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Honora, with an instinct of what was coming, held up her head. Had he been angry, had he been a man, how much humiliation he would have spared her!
“So you're in love!” he said. “I might have known that something was at the bottom of this.”
She took account of and quivered at the many meanings behind his speech-meanings which he was too cowardly to voice in words.
“Yes," she answered, “I am in love in love as I never hoped to be as I did not think it possible to be. My love is such that I would go through hell fire for the sake of it. I do not expect you to believe me when I tell you that such is not the reason why I am leaving you. If you
had loved me with the least spark of passion, if I thought I were in the least bit needful to you as a woman and as a soul, as a helper and a confidante, instead of a mere puppet to advertise your prosperity, this would not-could nothave happened. I love a man who would give up the world for me to-morrow. I have but one life to live, and I am going to find happiness if I can."
She paused, afire with an eloquence that had come unsought. But her husband only stared at her. She was transformed beyond his recognition. Surely he had not married this woman! And, if the truth be told, down in his secret soul whispered a small, congratulatory voice. Although he did not yet fully realize it, he was glad he had not.
Honora, with an involuntary movement, passed her handkerchief to her eyes.
“Good-by, Howard,” she said. “I–I did not expect you to understand. If I had stayed, I should have made you miserably unhappy."
He took her hand in a dazed manner, as though he knew not in the least what he was doing. He muttered something and found speech impossible. He gulped once, uncomfortably. The English language had ceased to be a medium. Great is the force of habit! In the emergency he reached for his cigarette case.
Honora had given orders that the carriage was to wait at the door. The servants might suspect, but that was all. Her maid had been discreet. She drew down her veil as she descended the steps, and told the coachman to drive to the station.
It was raining. Leaning forward from under the hood as the horses started, she took her last look at the lilacs.
In Which the Law Betrays a Heart
was still raining when she got into a carriage at Boston and drove under the elevated tracks, through the narrow, slippery business streets, to the hotel. From the windows of her room, as the night fell, she looked out across the dripping foliage of the Common. Below her, and robbed from that sacred ground, were the little granite buildings that housed the entrances to the subway, and for a long time she stood watching the people crowding into these. Most of them had homes to go to! In the gathering gloom the arclights shone, casting yellow streaks on the glistening pavement; wagons and carriages plunged into the maelstrom at the corner; pedestrians dodged and slipped; lightnings flashed from overhead wires, and clanging trolley cars pushed their greater bulk through the mass. And presently the higher toned and more ominous bell of an ambulance sounded on its way to the scene of an accident.
It was Mathilde who ordered her dinner and pressed her to eat. But she had no heart for food. In her bright sittingroom, with the shades tightly drawn, an inexpressible loneliness assailed her. A large engraving of a picture of a sentimental school hung on the wall: she could not bear to look at it, and yet her eyes, from time to time, were fatally drawn thither. It was of a young girl taking leave of her lover, in early Christian times, before entering the arena. It haunted Honora, and wrought upon her imagination to such a pitch that she went into her bedroom to write.
For a long time nothing more was written of the letter than “Dear Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary”: what to say to them?
“I do not know what you will think of me. I do not know, to-night, what to think of myself. I have left Howard. It is not because he was cruel to me, or untrue. He does not love me, nor I him. I cannot expect you, who have known the happiness of marriage, to realize the tortures of it without love. My pain in telling you this now is all the greater because I realize your belief as to the sacredness of the tie —and it is not your fault that you did not instil that belief into me. I have had to live and to think and to suffer for myself. I do not attempt to account for my action, and I hesitate to lay the blame upon the modern conditions and atmosphere in which I lived; for I feel that, above all things, I must be honest with myself.
“My marriage with Howard was a frightful mistake, and I have grown slowly to realize it, until life with him became insupportable. Since he does not love me, since his one interest is his business, my departure makes no great difference to him.
“Dear Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom, I realize that I owe you much-everything that I am. I do not expect you to understand or to condone what I have done. I only beg that you will continue to love your niece,
She tried to review this letter. Incoherent though it were and incomplete, in her present state of mind she was able to add but a few words as a postscript. “I will write you my plans in a day or two, when I see my way more clearly. I would fly to you—but I cannot. I am going to get a divorce.'
She sat for a time picturing the scene in the sitting-room when they should read it, and a longing which was almost irresistible seized her to go back to that shelter, One force alone held her in misery where she was,-her love for Chiltern; it drew her on to suffer the horrors of exile and publicity. When she suffered most, his image rose before her, and she kissed the ring on her hand. Where was he now, on this rainy night? On the seas? At the thought she heard again the fog-horns and the sirens.
Her sleep was fitful. Many times she went over again her
talk with Howard, and she surprised herself by wondering what he had thought and felt since her departure. And ever and anon she was startled out of chimerical dreams by the clamour of bells—the trolley cars on their ceaseless round passing below. At last came the slumber of exhaustion.
It was nine o'clock when she awoke and faced the distasteful task she had set herself for the day. In her predicament she descended to the office, where the face of one of the clerks attracted her, and she waited until he was unoccupied.
“I should like you to tell me -the name of some reputable lawyer,” she said.
“Certainly, Mrs. Spence," he replied, and Honora was startled at the sound of her name. She might have realized that he would know her. “I suppose a young lawyer would do -if the matter is not very important.
“Oh, no!” she cried, blushing to her temples. “A young lawyer would do very well."
The clerk reflected. He glanced at Honora again, and later in the day she divined what had been going on in his mind.
“Well," he said, "there are a great many. I happen to think of Mr. Wentworth, because he was in the hotel this morning. He is in the Tremont Building."
She thanked him hurriedly, and was driven to the Tremont Building, through the soggy street that faced the still dripping trees of the Common. Mounting in the elevator, she read on the glass door amongst the names of the four members of the firm that of Alden Wentworth, and suddenly found herself face to face with the young man, in his private office. He was well groomed and deeply tanned, and he rose to meet her with a smile that revealed a line of perfect white teeth.
“How do you do, Mrs. Spence?" he said. “I did not think, when I met you at Mrs. Grenfell's, that I should see you so soon in Boston. Won't you sit down?”
Honora sat down. There seemed nothing else to do. She remembered him perfectly now, and she realized that the nimble-witted clerk had meant to send her to a gentleman.
"I thought,” she faltered, “I thought I was coming to a