Perhaps she was helped by the fact that Dan failed to put in an appearance at the supper-table. It was easier to scintillate successfully for the sole benefit of a couple of other women than under the eyes of a man who had just ordered you out of his life. But when at last she was alone in her own room, the sparkle was suddenly quenched. There was no longer any need to pretend.
Michael was married! Married! And the bitterness which she had been strenuously keeping at bay since the day, months ago now, when she had learned from Lady Arabella that he had deliberately left England without seeing her again swept over her in a black flood.
It had hurt her badly enough when he had gone away, but somewhere in the depths of her consciousness there had always lurked a little fugitive hope that he would come back—that she would be given another chance. Now she knew that he would never come back—that one isn’t always given a second chance in this world.
And beneath the sick anguish of the realisation she was aware of a fierce resentment—a bitter, rebellious anger that any man could make her suffer as she was suffering now. It was unjust—a burden that had been forced upon her unfairly. She could not help her own character—that was a heritage with which one comes into the world—and now she was being punished for simply having been herself!
An hour—two hours crept by. Hours of black, stark misery. The clock in the hall struck one—a single, bell-like stroke that reverberated through the silent house. It penetrated the numbed confusion of her mind, rousing her to a sudden recognition of the fact that she had been crouched so long in one position that her limbs were stiff and aching.
She drew herself up to her feet, stretching her cramped muscles. The night was warm and the room felt stiflingly hot. She looked longingly through the window to where the garden lay drenched in moonlight, with cool-looking alleyways of moon-washed paths threading the black gloom of overhanging trees, ebony-edged in the silver light.
She felt as though she could hardly breathe in the confined space of the room. Its low, sloping roof, which she had thought so quaintly attractive, seemed to press down on her like the lid of a box. She must get out—out into the black and silver night which beckoned to her through the open window. She could not stay in this room—this little room, alone with her thoughts.
She glanced down dubiously at the soft, chiffony negligee which she had slipped on in place of a frock. Her feet, too, were bare. She had stripped off her shoes and stockings first thing upon coming upstairs, for the sake of coolness. Certainly her attire was not quite suitable for out-of-doors. . . . But there would be no one to see her. Ashencombe folk did not take their walks abroad at that hour of the night. And she longed to feel the cool touch of the dewy grass against her feet.