Monica read it through again, the long rigmarole. Since the day that she received it—addressed to ‘Mrs. Williamson’ at the little stationer’s by Lavender Hill—the day before she consented to accompany her sister into new lodgings—the letter had lain in its hiding-place. Alone this afternoon, for Virginia was gone to call on Miss Nunn, alone and miserable, every printed page a weariness to her sight, she took out the French-stamped envelope and tried to think that its contents interested her. But not a word had power of attraction or of repulsion. The tender phrases affected her no more than if they had been addressed to a stranger. Love was become a meaningless word. She could not understand how she had ever drifted into such relations with the writer. Fear and anger were the sole passions surviving in her memory from those days which had violently transformed her life, and it was not with Bevis, but her husband, that these emotions were connected. Bevis’s image stood in that already distant past like a lay figure, the mere semblance of a man. And with such conception of him his letter corresponded; it was artificial, lifeless, as if extracted from some vapid novel.
But she must no destroy it. Its use was still to come. Letter and envelope must go back again into hiding, and await the day which would give them power over human lives.
Suffering, as always, from headache and lassitude, she sat by the window and watched the people who passed along—her daily occupation. This sitting-room was on the ground floor. In a room above some one was receiving a music lesson; every now and then the teacher’s voice became audible, raised in sharp impatience, and generally accompanied by a clash upon the keys of the piano. At the area gate of the house opposite a servant was talking angrily with a tradesman’s errand boy, who at length put his thumb to his nose with insulting significance and scampered off. Then, at the house next to that one, there stopped a cab, from which three busy-looking men alighted. Cabs full of people were always stopping at that door. Monica wondered what it meant, who might live there. She thought of asking the landlady.
Virginia’s return aroused her. She went upstairs with her sister into the double-bedded room which they occupied.
‘What have you heard?’
‘He went there. He told them everything.’
‘How did Miss Nunn look? How did she speak?’
‘Oh, she was very, very distant,’ lamented Virginia. ’I don’t quite know why she sent for me. She said there would be no use in her coming to see you—and I don’t think she ever will. I told her that there was no truth in—’
‘But how did she look?’ asked Monica impatiently.
’Not at all well, I thought. She had been away for her holiday, but it doesn’t seem to have done her much good.’
‘He went there and told them everything?’
’Yes—just after it happened. But he hasn’t seen them since that. I could see they believed him. It was no use all that I said. She looked so stern and—’