Then again she became quiet, and picked up her sewing. She stitched quietly, wistfully, for some time. Then she looked up at him—a long look of reproach, and sombre accusation, and wifely tenderness. He turned his face aside.
“You know you’ve been wrong to me, don’t you?” she said, half wistfully, half menacing.
He felt her wistfulness and her menace tearing him in his bowels and loins.
“You do know, don’t you?” she insisted, still with the wistful appeal, and the veiled threat.
“You do, or you would answer,” she said. “You’ve still got enough that’s right in you, for you to know.”
She waited. He sat still, as if drawn by hot wires.
Then she slipped across to him, put her arms round him, sank on her knees at his side, and sank her face against his thigh.
“Say you know how wrong you are. Say you know how cruel you’ve been to me,” she pleaded. But under her female pleading and appeal he felt the iron of her threat.
“You DO know it,” she murmured, looking up into his face as she crouched by his knee. “You DO know it. I can see in your eyes that you know it. And why have you come back to me, if you don’t know it! Why have you come back to me? Tell me!” Her arms gave him a sharp, compulsory little clutch round the waist. “Tell me! Tell me!” she murmured, with all her appeal liquid in her throat.
But him, it half overcame, and at the same time, horrified. He had a certain horror of her. The strange liquid sound of her appeal seemed to him like the swaying of a serpent which mesmerises the fated, fluttering, helpless bird. She clasped her arms round him, she drew him to her, she half roused his passion. At the same time she coldly horrified and repelled him. He had not the faintest feeling, at the moment, of his own wrong. But she wanted to win his own self-betrayal out of him. He could see himself as the fascinated victim, falling to this cajoling, awful woman, the wife of his bosom. But as well, he had a soul outside himself, which looked on the whole scene with cold revulsion, and which was as unchangeable as time.
“No,” he said. “I don’t feel wrong.”
“You DO!” she said, giving him a sharp, admonitory clutch. “You DO. Only you’re silly, and obstinate, babyish and silly and obstinate. An obstinate little boy—you DO feel wrong. And you ARE wrong. And you’ve got to say it.”
But quietly he disengaged himself and got to his feet, his face pale and set, obstinate as she said. He put his hat on, and took his little bag. She watched him curiously, still crouching by his chair.
“I’ll go,” he said, putting his hand on the latch.
Suddenly she sprang to her feet and clutched him by the shirt-neck, her hand inside his soft collar, half strangling him.
“You villain,” she said, and her face was transfigured with passion as he had never seen it before, horrible. “You villain!” she said thickly. “What have you come here for?”