The blind was not drawn. It was eight o’clock. The children were going to bed. Aaron waited in his shed, his bowels stirred with violent but only half-admitted emotions. There was his wife, slim and graceful, holding a little mug to the baby’s mouth. And the baby was drinking. She looked lonely. Wild emotions attacked his heart. There was going to be a wild and emotional reconciliation.
Was there? It seemed like something fearful and imminent. A passion arose in him, a craving for the violent emotional reconciliation. He waited impatiently for the children to be gone to bed, gnawed with restless desire.
He heard the clock strike nine, then half-past, from the village behind. The children would be asleep. His wife was sitting sewing some little frock. He went lingering down the garden path, stooping to lift the fallen carnations, to see how they were. There were many flowers, but small. He broke one off, then threw it away. The golden rod was out. Even in the little lawn there were asters, as of old.
His wife started to listen, hearing his step. He was filled with a violent conflict of tenderness, like a sickness. He hesitated, tapping at the door, and entered. His wife started to her feet, at bay.
“What have you come for!” was her involuntary ejaculation.
But he, with the familiar odd jerk of his head towards the garden, asked with a faint smile:
“Who planted the garden?”
And he felt himself dropping into the twang of the vernacular, which he had discarded.
Lottie only stood and stared at him, objectively. She did not think to answer. He took his hat off, and put it on the dresser. Again the familiar act maddened her.
“What have you come for?” she cried again, with a voice full of hate. Or perhaps it was fear and doubt and even hope as well. He heard only hate.
This time he turned to look at her. The old dagger was drawn in her.
“I wonder,” he said, “myself.”
Then she recovered herself, and with trembling hand picked up her sewing again. But she still stood at bay, beyond the table. She said nothing. He, feeling tired, sat down on the chair nearest the door. But he reached for his hat, and kept it on his knee. She, as she stood there unnaturally, went on with her sewing. There was silence for some time. Curious sensations and emotions went through the man’s frame seeming to destroy him. They were like electric shocks, which he felt she emitted against him. And an old sickness came in him again. He had forgotten it. It was the sickness of the unrecognised and incomprehensible strain between him and her.
After a time she put down her sewing, and sat again in her chair.
“Do you know how vilely you’ve treated me?” she said, staring across the space at him. He averted his face.
Yet he answered, not without irony.