He kissed her forehead, her lips, her hands, and then released her, standing in the door and listening to her footsteps as they went up the winding stairs and out into the hall beyond—the dark, gloomy hall, where no light was, save a single ray, shining through the keyhole of Victor’s door.
Edith and the world.
“Victor is faithful,” Edith said, as she saw the light, and fancied that the Frenchman was still up, waiting to assist his master.
But not for Richard did Victor keep the watch that night. He would know how long that interview lasted below, and when it was ended he would know its result. What Victor designed he was pretty sure to accomplish, and when, by the voices in the lower hall, he knew that Edith was coming, he stole on tip-toe to the balustrade, and, leaning over, saw the parting at the parlor door, feeling intuitively that Edith’s relations to Richard had changed since he last looked upon her. Never was servant more attached to his master than was Victor Dupres to his, and yet he was strongly unwilling that Edith’s glorious beauty should be wasted thus.
“If she loved him,” he said to himself, as, gliding back to his room, he cautiously shut the door, ere Edith reached the first landing. “If she loved him, I would not care. More unsuitable matches than this have ended happily—but she don’t. Her whole life is bound with that of another, and she shrinks from Mr. Harrington as she was not wont to do. I saw it in her face, as she turned away from him. There’ll be another grave in the Collingwood grounds—another name on the tall monument, ’Edith, wife of Richard Harrington, aged 20.’”
Victor wrote the words upon a slip of paper, reading them over until tears dimmed his vision, for, in fancy, the imaginative Frenchman assisted at Edith’s obsequies, and even heard the grinding of the hearse wheels, once foretold by Nina. Several times he peered out into the silent hall, seeing the lamplight shining from the ventilator over Edith’s door, and knowing by that token that she had not retired. What was she doing there so long? Victor fain would know, and as half-hour after half-hour went by, until it was almost four, he stepped boldly to the door and knocked. Long association with Victor had led Edith to treat him more as an equal than a servant; consequently he took liberties both with her and Richard, which no other of the household would dare to do, and now, as there came no response, he cautiously turned the knob and walked into the room where, in her crimson dressing-gown, her hair unbound and falling over her shoulders, Edith sat, her arms crossed upon the table, and her face upon her arms. She was not sleeping, for as the door creaked on its hinges, she looked up, half-pleased to meet only the good-humored face of Victor where she had feared to see that of Richard.