“I have done!” he said, after a pause. “Have you anything further to say to me?”
She found it within her power to free herself, and did so. She was shaking from head to foot. The untamed violence of the man had appalled her, but his abrupt resumption of self-control was almost more terrible. She felt as if his will compassed and constrained her like bands of iron.
She stood before him in panting silence, a shrinking woman, striving vainly to raise from the dust the shield of pride that he had so rudely shattered and flung aside. She could not speak to him. She had no words. From the depths of her soul she hated him. But—it had come to this—she did not dare to tell him so.
He waited quietly for a few seconds; then unexpectedly, but without vehemence, he held out his hand to her.
“Anne,” he said, a subtle change in his deep voice, “fight against me, and you will be miserable, for I am bound to conquer you. But come to me—come to me of your own free will—and I swear before Heaven that I will make you happy.”
But Nan held back with horror, almost with loathing, in her eyes. She did not utter a word. There was no need.
His hand fell. For a second the fire that smouldered in his eyes shot upwards to a flame, but it died down again instantly. He turned from her in silence and picked up her cloak.
He did not look at her as he handed it to her, and Nan did not dare to look at him. Dumbly she forced her trembling body into subjection to her will. She crossed the hall without faltering, and went without sound or backward glance up the stairs. And the man was left alone in the flickering firelight.
To Mona fell the task of making preparation for Nan’s departure, for Nan herself did not raise a finger to that end. Three days only remained to her of the old free life—three days in which to bid farewell to everybody and everything she knew and loved.
Her husband did not attempt to obtrude his presence upon her during those three days. The man’s patience was immense, cloaking him as with a garment of passive strength. He was merely a guest in Colonel Everard’s house, and a silent guest at that.
No one knew what had passed between him and his young wife on the night of the Hunt Ball, but it was generally understood that he had asserted his authority over her after a fashion that admitted of no resistance. Only Mona could have told of the white-faced, terrified girl who had lain trembling in her arms all through the dark hours that had followed their interview, but Mona knew when to hold her peace, though it was no love for her brother-in-law that sealed her lips.
So, with a set face, she packed her sister’s belongings, never faltering, scarcely pausing for thought, till on the very last day she finished her task, and then sat musing alone in the darkness of the winter evening.