THE CURSE OF EVE
A little one was journeying to Mavis. A great fear, not unmixed with a radiant wonder, filled her being. It was now three months since her joyous stay with Perigal at Polperro. At the expiration of an all-too-brief fortnight, she had gone back, dazed, intoxicated with passion, to her humdrum work at the Melkbridge boot factory; while Perigal, provided by his father with the sinews of war, had departed for Wales, there to lay siege to elusive fortune. During this time, Mavis had seen him once or twice, when he had paid hurried visits to Melkbridge, and had heard from him often. Although his letters made copious reference to the never-to-be-forgotten joys they had experienced at Polperro, she scanned them anxiously, and in vain, for any reference to his marrying her now, or later. The omission caused her many painful hours; she realised more and more that, after the all-important part she had suffered him to play in her life, it would not be meet for her to permit any other man to be on terms other than friendship with her. It was brought home to her, and with no uncertain voice, how, in surrendering herself to her lover, she was no longer his adored Mavis, but nothing more nor less than his “thing,” who was wholly, completely in his power, to make or mar as he pleased.
During these three months, she had seen or heard nothing of Windebank, so concluded that he was away.
She was much perturbed with wondering what she should do with the sumptuous dressing-case he had given her for a wedding present.
Directly there was no longer room for doubt that her union with Perigal would, in the fulness of time, bear fruit, she wrote telling him her news, and begging him to see her with as little delay as possible. In reply, she received a telegram, curtly telling her to be outside Dippenham station on Saturday afternoon at four.
This was on a Wednesday. Mavis’s anxiety to hear from Perigal was such that her troubled blood set up a raging abscess in the root of a tooth that was scarcely sound. The least movement increased her torments; but what troubled her even more than the pain, was that, when the latter began to subside, one of her cheeks commenced to swell. She was anxious to look her very best before her lover: her lopsided face gave her a serio-comic expression. The swelling had diminished a little before she set out on the bleak December afternoon to meet her lover. Before she went, she looked long and anxiously in the glass. Apart from the disfigurement caused by the swelling, she saw (yet strove to conceal from herself) that her condition was already interfering with her fresh, young comeliness: her eyes were drawn; her features wore a tense, tired expression. As she looked out of the carriage window on her train journey to Dippenham, the gloom inspired by the darkening