“Well then, why not let him travel? You can live.”
“But to leave me alone,” there was burning indignation in her voice. “To go off and leave me with every responsibility, to leave me with all the burden.”
“Well I wouldn’t trouble about him. Aren’t you better off without him?”
“I am. I am,” she cried fiercely. “When I got that letter this morning, I said MAY EVIL BEFALL YOU, YOU SELFISH DEMON. And I hope it may.”
“Well-well, well-well, don’t fret. Don’t be angry, it won’t make it any better, I tell you.”
“Angry! I AM angry. I’m worse than angry. A week ago I hadn’t a grey hair in my head. Now look here—” There was a pause.
“Well-well, well-well, never mind. You will be all right, don’t you bother. Your hair is beautiful anyhow.”
“What makes me so mad is that be should go off like that—never a word—coolly takes his hook. I could kill him for it.”
“Were you ever happy together?”
“We were all right at first. I know I was fond of him. But he’d kill anything.—He kept himself back, always kept himself back, couldn’t give himself—”
There was a pause.
“Ah well,” sighed the doctor. “Marriage is a mystery. I’m glad I’m not entangled in it.”
“Yes, to make some woman’s life a misery.—I’m sure it was death to live with him, he seemed to kill everything off inside you. He was a man you couldn’t quarrel with, and get it over. Quiet—quiet in his tempers, and selfish through and through. I’ve lived with him twelve years—I know what it is. Killing! You don’t know what he was—”
“I think I knew him. A fair man? Yes?” said the doctor.
“Fair to look at.—There’s a photograph of him in the parlour—taken when he was married—and one of me.—Yes, he’s fairhaired.”
Aaron guessed that she was getting a candle to come into the parlour. He was tempted to wait and meet them—and accept it all again. Devilishly tempted, he was. Then he thought of her voice, and his heart went cold. Quick as thought, he obeyed his first impulse. He felt behind the couch, on the floor where the curtains fell. Yes—the bag was there. He took it at once. In the next breath he stepped out of the room and tip-toed into the passage. He retreated to the far end, near the street door, and stood behind the coats that hung on the hall-stand.
At that moment his wife came into the passage, holding a candle. She was red-eyed with weeping, and looked frail.
“Did YOU leave the parlour door open?” she asked of Millicent, suspiciously.
“No,” said Millicent from the kitchen.
The doctor, with his soft, Oriental tread followed Mrs. Sisson into the parlour. Aaron saw his wife hold up the candle before his portrait and begin to weep. But he knew her. The doctor laid his hand softly on her arm, and left it there, sympathetically. Nor did he remove it when Millicent stole into the room, looking very woe-begone and important. The wife wept silently, and the child joined in.