SHEWING HOW THE QUARREL PROGRESSED
Trevelyan got back to his own house at about three, and on going into the library, found on his table a letter to him addressed in his wife’s handwriting. He opened it quickly, hoping to find that promise which he had demanded, and resolving that if it were made he would at once become affectionate, yielding, and gentle to his wife. But there was not a word written by his wife within the envelope. It contained simply another letter, already opened, addressed to her. This letter had been brought up to her during her husband’s absence from the house, and was as follows:
’I have just come from the Colonial Office. It is all settled, and Sir M. has been sent for. Of course, you will tell T. now. Yours, F.O.
The letter was, of course, from Colonel Osborne, and Mrs Trevelyan, when she received it, had had great doubts whether she would enclose it to her husband opened or unopened. She had hitherto refused to make the promise which her husband exacted, but nevertheless, she was minded to obey him; Had he included in his demand any requirement that she should receive no letter from Colonel Osborne, she would not have opened this one. But nothing had been said about letters, and she would not shew herself to be afraid. So she read the note, and then sent it down to be put on Mr Trevelyan’s table in an envelope addressed to him.
’If he is not altogether blinded, it will show him how cruelly he has wronged me,’ said she to her sister. She was sitting at the time with her boy in her lap, telling herself that the child’s features were in all respects the very same as his father’s, and that, come what come might, the child should always be taught by her to love and respect his father. And then there came a horrible thought. What if the child should be taken away from her? If this quarrel, out of which she saw no present mode of escape, were to lead to a separation between her and her husband, would not the law, and the judges, and the courts, and all the Lady Milboroughs of their joint acquaintance into the bargain, say that the child should go with his father? The judges, and the courts, and the Lady Milboroughs would, of course, say that she was the sinner. And what could she do without her boy? Would not any humility, any grovelling in the dust be better for her than that? ’It is a very poor thing to be a woman,’ she said to her sister.
‘It is perhaps better than being a dog,’ said Nora; ’but, of course, we can’t compare ourselves to men.’
’It would be better to be a dog. One wouldn’t be made to suffer so much. When a puppy is taken away from its mother, she is bad enough for a few days, but she gets over it in a week.’ There was a pause then for a few moments. Nora knew well which way ran the current of her sister’s thoughts, and had nothing at the present moment which she could say on that subject.