“It ain’t immoral—it’s the truth.”
“Well, it shouldn’t ought to be the truth. When you married Ellen you’d no business to go on caring for me. I guess all this is a judgment on you, caring for a woman when you’d married her sister.”
“You ain’t yourself, Jo,” said Arthur sadly, “and there’s no sense arguing with you. I’ll go away till you’ve got over it. Maybe I’ll have some news for you to-morrow morning.”
To-morrow morning he had a letter from Ellen herself. He brought it at once to a strangely drooping and weary-eyed Joanna, and read it again over her shoulder.
“DEAR ARTHUR,” it ran—
“I’m afraid this will hurt you and Joanna terribly, but I expect you have already guessed what has happened. I am on my way to San Remo, to join Sir Harry Trevor, and I am never coming back, because I know now that I ought not to have married you. I do not ask you to forgive me, and I’m sure Joanna won’t, but I had to think of my own happiness, and I never was a good wife to you. Believe me, I have done my best—I said ‘Good-bye for ever’ to Harry a month ago, but ever since then my life has been one long misery; I cannot live without him.
“Well, it’s only told us what we knew already,” said Joanna with a gulp, “but now we’re sure we can do better than just talk about it.”
“What can we do?”
“We can get the Old Squire’s address from somebody—Mrs. Williams or the people at North Farthing House—and then send a telegram after her, telling her to come back.”
“That won’t be much use.”
“It’ll be something, anyway. Maybe when she gets out there in foreign parts she won’t be so pleased—or maybe he never asked her to come, and he’ll have changed his mind about her. We must try and get her back. Where have you told your folk she’s gone to?”
“I’ve told ’em she’s gone to stop with you.”
“Well, I can’t pretend she’s here. You might have thought of something better, Arthur.”
“I can’t think of nothing else.”
“You just about try. If only we can get her somewheres for a week, so as to have time to write and tell her as all will be forgiven and you’ll take her back....”
Arthur looked mutinous.
“I don’t know as I want her back.”
“Arthur, you must. Otherways, everybody ull have to know what’s happened.”
“But she didn’t like being with me, or she wouldn’t have gone away.”
“She liked it well enough, or she wouldn’t have stayed with you two year. Arthur, you must have her back, you just about must. You send her a telegram saying as you’ll have her back if only she’ll come this once, before folks find out where she’s gone.”
Arthur’s resistance gradually failed before Joanna’s entreaties and persuasions. He could not withstand Jo when her blue eyes were all dull with tears, and her voice was hoarse and frantic. For some months now his marriage had seemed to him a wrong and immoral thing, but he rather sorrowfully told himself that having made the first false step he could not now turn round and come back, even if Ellen herself had broken away. He rode off to find out the Squire’s address, and send his wife the summoning and forgiving telegram.