“Well, Christine Dryfoos!” said Mela, “Sprang at him like a wild-cat!”
“I, don’t care,” Christine shrieked. “I’ll tear his eyes out!” She flew up-stairs to her own room, and left the burden of the explanation to Mela, who did it justice.
Beaton found himself, he did not know how, in his studio, reeking with perspiration and breathless. He must almost have run. He struck a match with a shaking hand, and looked at his face in the glass. He expected to see the bleeding marks of her nails on his cheeks, but he could see nothing. He grovelled inwardly; it was all so low and coarse and vulgar; it was all so just and apt to his deserts.
There was a pistol among the dusty bric-a-brac on the mantel which he had kept loaded to fire at a cat in the area. He took it and sat looking into the muzzle, wishing it might go off by accident and kill him. It slipped through his hand and struck the floor, and there was a report; he sprang into the air, feeling that he had been shot. But he found himself still alive, with only a burning line along his cheek, such as one of Christine’s finger-nails might have left.
He laughed with cynical recognition of the fact that he had got his punishment in the right way, and that his case was not to be dignified into tragedy.
The Marches, with Fulkerson, went to see the Dryfooses off on the French steamer. There was no longer any business obligation on them to be civil, and there was greater kindness for that reason in the attention they offered. ‘Every Other Week’ had been made over to the joint ownership of March and Fulkerson, and the details arranged with a hardness on Dryfoos’s side which certainly left Mrs. March with a sense of his incomplete regeneration. Yet when she saw him there on the steamer, she pitied him; he looked wearied and bewildered; even his wife, with her twitching head, and her prophecies of evil, croaked hoarsely out, while she clung to Mrs. March’s hand where they sat together till the leave-takers were ordered ashore, was less pathetic. Mela was looking after both of them, and trying to cheer them in a joyful excitement. “I tell ’em it’s goun’ to add ten years to both their lives,” she said. “The voyage ‘ll do their healths good; and then, we’re gittun’ away from that miser’ble pack o’ servants that was eatun’ us up, there in New York. I hate the place!” she said, as if they had already left it. “Yes, Mrs. Mandel’s goun’, too,” she added, following the direction of Mrs. March’s eyes where they noted Mrs. Mandel, speaking to Christine on the other side of the cabin. “Her and Christine had a kind of a spat, and she was goun’ to leave, but here only the other day, Christine offered to make it up with her, and now they’re as thick as thieves. Well, I reckon we couldn’t very well ‘a’ got along without her. She’s about the only one that speaks French in this family.”