them—of that big, powerful-minded, clean-souled husband of hers, who loved her so rapturously, and who had driven her away from him because that rapture was the only thing he would share with her.
She had been living, since that day of his departure for New York, when she had felt the last of his strong embraces, a life that fell into two hemispheres as distinct from each other as tropic night from day. One half of it had been lighted and made tolerable by the exactions of her new job. “What you feel like doing isn’t important, and what I tell you to do is,” John Galbraith had said to her on the day this strange divided life of hers had begun. And this lesson, taken to heart, had spelt salvation to her—for half of the time; for as many hours of the day as he went on telling her to do something. Those hours, in a way almost incredible to herself when they were over, had been almost happy—would have been altogether happy, but for the stain that soaked through in memory and in anticipation, from the other half of her days.
But when evening rehearsal was over and she came back to her room and had to undress and put out her light and relax her mind for sleep, letting the terrors that came to tear at her do their unopposed worst, then the girl who sang and danced and was so nearly happy snatching John Galbraith’s intentions half formed, and executing them in the thrill of satisfaction over work well done, became an utterly unreal, incredible person—the mere figment of a dream that couldn’t—couldn’t possibly recur again even as a dream; the only self in her that had any actual existence was Rodney Aldrich’s wife and the mother of his children, lying here in a mean bed, or looking with feverish eyes out of the window in a North Clark Street rooming house, in a torment of thwarted desire for him that was by no means wholly mental or psychical.
And what was he doing now in her absence? Was he in torment, too; shaken by gusts of uncontrollable longing for her; fighting off nightmare imaginings of disasters that might be befalling her? Or was he happy, drinking down in great thirsty drafts the nectar of liberty which her incursion into his life had deprived him of? She didn’t know which of these alternatives was the more intolerable to her.
And the twins! Were they, the fine lusty little cherubs she had parted from that day, smiling up with growing recognition into other faces—Mrs. Ruston’s and the maid Doris’? Or might there have been, since the last information relayed by Portia, a sudden illness? Might it be that there was going on now, in that house not a thousand yards away, another life-and-death struggle like the one which had made an end of all her hopes for the efficacy of her miracle?