On the day after the visit just recorded, Paul Montague received the following letter from Mrs Hurtle:—
My dear Paul,—
I think that perhaps we hardly made ourselves understood to each other yesterday, and I am sure that you do not understand how absolutely my whole life is now at stake. I need only refer you to our journey from San Francisco to London to make you conscious that I really love you. To a woman such love is all important. She cannot throw it from her as a man may do amidst the affairs of the world. Nor, if it has to be thrown from her, can she bear the loss as a man bears it. Her thoughts have dwelt on it with more constancy than his;—and then too her devotion has separated her from other things. My devotion to you has separated me from everything.
But I scorn to come to you as a suppliant. If you choose to say after hearing me that you will put me away from you because you have seen some one fairer than I am, whatever course I may take in my indignation, I shall not throw myself at your feet to tell you of my wrongs. I wish, however, that you should hear me. You say that there is some one you love better than you love me, but that you have not committed yourself to her. Alas, I know too much of the world to be surprised that a man’s constancy should not stand out two years in the absence of his mistress. A man cannot wrap himself up and keep himself warm with an absent love as a woman does. But I think that some remembrance of the past must come back upon you now that you have seen me again. I think that you must have owned to yourself that you did love me, and that you could love me again. You sin against me to my utter destruction if you leave me. I have given up every friend I have to follow you. As regards the other—nameless lady, there can be no fault; for, as you tell me, she knows nothing of your passion.
You hinted that there were other reasons,—that we know too little of each other. You meant no doubt that you knew too little of me. Is it not the case that you were content when you knew only what was to be learned in those days of our sweet intimacy, but that you have been made discontented by stories told you by your partners at San Francisco? If this be so, trouble yourself at any rate to find out the truth before you allow yourself to treat a woman as you propose to treat me. I think you are too good a man to cast aside a woman you have loved,—like a soiled glove,— because ill-natured words have been spoken of her by men, or perhaps by women, who know nothing of her life. My late husband, Caradoc Hurtle, was Attorney-General in the State of Kansas when I married him, I being then in possession of a considerable fortune left to me by my mother. There his life was infamously bad. He spent what money