“Can you see who’s inside?”
“I suppose it’s Mr. Traill, madam. Yes—it is.”
“Any one with him?”
“Yes, madam—a lady.”
Circumstances will almost make a character in a day; in three years, a character can be moulded, bent, twisted or straightened, in the furnace of events; just as the potter, idling with the passive clay, will shape it, heedlessly almost, as the fancy nerves his fingers. But before he is aware, the time slips by, the clay gets set and there, in front of his eyes, is the figure as his fancy made it—brittle, easily broken into dust, but impossible of being moulded afresh until it shall again go back into the water of oblivion and become the shapeless mass that once it was.
So, in the three years that had passed since she had yielded body and soul into the keeping of Jack Traill, had Sally’s character become set in the moulding of his influence. Happiness she had—that to the full. He cared for her the more when once he had her gentle nature under his touch; showed her all those little attentions of which such a mind as his is capable of conceiving—teased her, petted her, laughed like a schoolboy at her feminine whims and fancies.
For the first month of their relationship, they went abroad. He gave her money, more money than she had ever had in absolute possession before, wherewith to fit herself for the journey. She tried to refuse half of it—told him the sum was preposterous, that less than half of what he was giving would provide her with the most expensive of frocks for the rest of her life.
“Sixty pounds?” he said. “My sister spends that in half an hour at a dressmaker’s in Dover Street.”
“Ah, yes, but that’s your sister,” she had objected pathetically.
“But thirty pounds will really be more than enough.”
It lay deep in her mind, never offering to rise to the surface, to remind him that she was not his wife. But he would not give way. He had said sixty pounds—sixty pounds it had to be. So he mastered her, without effort, at every turn.
She went then with Janet to the shops—she, and her sixty pounds, gripped tight in brittle ten-pound notes in her purse. At that time she was still staying on at Kew, still attending her office in King Street; but at both places she had given notice to leave, and in a week’s time would be free.
Her first intimation to Janet of all that had occurred and all that was to follow, was made, as usual, one night, when the darkness hid her face, and she could only tell by the sound of Janet’s breathing what effect her story might have.
When she had finished, Janet made use of that remark—justified in her case—which every prophet, false or true, utters at one time or another—
“Didn’t I tell you so?”
But then she went on, and they had talked far into the night; and at every moment, when doubt or regret seized and shook Sally with a quivering remorse, Janet laughed at her fears.