“Lie?” said Spurlock, astounded.
“Aye—to pretend to her that you don’t care. That’s a most damnable lie; and when she finds out, ’tis then she will not forgive. She’ll have this hour always with her; and you failed her. Go to her.”
This simple admission disarmed McClintock. “Well, well; I have given out of my wisdom. I’d like to shake you until your bones rattled; but the bones of a Roundhead wouldn’t rattle to any purpose. Lad, I admire you even in your folly. Mountains out of molehills and armies out of windmills; and you’ll tire yourself in one direction and shatter yourself in the other. There is strength in you—misguided. You will torture yourself and torture her all through life; but in the end she will pour the wine of her faith into a sound chalice. I would that you were my own.”
“I, a thief?”
“Aye; thief, Roundhead and all. If a certain kink in your sense of honour will not permit you to go to her as a lover, go to her as a comrade. Talk to her of the new story; divert her; for this day her heart has been twisted sorely.”
McClintock without further speech strode toward his bungalow; and half an hour later Spurlock, passing, heard the piano-tuning key at work.
Spurlock plodded through the heavy sand, leaden in the heart and mind as well as in the feet. But recently he had asked God to pile it all on him; and God had added this, with a fresh portion for Ruth. One thing—he could be thankful for that—the peak of his misfortunes had been reached; the world might come to an end now and not matter in the least.
Love ... to take her in his arms and to comfort her: and then to add to her cup of bitterness the knowledge that her husband was a thief! For himself he did not care; God could continue to grind and pulverize him; but to add another grain to the evil he had already wrought upon Ruth was unthinkable. The future? He dared not speculate upon that.
He paused at the bamboo curtain of her room, which was in semi-darkness. He heard Rollo’s stump beat a gentle tattoo on the floor.
Silence for a moment. “Yes. What is it?”
“Is there anything I can do?” The idiocy of the question filled him with the craving of laughter. Was there anything he could do!
“No, Hoddy; nothing.”
“Would you like to have me come in and talk?” How tender that sounded!—talk!
“If you want to.”
Bamboo and bead tinkled and slithered behind him. The dusky obscurity of the room was twice welcome. He did not want Ruth to see his own stricken countenance; nor did he care to see hers, ravaged by tears. He knew she had been weeping. He drew a chair to the side of the bed and sat down, terrified by the utter fallowness of his mind. Filled as he was with conflicting emotions, any stretch of silence would be dangerous. The fascination of the idea of throwing himself upon his knees and crying out all that was in his heart! As his eyes began to focus objects, he saw one of her arms extended upon the counterpane, in his direction, the hand clenched tightly.