’I have no faith in mere change of place. You would be the same man. If you cannot command your senseless jealousy here, you never would anywhere else.’
He made an effort to say something; seemed to abandon it; again tried, and spoke in a thick, unnatural voice.
’Can you honestly repeat to me what Barfoot was saying to-day, when you were on the seat together?’
Monica’s eyes flashed.
‘I could; every word. But I shall not try to do so.’
‘Not if I beseech you to, Monica? To put my mind at rest—’
’No. When I tell you that you might have heard every syllable, I have said all that I shall.’
It mortified him profoundly that he should have been driven to make so humiliating a request. He threw himself into a chair and hid his face, sitting thus for a long time in the hope that Monica would be moved to compassion. But when she rose it was only to retire for the night. And with wretchedness in her heart, because she must needs go to the same chamber in which her husband would sleep. She wished so to be alone. The poorest bed in a servant’s garret would have been thrice welcome to her; liberty to lie awake, to think without a disturbing presence, to shed tears of need be—that seemed to her a precious boon. She thought with envy of the shop-girls in Walworth Road; wished herself back there. What unspeakable folly she had committed! And how true was everything she had heard from Rhoda Nunn on the subject of marriage! The next day Widdowson resorted to an expedient which he had once before tried in like circumstances. He wrote his wife a long letter, eight close pages, reviewing the cause of their troubles, confessing his own errors, insisting gently on those chargeable to her, and finally imploring her to cooperate with him in a sincere endeavour to restore their happiness. This he laid on the table after lunch, and then left Monica alone that she might read it. Knowing beforehand all that the letter contained, Monica glanced over it carelessly. An answer was expected, and she wrote one as briefly as possible.
’Your behaviour seems to me very weak, very unmanly. You make us both miserable, and quite without cause. I can only say as I have said before, that things will never be better until you come to think of me as your free companion, not as your bond-woman. If you can’t do this, you will make me wish that I had never met you, and in the end I am sure it won’t be possible for us to go on living together.’
She left this note, in a blank envelope, on the hall table, and went out to walk for an hour.