And could it be that she had no friends; that everybody had deserted her; that she was alone in the world? As he thought of it all, the whole thing seemed to him to be too terrible for reality. What a tragedy was that she had told him! He thought of the man’s insolence to the woman whom he had married and sworn to love, then of his cruelty, his fiendish, hellish cruelty; and lastly of his terrible punishment. “I stuck to him through it all,” she had said to him; and then he endeavored to picture to himself that bedside by which Julia Brabazon, his Julia Brabazon, had remained firm, when hospital attendants had been scared by the horrors they had witnessed, and the nerves of a strong man, of a man paid for such work, had failed him!
The truth of her word throughout he never doubted; and, indeed, no man or woman who heard her could have doubted. One hears stories told that to oneself, the hearer, are manifestly false; and one hears stories as to the truth or falsehood of which one is in doubt; and stories again which seem to be partly true and partly untrue. But one also hears that of the truth of which no doubt seems to be possible. So it had been with the tale which Lady Ongar had told. It had been all as she had said; and had Sir Hugh heard it—even Sir Hugh, who doubted all men and regarded all women as being false beyond a doubt—even he, I think, would have believed it.
But she had deserved the sufferings which had come upon her. Even Harry, whose heart was very tender toward her, owned as much as that. She had sold herself, as she had said of herself more than once. She had given herself to a man whom she regarded not at all, even when her heart belonged to another—to a man whom she must have loathed and despised when she was putting her hand into his before the altar. What scorn had there been upon her face when she spoke of the beginning of their married miseries. With what eloquence of expression had she pronounced him to be vile, worthless, unmanly; a thing from which a woman must turn with speechless contempt. She had now his name, his rank, and his money, but she was friendless and alone. Harry Clavering declared to himself that she had deserved it-and, having so declared, forgave her all her faults. She had sinned, and then had suffered; and, therefore, should now be forgiven. If he could do aught to ease her troubles, he would do it—as a brother would for a sister.
But it would be well that she should know of his engagement. Then he thought of the whole interview, and felt sure that she must know it. At any rate he told himself that he was sure. She could hardly have spoken to him as she had done, unless she had known. When last they had been together, sauntering round the gardens at Clavering, he had rebuked her for her treachery to him: Now she came to him almost open-armed, free, full of her cares, swearing to him that he was her only friend! All this could mean but one thing—unless she knew that that one thing was barred by his altered position.