She rose quickly in gladness to meet him, and they sat down together again.
She spoke her sympathy for this bereavement which had caused his absence, but he said with grave peace:
“She is well, my sister—a martyr in life, she has paid her debt. I have no grief.”
So they talked about the garden, and of the fisher-folk, and their winter needs. There had been a wreck of a fishing boat, and a wife and children would be hungry but for the kindness of their Dame d’Heronac.
Then there was a pause—not one of those calm, happy pauses of other days, when each one dreamed, but a pause wrought with unease. The Cure’s old black eyes had a questioning expression, and then he asked:
“And what is it, my daughter? Your heart is not at rest.”
But Sabine could not answer him. Her long-controlled anguish won the day and, as once before, she burst into a passion of tears.
The Pere Anselme did not seek to comfort her; he knew women well—she would be calmer presently, and would tell him what her sorrow was. He only murmured some words in Latin and looked out on the sea.
Presently the sobs ceased and the Dame d’Heronac rose quickly and left the room; and when she had mastered her emotion, she came back again.
“My father,” she said, sitting on a low stool at his knees, “I have been very foolish and very wicked—but I cannot talk about it. Let us begin to read.”
Meanwhile the divorce affair went on apace. There was no defence, of course, and Michael’s lawyers were clever and his own influence was great. So freedom would come before the end of term probably, if not early in the New Year, and Henry felt he might begin to ask his beloved one to name a date when he could call her his own, and endeavor to take every shadow from her life.
His letters all this month had been more than extra tender and devoted, each one showing that his whole desire was only for Sabine’s welfare, and each one, as she read it, put a fresh stab into her heart and seemed like an extra fetter in the chain binding her to him.
She knew she was really the mainspring of his life and she could not, did not, dare to face what might be the consequence of her parting from him. Besides, the die was cast and she must have the courage to go through with it.
Mr. Parsons had let her know definitely that the bare fact of her name would appear in the papers, and nothing more; and at first the thought came to her that if it had made no impression upon Henry’s memory, when he must have read it originally in the notice of the marriage, why should it strike him now? But this was too slender a thread to hang hope upon, and it would be wiser and better for them all if when Lord Fordyce came with Moravia and Girolamo and Mr. Cloudwater at Christmas, she told him the whole truth. The dread of this augmented day by day, until it became a nightmare and she had to use the whole force of her will to keep even an outward semblance of calm.