‘For better, for worse, Louis; remember that.’
‘Why has she forgotten it?’
’She is flesh of your flesh, bone of your bone. And for the boy’s sake! Think of your boy, Louis. Do not send that letter. Sleep on it, Louis, and think of it.’
‘I have slept on it.’
’There is no promise in it of forgiveness after a while. It is written as though you intended that she should never come back to you.’.
‘That shall be as she behaves herself.’
’But tell her so. Let there be some one bright spot in what you say to her, on which her mind may fix itself. If she be not altogether hardened, that letter will drive her to despair.’
But Trevelyan would not give up the letter, nor indicate by a word that he would reconsider the question of its propriety. He escaped as soon as he could from Lady Milborough’s room, and almost declared as he did so, that he would never enter her doors again. She had utterly failed to see the matter in the proper light. When she talked of Naples she must surely have been unable to comprehend the extent of the ill-usage to which he, the husband, had been subjected. How was it possible that he should live under the same roof with a wife who claimed to herself the right of receiving visitors of whom he disapproved—a visitor, a gentleman, one whom the world called her lover? He gnashed his teeth and clenched his fist as he thought of his old friend’s ignorance of the very first law in a married man’s code of laws.
But yet when he was out in the streets he did not post his letter at once; but thought of it throughout the whole day, trying to prove the weight of every phrase that he had used. Once or twice his heart almost relented. Once he had the letter in his hand, that he might tear it. But he did not tear it. He put it back into his pocket, and thought again of his grievance. Surely it was his first duty in such an emergency to be firm!
It was certainly a wretched life that he was leading. In the evening he went all alone to an eating-house for his dinner, and then, sitting with a miserable glass of sherry before him, he again read and re-read the epistle which he had written. Every harsh word that it contained was, in some sort, pleasant to his ear. She had hit him hard, and should he not hit her again? And then, was it not his bounden duty to let her know the truth? Yes; it was his duty to be firm.
So he went out and posted the letter.
Trevelyan’s letter to his wife fell like a thunderbolt among them at Nuncombe Putney. Mrs Trevelyan was altogether unable to keep it to herself; indeed she made no attempt at doing so. Her husband had told her that she was to be banished from the Clock House because her present hostess was unable to endure her misconduct, and of course she demanded the reasons of the charge that was thus brought against her. When she first read the letter, which she did in the presence of her sister, she towered in her passion.