As agreement on this subject was out of the question, Irene did not usually urge considerations in favor of abandoning their pleasant home.
GONE FOR EVER!
ONE evening—it was nearly three years from the date of their marriage—Hartley Emerson and his wife were sitting opposite to each other at the centre-table, in the evening. She had a book in her hand and he held a newspaper before his face, but his eyes were not on the printed columns. He had spoken only a few words since he came in, and his wife noticed that he had the manner of one whose mind is in doubt or perplexity.
Letting the newspaper fall upon the table at length, Hartley looked over at his wife and said, in a quiet tone,
“Irene, did you ever meet a lady by the name of Mrs. Lloyd?”
The color mounted to the face of Mrs. Emerson as she replied,
“Yes, I have met her often.”
“I have known her intimately for the past two years.”
Emerson started to his feet and looked for some moments steadily at his wife, his countenance expressing the profoundest astonishment.
“And never once mentioned to me her name! Has she ever called here?”
“As often as two or three times a week.”
Mrs. Emerson, bewildered at first by her husband’s manner of interrogating her, now recovered her self-possession, and, rising, looked steadily at him across the table.
“I am wholly at a loss to understand you,” she now said, calmly.
“Have you ever visited that person at her boarding-house?” demanded Hartley.
“I have, often.”
“And walked Broadway with her?”
“Good heavens! can it be possible!” exclaimed the excited man.
“Pray, sir,” said Irene, “who is Mrs. Lloyd?”
“An infamous woman!” was answered passionately.
“That is false!” said Irene, her eyes flashing as she spoke. “I don’t care who says so, I pronounce the words false!”
Hartley stood still and gazed at his wife for some moments without speaking; then he sat down at the table from which he had arisen and, shading his face with his hands, remained motionless for a long time. He seemed like a man utterly confounded.
“Did you ever hear of Jane Beaufort?” he asked at length, looking up at his wife.
“Oh yes; everybody has heard of her.”
“Would you visit Jane Beaufort?”
“Yes, if I believed her innocent of what the world charges against her.”
“You are aware, then, that Mrs. Lloyd and Jane Beaufort are the same person?”
“No, sir, I am not aware of any such thing.”
“It is true.”
“I do not believe it. Mrs. Lloyd I have known intimately for over two years, and can verify her character.”