She clasped her hands in her lap. ‘That is true!’ she said eagerly. ‘I begin to believe in you again.’
’Very well. You can’t expect me to find out the moral cause which has alarmed you. I can positively discover that there is no physical cause of alarm; and (unless you admit me to your confidence) I can do no more.’
She rose, and took a turn in the room. ‘Suppose I tell you?’ she said. ‘But, mind, I shall mention no names!’
‘There is no need to mention names. The facts are all I want.’
‘The facts are nothing,’ she rejoined. ’I have only my own impressions to confess—and you will very likely think me a fanciful fool when you hear what they are. No matter. I will do my best to content you— I will begin with the facts that you want. Take my word for it, they won’t do much to help you.’
She sat down again. In the plainest possible words, she began the strangest and wildest confession that had ever reached the Doctor’s ears.
‘It is one fact, sir, that I am a widow,’ she said. ’It is another fact, that I am going to be married again.’
There she paused, and smiled at some thought that occurred to her. Doctor Wybrow was not favourably impressed by her smile— there was something at once sad and cruel in it. It came slowly, and it went away suddenly. He began to doubt whether he had been wise in acting on his first impression. His mind reverted to the commonplace patients and the discoverable maladies that were waiting for him, with a certain tender regret.
The lady went on.
‘My approaching marriage,’ she said, ’has one embarrassing circumstance connected with it. The gentleman whose wife I am to be, was engaged to another lady when he happened to meet with me, abroad: that lady, mind, being of his own blood and family, related to him as his cousin. I have innocently robbed her of her lover, and destroyed her prospects in life. Innocently, I say—because he told me nothing of his engagement until after I had accepted him. When we next met in England—and when there was danger, no doubt, of the affair coming to my knowledge—he told me the truth. I was naturally indignant. He had his excuse ready; he showed me a letter from the lady herself, releasing him from his engagement. A more noble, a more high-minded letter, I never read in my life. I cried over it—I who have no tears in me for sorrows of my own! If the letter had left him any hope of being forgiven, I would have positively refused to marry him. But the firmness of it— without anger, without a word of reproach, with heartfelt wishes even for his happiness—the firmness of it, I say, left him no hope. He appealed to my compassion; he appealed to his love for me. You know what women are. I too was soft-hearted—I said, Very well: yes! In a week more (I tremble as I think of it) we are to be married.’