And when the last echo of his purring car had died away into silence she went down and sat in the garden on the bench beside the hundred-leaved bush. Aunt Isabelle’s light was still burning, and presently she would go up and say “Good-night,” but for the moment she must be alone. Alone to face the doubts which were facing her. Suppose, oh, suppose, that the things which Roger had told her about his marriage had been distorted to make his story sound plausible? Suppose the little wife had suffered, had been driven from him by coldness, by cruelty? One never knew the real inner histories of such domestic tragedies. There was Leila, for example, who knew nothing of Barry’s faults, and Barry had not told her. Might not other men have faults which they dared not tell? The world was full of just such tragedies.
When at last Mary reached the Tower Rooms, she undressed in the dark. She said her prayers in the dark, out loud, as had been her childish habit. And this was what she said: “Oh, Lord, I want to believe in Roger. Let me believe—don’t let me doubt—let me believe.”
When at last she slept, it was to dream and wake and to dream again. And waking or dreaming, out of the shadows came ghostly creatures, who whispered, “His little wife was a saint—how could she make him unhappy?” And again, “He may have been cruel, how do you know that he was not cruel?” And again, “If you were his wife, you would be thinking always of that other wife—thinking—thinking—thinking.”
In Which Mary Faces the Winter of Her Discontent; and in Which Delilah Sees Things in a Crystal Ball.
The summer slipped by, monotonously hot, languidly humid. And it was on these hot and humid days that Mary felt the grind of her new occupation. She grew to dread her entrance into the square close office room, with its gaunt desks and its unchanging occupants. She waxed restless through the hours of confinement, escaping thankfully at the end of a long day.
She longed for a whiff of the sea, for the deeps of some forest, for the fields of green which must be somewhere beyond the blue-gray haze which had settled over the shimmering city.
She began to show the effects of her unaccustomed drudgery. She grew pale and thin. Aunt Isabelle was worried. The two women sat much by the fountain. Mary had begged Aunt Isabelle to go away to some cooler spot. But the gentle lady had refused.
“This is home to me, my dear,” she had said, “and I don’t mind the heat. And there’s no happiness for me in big hotels.”
“There’d be happiness for me anywhere that I could get a breath of coolness,” Mary said, restlessly. “I can hardly wait for the fall days.”
Yet when the cooler days came, there was the dreariness of rain and of sighing winds. And now it was November, and Roger Poole had been away a year.