Josiah was angry with himself and deeply humiliated. He apologized as well as he could, but to no purpose with the wrathful dame.
And Theodora slipped behind his chair, and laid her hand upon his shoulder in what was almost a caress, and said, in a sweet and playful voice:
“You are a naughty, stupid fellow, Josiah, and of course you must pay the losses of both sides to make up for being such a wicked thing,” and she patted his shoulders and smiled her gentle smile at the angry lady, as though they were children playing for counters or sweets, and the twenty pounds was a nothing to her husband, as indeed it was not. Josiah would cheerfully have paid a hundred to finish the unpleasant scene.
He was intensely grateful to her—grateful for her thought for him and for her public caress.
And the lady was so surprised at the turn affairs had taken that she said no more, and, allowing him to pay without too great protest, meekly suggested another rubber. But Josiah was not to be caught again. He rose, and, saying good-night, followed his wife and Lord Bracondale into the saloon.
After the rain and gloom of the week, Sunday dawned gloriously fine. There was to be a polo match on Monday in the park, which contained an excellent ground—Patrick and his Oxford friends against a scratch team. The neighborhood would watch them with interest. But the Sunday was for rest and peace, so all the morning the company played croquet, or lay about in hammocks, and more than half of them again began bridge in the great Egyptian tent which served as an out-door lounge on the lawn. It was reached from the western side down wide steps from the terrace, and beautiful rose gardens stretched away beyond.
Theodora had spent a sleepless night. There was no more illusion left to her on the subject of her feelings. She knew that each day, each hour, she was growing more deeply to love Hector Bracondale. He absorbed her thoughts, he dominated her imagination. He seemed to mean the only thing in life. The situation was impossible, and must end in some way. How could she face the long months with Josiah down at their new home, with the feverish hopes and fears of meetings! It was too cruel, too terrible; and she could not lead such a life. She had thought in Paris it would be possible, and even afford a certain amount of quiet happiness, if they could be strong enough to remain just friends. But now she knew this was not in human nature. Sooner or later fate would land them in some situation of temptation too strong for either to resist—and then—and then—She refused to face that picture. Only she writhed as she lay there and buried her face in the fine pillows. She did not permit herself any day-dreams of what might have been. Romauld himself, as he took his vows, never fought harder to regain his soul from the keeping of Claremonde than did Theodora to suppress her love for Hector Bracondale. Towards morning, worn out with fatigue, she fell asleep, and in her dreams, released from the control of her will, she spent moments of passionate bliss in his arms, only to wake and find she must face again the terrible reality. And cruellest thought of all was the thought of Josiah.