Her coarse blue-black hair fell dishevelled upon her shoulders, from which her gown hung precariously unfastened, as if she had abandoned her toilet half-way. She was abundantly fat, double-chinned, coarse, greasy, smeared with blue pencillings, carmine, enamel, and rouge.
At the scream Saffren turned. She made straight at him, crying wildly:
“Enfin! Mon mari, mon mari—c’est moi! C’est ta femme, mon coeur!”
She threw herself upon him, her arms about his neck, with a tropical ferocity that was a very paroxysm of triumph.
“Embrasse moi, Larrabi! Embrasse moi!” she cried.
Horrified, outraged, his eyes blazing, he flung her off with a violence surpassing her own, and with loathing unspeakable. She screamed that he was killing her, calling him “husband,” and tried to fasten herself upon him again. But he leaped backward beyond the reach of her clutching hands, and, turning, plunged to the steps and staggered up them, the woman following.
From above me leaned the stricken face of Keredec; he caught Saffren under the arm and half lifted him to the gallery, while she strove to hold him by the knees.
“O Christ!” gasped Saffren. “Is this the woman?”
The giant swung him across the gallery and into the open door with one great sweep of the arm, strode in after him, and closed and bolted the door. The woman fell in a heap at the foot of the steps, uttered a cracked simulation of the cry of a broken heart.
“Name of a name of God!” she wailed. “After all these years! And my husband strikes me!”
Then it was that what had been in my mind as a monstrous suspicion became a certainty. For I recognised the woman; she was Mariana—la bella Mariana la Mursiana.
If I had ever known Larrabee Harman, if, instead of the two strange glimpses I had caught of him, I had been familiar with his gesture, walk, intonation—even, perhaps, if I had ever heard his voice—the truth might have come to me long ago.
“Oliver Saffren” was Larrabee Harman.
I do not like to read those poets who write of pain as if they loved it; the study of suffering is for the cold analyst, for the vivisectionist, for those who may transfuse their knowledge of it to the ultimate good of mankind. And although I am so heavily endowed with curiosity concerning the people I find about me, my gift (or curse, whichever it be) knows pause at the gates of the house of calamity. So, if it were possible, I would not speak of the agony of which I was a witness that night in the apartment of my friends at Madame Brossard’s. I went with reluctance, but there was no choice. Keredec had sent for me.