“I shall do it,” he said, and his lips were pressed firmly together, as before his lonely fire he sat that chill March night, revolving the past and then turning to the future opening so darkly before him, and making him shudder as he thought of what it might bring. “I will spare Katy as much as possible,” he said, “for hers is a different nature from Genevra’s. She cannot bear as well,” and a bitter groan broke the silence of the room as Katy came up before him just as she had looked that very morning standing by the window, with tears in her eyes, and a wistful, sorry look on her white face.
Could she be false to him and wear that look? The question staggered Wilford for a moment, but when he remembered the proof, he steeled his heart against her and prepared to act.
All the next day Wilford was very busy arranging his affairs, and a casual looker-on would have seen nothing unusual in the face always so grave and cold. But to Tom Tubbs, casting furtive glances over his book and wondering at his employer’s sudden activity, it was terrible in its dark, hard, unrelenting expression, while even his mother, upon whom he called that evening, looked at him anxiously, asking what was the matter, but not mentioning the conversation held with her the previous day respecting Katy.
She was still at Yonkers, Wilford said, and his voice was very natural as he added: “I am expected to go out there to-morrow night with Beverley and Lincoln, whose wives are also at Mrs. Mills’; quite a gay party we shall make,” and he tried to smile, but it was a sickly effort and made his face look still more ghastly and strange.
“What ails you, Wilford?” his mother asked, but he answered pettishly: “Nothing, so pray don’t look at me so curiously as if I was hiding some terrible secret.”
He was hiding a secret, and it almost betrayed itself, when at last he said good-by to his mother, who followed him to the door and stood looking after him in the darkness until the sound of his footsteps died away upon the pavement. There was a fire in his room and Wilford sat down to write the brief note he would leave, for when the night shut down again he would not be there. He could not feel that the parting from Katy would be final, because he did not believe she had sinned as he counted sin, but she certainly preferred another to himself; she had deceived him and played the successful hypocrite. This was Wilford’s accusation against his wife; this for what she must be punished, until such time as his royal clemency saw fit to forgive and take her back as he meant to. He had no fear of her going to Morris, or to the farmhouse either, for much as she was attached to her family, he believed she would shrink from a return to poverty, choosing rather the luxuries of her city home. And he would put no impediment in the way of her staying there as long as she liked; he would arrange that for her, feeling himself very magnanimous as he thought of giving her permission to invite her mother to New York as a kind of protection against scandalous remarks. Mrs. Lennox and Helen too should come. That certainly was generous, and lest his goodness should abate he seized his pen and wrote: