One morning after a sleepless night she determined to see him, possibly for the last time, and make one strong endeavour to draw him from those evil influences which were sucking him down. She went to his house, as he had often begged her to do, and made her way into the room which he used as his sitting-room. He was seated at a table, with his back turned and a letter in front of him. A sudden spirit of girlish mischief came over her—she was still only nineteen. He had not heard her when she pushed open the door. Now she tiptoed forward and laid her hand lightly upon his bended shoulders.
If she had expected to startle him, she certainly succeeded; but only in turn to be startled herself. With a tiger spring he turned on her, and his right hand was feeling for her throat. At the same instant with the other hand he crumpled up the paper that lay before him. For an instant he stood glaring. Then astonishment and joy took the place of the ferocity which had convulsed his features—a ferocity which had sent her shrinking back in horror as from something which had never before intruded into her gentle life.
“It’s you!” said he, mopping his brow. “And to think that you should come to me, heart of my heart, and I should find nothing better to do than to want to strangle you! Come then, darling,” and he held out his arms, “let me make it up to you.”
But she had not recovered from that sudden glimpse of guilty fear which she had read in the man’s face. All her woman’s instinct told her that it was not the mere fright of a man who is startled. Guilt—that was it—guilt and fear!
“What’s come over you, Jack?” she cried. “Why were you so scared of me? Oh, Jack, if your conscience was at ease, you would not have looked at me like that!”
“Sure, I was thinking of other things, and when you came tripping so lightly on those fairy feet of yours—”
“No, no, it was more than that, Jack.” Then a sudden suspicion seized her. “Let me see that letter you were writing.”
“Ah, Ettie, I couldn’t do that.”
Her suspicions became certainties. “It’s to another woman,” she cried. “I know it! Why else should you hold it from me? Was it to your wife that you were writing? How am I to know that you are not a married man—you, a stranger, that nobody knows?”
“I am not married, Ettie. See now, I swear it! You’re the only one woman on earth to me. By the cross of Christ I swear it!”
He was so white with passionate earnestness that she could not but believe him.
“Well, then,” she cried, “why will you not show me the letter?”
“I’ll tell you, acushla,” said he. “I’m under oath not to show it, and just as I wouldn’t break my word to you so I would keep it to those who hold my promise. It’s the business of the lodge, and even to you it’s secret. And if I was scared when a hand fell on me, can’t you understand it when it might have been the hand of a detective?”