One by one, she took off her clothes, in the same mechanical way as she would have done if she had returned exhausted from working overtime at the office. When she put on her night-dress, she knelt down unpremeditatedly upon the floor, held her hands together, and looked up to the ceiling, watching a fly that was braving the cold of winter, as it crept in a sluggish, hibernated way across the white plaster. When she rose to her feet and blew out the candle, she was under the vague impression that she had said her prayers. Then she climbed into bed, pulled the clothes about her, and, as her hand touched the pillow, its softness, the remembrance of the many nights when in loneliness she had wept herself to sleep, all rushed back with their thousand associations, and the dam against her soul broke. The flood of tears poured through, and she sobbed convulsively.
Suddenly then, with a grasp of the breath, she stopped, though the tears still toppled down. She had heard her name.
It was Janet. Before she could resist, before she could explain, two thin arms were clasped round her breast and a close, warm body was next to hers.
“What is it, Sally—little Sally? tell Janet—tell Janet—whisper—”
The passionate sobbing, which had begun again immediately Sally knew it was Janet, commenced now to break into uneven, uncontrolled breaths, that by degrees became quieter and quieter as Janet whispered the fond, meaningless things into her ear. Meaningless? They would have had no meaning to any who might have overheard; but in Sally’s heart, as it was meant they should be, they were charged to the full—a cup beneath an ever-flowing fountain that brims over—with such kindness and sympathy, as only a woman of Janet’s nature knows how to bestow to another and more gentle of her sex.
“Are you unhappy, Sally?” she asked, when, from the sounds of her weeping, she had become more rational.
There was no answer.
“Are you, Sally?”
“Yes, frightfully—frightfully! Oh, I wish I hadn’t got to go on.” It was rent from her heart, torn from her. All the spirit in her was broken—crushed.
“But why, my darling? Why?” The thin arms held her tighter, warm lips kissed her neck and shoulders. “Did he treat you badly—did he?”
Janet gleaned much in the directness of that answer.
“Doesn’t he care for you?”
She knew then that Sally cared for him.