“So!” he said: “Sleeping this way doesn’t spoil your dreams. Don’t let me disturb them. I am just going back to Town.”
Like a frightened bird, she stayed, not stirring, gazing at his back as he leaned in the window, till, turning round on her again, he said:
“But remember this: What I can’t have, no one else shall! Do you understand? No one else!” And he bent down close, repeating: “Do you understand—you bad wife!”
Four years’ submission to a touch she shrank from; one long effort not to shrink! Bad wife! Not if he killed her would she answer now!
“Do you hear?” he said once more: “Make up your mind to that. I mean it.”
He had gripped the arms of her chair, till she could feel it quiver beneath her. Would he drive his fist into her face that she managed to keep still smiling? But there only passed into his eyes an expression which she could not read.
“Well,” he said, “you know!” and walked heavily towards the door.
The moment he had gone she sprang up: Yes, she was a bad wife! A wife who had reached the end of her tether. A wife who hated instead of loving. A wife in prison! Bad wife! Martyrdom, then, for the sake of a faith in her that was lost already, could be but folly. If she seemed bad and false to him, there was no longer reason to pretend to be otherwise. No longer would she, in the words of the old song:—’sit and sigh—pulling bracken, pulling bracken.’ No more would she starve for want of love, and watch the nights throb and ache, as last night had throbbed and ached, with the passion that she might not satisfy.
And while she was dressing she wondered why she did not look tired. To get out quickly! To send her lover word at once to hasten to her while it was safe—that she might tell him she was coming to him out of prison! She would telegraph for him to come that evening with a boat, opposite the tall poplar. She and her Aunt and Uncle were to go to dinner at the Rectory, but she would plead headache at the last minute. When the Ercotts had gone she would slip out, and he and she would row over to the wood, and be together for two hours of happiness. And they must make a clear plan, too—for to-morrow they would begin their life together. But it would not be safe to send that message from the village; she must go down and over the bridge to the post-office on the other side, where they did not know her. It was too late now before breakfast. Better after, when she could slip away, knowing for certain that her husband had gone. It would still not be too late for her telegram—Lennan never left his rooms till the midday post which brought her letters.