Misery of solitude, desire for a woman’s sympathy and counsel, impelled him to use this opportunity, little as it seemed to promise. He went to Wimpole Street and had a very long private talk with Lady Horrocks, who, in some way he could not understand, had changed from her old self. She began frivolously, but in rather a dull, make-believe way; and when she heard that Widdowson had parted from his wife, when a few vague, miserable words had suggested the domestic drama so familiar to her observation, she at once grew quiet, sober, sympathetic, as if really glad to have something serious to talk about.
’Now look here, Edmund. Tell the whole story from the first. You’re the sort of man to make awful blunders in such a case as this. Just tell me all about it. I’m not a bad sort, you know, and I have troubles of my own—I don’t mind telling you so much. Women make fools of themselves—well, never mind. Just tell me about the little girl, and see if we can’t square things somehow.’
He had a struggle with himself, but at length narrated everything, often interrupted by shrewd questions.
‘No one writes to you?’ the listener finally inquired.
‘I am expecting to hear from them,’ was Widdowson’s answer, as he sat in the usual position, head hanging forward and hands clasped between his knees.
‘To hear what?’
‘I think I shall be sent for.’
‘Sent for? To make it up?’
‘She is going to give birth to a child.’
Lady Horrocks nodded twice thoughtfully, and with a faint smile.
‘How did you find this out?’
’I have known it long enough. Her sister Virginia told me before they went away. I had a suspicion all at once, and I forced her to tell me.’
‘And if you are sent for shall you go?’
Widdowson seemed to mutter an affirmative, and added,—
‘I shall hear what she has to tell me, as she promised.’
‘Is it—is it possible—?’
The lady’s question remained incomplete. Widdowson, though he understood it, vouchsafed no direct answer. Intense suffering was manifest in his face, and at length he spoke vehemently.
’Whatever she tells me—how can I believe it? When once a woman has lied how can she ever again be believed? I can’t be sure of anything.’
‘All that fibbing,’ remarked Lady Horrocks, ’has an unpleasant look. No denying it. She got entangled somehow. But I think you had better believe that she pulled up just in time.’
‘I have no love for her left,’ he went on in a despairing voice. ’It all perished in those frightful days. I tried hard to think that I still loved her. I kept writing letters—but they meant nothing— or they only meant that I was driven half crazy by wretchedness. I had rather we lived on as we have been doing. It’s miserable enough for me, God knows; but it would be worse to try and behave to her as if I