“I dare say the tone of your conversation,” he said acridly, “was not such as would reconcile her to remaining at home. No doubt you gave her abundant causes for self-pity.”
“I did not congratulate her on her return home; but, on the other hand, I said nothing that could interfere with her expressed intention to remain there.”
“She told you that she had this intention?” asked Reuben, with some eagerness.
As in the dialogue of last evening, so now, Mallard kept the sternest control upon himself. Had he obeyed his desire, he would have scarified Elgar with savage words; but of that nothing save harm could come. His duty was to smooth, and not to aggravate, the situation. It was a blow to him to learn that Cecily had passed the night away from home, but he felt sure that this would be explained in some way that did no injury to her previous resolve. He would not admit the thought that she had misled him. What had happened, he could not with any satisfaction conjecture, but he was convinced that a few hours would solve the mystery. Had she really failed in her determination, then assuredly she would write to him, even though it were without saying where she had taken refuge. But he persisted in hoping that it was not so.
“Go back to your house, and wait there,” he added gravely, but without harshness. “For some reason best known to yourself, you kept your wife waiting for nearly two days, in expectation of your coming. I hope it was reluctance to face her. You can only go and wait. If I hear any news of her, you shall at once receive it. And if she comes, I desire to know of it as soon as possible.”
Elgar could say nothing more. He would have liked to ask several questions, but pride forbade him. Turning in silence he went from the studio, and slowly descended the stairs Mallard heard him pause near the foot, then go forth.
Reuben had no choice but to obey the artist’s directions. He walked a long way, the exercise helping him to combat his complicated wretchedness, but at length he felt weary and threw himself into a cab.
The servant who opened the door to him said that Mrs. Elgar had been in for a few minutes, about an hour ago; she would be back again by lunch-time.
PEACE IN SHOW AND PEACE IN TRUTH
At first so much relieved that he was able to sit down and quietly review his thoughts, Elgar could not long preserve this frame of mind; in half an hour he began to suffer from impatience, and when the time of Cecily’s return approached, he was in a state of intolerable agitation. Mallard’s severity lost its force now that it was only remembered. He accused himself of having been, as always, weakly sensitive to the moment’s impression. The fact remained that Cecily had spent a long time alone with Mallard, had made him the confidant of her troubles;