“You had better go up to your room, Irene. We are not in a condition to help each other now.”
Mrs. Emerson did not answer, but, rising, left the parlor and went as her husband had suggested. He stood still, listening, until the sound of her steps and the rustle of her garments had died away into silence, when he commenced slowly walking the parlor floor with his head bent down, and continued thus, as if he had forgotten time and place, for over an hour. Then, awakened to consciousness by a sense of dizziness and exhaustion, he laid himself upon a sofa, and, shutting his eyes, tried to arrest the current of his troubled thoughts and sink into sleep and forgetfulness.
FOR such a reception the young wife was wholly unprepared. Suddenly her husband had put on a new character and assumed a right of control against which her sensitive pride and native love of freedom arose in strong rebellion. That she had done wrong in going away she acknowledged to herself, and had acknowledged to him. But he had met confession in a spirit so different from what was anticipated, and showed an aspect so cold, stern, and exacting, that she was bewildered. She did not, however, mistake the meaning of his language. It was plain that she understood the man’s position to be one of dictation and control: we use the stronger aspect in which it was presented to her mind. As to submission, it was not in all her thoughts. Wrung to agony as her heart was, and appalled as she looked, trembling and shrinking into the future, she did not yield a moment to weakness.
Midnight found Irene alone in her chamber. She had flung herself upon a bed when she came up from the parlor, and fallen asleep after an hour of fruitless beating about in her mind. Awaking from a maze of troubled dreams, she started up and gazed, half fearfully, around the dimly-lighted room.
“Where am I?” she asked herself. Some moments elapsed before the painful events of the past few days began to reveal themselves to her consciousness.
“And where is Hartley?” This question followed as soon as all grew clear. Sleep had tranquilized her state, and restored a measure of just perception. Stepping from the bed, she went from the room and passed silently down stairs. A light still burned in the parlor where she had left her husband some hours before, and streamed out through the partly opened door. She stood for some moments, listening, but there was no sound of life within. A sudden fear crept into her heart. Her hand shook as she laid it upon the door and pressed it open. Stepping within, she glanced around with a frightened air.