I said I thought it a wholesome and commendable resolution, on general principles, and, of course, the idol would gradually disintegrate. All idols were of clay. But it didn’t matter about the idol, so long as the effect was produced. He might count on me any time for good advice. He only glared at me, and called me hard names, and we dropped in at the club and finished our cigars, and separated.
And Grant Harlson made love to Jean Cornish and won her heart.
But all the time, unconsciously, he was a man of false pretensions, one dishonorable and unworthy of her. His friends knew of his marriage and its sequel. He had never concealed nor thought of concealing his condition, and it never occurred to him that Jean Cornish was not aware of it. He had supposed her, if she cared for him as he hoped, to be somewhat troubled, but to understand that he would do no mean thing, and that all would be well in time. Then came the sorrow of it, for Jean Cornish learned, quite accidentally, that Grant Harlson was a man with a living wife.
She would not believe it at first, and, when convinced, was dazed and could not understand. No such shock had ever before come into her life. This man, of whom she had made a hero, a trickster and a liar! It seemed as if the world were gone! There was a meeting and an explanation, and she learned how wrong she had been, in one way.
He put the case earnestly and desperately. He would not yield her. He knew she loved him, and he knew she was too good and wise to suffer forever herself or let him suffer because, in society, there were blunders. There was a way out—a clean, right way—and they must take it. He could get a divorce on grounds of mere desertion, and three people, at least, would be better off. It was pitiful, the scene, one afternoon. He had called to see her, and was pleading with her. It was in the drawing-room, and there were stained windows they both remembered in later years. He had talked of his bondage and of his hopes. She was not quite herself; she was suffering too much. I know what happened. Grant told me once of the wrench of him then, and of all the scene. There had been a fierce appeal from him. He had become almost enraged.
“And so,” he said, “you would have a man’s marriage like the black biretta of Spain that is drawn over the prisoner’s head before they garrote him?”
She did not move nor speak, but stood straight and silent, her hands hanging at her sides with the palms loosely open, the very abandonment of pathetic helplessness.
Such a little woman, to withstand a storm of passion!
As he wondered at her curiously blended strength and weakness, a sun-shaft blazed through the crimson glass of the upper window. The reddened light, falling on her up-springing almost coppery locks, seemed to the man’s excited fancy a crown, of thorns, crimsoned with blood, and there was, oddly enough, a cross in the window.