Sophia’s grimness increased. The pace of the fiacre, her fatigued body, Gerald’s delightful, careless vivacity, the attractive streaming veil of the nice, modest courtesan—everything conspired to increase it.
Gerald returned to the bedroom which contained his wife and all else that he owned in the world at about nine o’clock that evening. Sophia was in bed. She had been driven to bed by weariness. She would have preferred to sit up to receive her husband, even if it had meant sitting up all night, but her body was too heavy for her spirit. She lay in the dark. She had eaten nothing. Gerald came straight into the room. He struck a match, which burned blue, with a stench, for several seconds, and then gave a clear, yellow flame. He lit a candle; and saw his wife.
“Oh!” he said; “you’re there, are you?”
She offered no reply.
“Won’t speak, eh?” he said. “Agreeable sort of wife! Well, have you made up your mind to do what I told you? I’ve come back especially to know.”
She still did not speak.
He sat down, with his hat on, and stuck out his feet, wagging them to and fro on the heels.
“I’m quite without money,” he went on. “And I’m sure your people will be glad to lend us a bit till I get some. Especially as it’s a question of you starving as well as me. If I had enough to pay your fares to Bursley I’d pack you off. But I haven’t.”
She could only hear his exasperating voice. The end of the bed was between her eyes and his.
“Liar!” she said, with uncompromising distinctness. The word reached him barbed with all the poison of her contempt and disgust.
There was a pause.
“Oh! I’m a liar, am I? Thanks. I lied enough to get you, I’ll admit. But you never complained of that. I remember be-ginning the New Year well with a thumping lie just to have a sight of you, my vixen. But you didn’t complain then. I took you with only the clothes on your back. And I’ve spent every cent I had on you. And now I’m spun, you call me a liar.”
She said nothing.
“However,” he went on, “this is going to come to an end, this is!”
He rose, changed the position of the candle, putting it on a chest of drawers, and then drew his trunk from the wall, and knelt in front of it.
She gathered that he was packing his clothes. At first she did not comprehend his reference to beginning the New Year. Then his meaning revealed itself. That story to her mother about having been attacked by ruffians at the bottom of King Street had been an invention, a ruse to account plausibly for his presence on her mother’s doorstep! And she had never suspected that the story was not true. In spite of her experience of his lying, she had never suspected that that particular statement was a lie. What a simpleton she was!
There was a continual movement in the room for about a quarter of an hour. Then a key turned in the lock of the trunk.