In the mouth of a little alley, deep with shadows, on the other side of St. Martin’s Lane, she was standing, her heart throbbing, half timidly, half jealously, yet secure in the knowledge that she was safe from observation. With eyes, burnt in the fever of a fierce emotion, she watched them as they stepped into the car that drew up beneath the lighted portico. When she saw Mrs. Durlacher’s gesture inviting Traill to sit between them on the back seat; when she saw him willingly accept, notwithstanding that there was more room, more comfort in the seat opposite, she drew in a breath between her teeth, and the nails of her fingers bit into the palms of her hands. Now, from what little she had seen in the theatre, and taking into greatest consideration of all the proof of her own eyes that the woman was beautiful, eclipsing herself at every point of attraction, Sally was full-swept into the mad whirlpool of unreasoning jealousy. Every action and every incident that her starved eyes fed upon were distorted, embittered to the taste as though the taint of aloes had crept into everything.
She thought she saw him lay his hand upon hers as he took the place beside her. In that position she knew that they would be wedged close together, their limbs touching, thrilling his senses as she well knew she herself had thrilled them by even slighter proximity than that. Here, too, she judged again by the lowest of standards, if judgment it can be said of a wild flinging of thoughts—vitriol hurled in a moment of madness. Yet against him she could find no bitterness. The woman, kissing the hand that strikes her, to shield it from the falling of the law, is a type that has made no history; but in the hearts of men she is to be found with her ineffaceable record.
It was against the two women, against Mrs. Durlacher with her damnable cunning, against the other with her still more damnable fascination, that all the blinding acid of Sally’s thoughts was cast. The woman who had hoodwinked him with her lies about her husband, the woman who had crept in, seizing the moment of his blindness—these were the two people in the world whom she could willingly have strangled with her little hands that gripped and loosened in the mad emotion of her rage. Under her breath she muttered—hissing the words—the vain things that she would do. All the civilized refinement of humanity was burnt out of her. She was not human. She had lost control. The thoughts that revelled in her brain were animal; the savage fury of the beast starved of its food and then deprived of the flesh and blood that are snatched from the very clutching of its claws.
It is not so far a call, even now, for this divine humanity, weaned upon the nutritious food of intelligence, nursed in the refining lap of civilization, to hark back, driven by one rush of events, to the lowest forms of nature that exist. If, in the hour of death, seeking immunity from peril, there live men who have trodden down the bodies of women, beaten them with naked fists, severed arms from their bleeding hands that held to safety in order that they might find their own escape; then, surely it is no very wonderful thing for a woman, threatened with the destruction of all her happiness, to give herself over to the mad riot of murderous intent that shouts the cry of bloody revolution through her brain!