Desperate Remedies (Hardy)/Part 13/Chapter 7
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7. A QUARTER-PAST EIGHT O'CLOCK P.M.
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7. A QUARTER-PAST EIGHT O'CLOCK P.M.
There is an attitude--approximatively called pensive--in which the soul of a human being, and especially of a woman, dominates outwardly and expresses its presence so strongly, that the intangible essence seems more apparent than the body itself. This was Cytherea's expression now. What old days and sunny eves at Budmouth Bay was she picturing? Her reverie had caused her not to notice his knock.
'Cytherea!' he said softly.
She let drop her hand, and turned her head, evidently thinking that her visitor could be no other than Manston, yet puzzled at the voice.
There was no preface on Springrove's tongue; he forgot his position --hers--that he had come to ask quietly if Manston had other proofs of being a widower--everything--and jumped to a conclusion.
'You are not his wife, Cytherea--come away, he has a wife living!' he cried in an agitated whisper. 'Owen will be here directly.'
She started up, recognized the tidings first, the bearer of them afterwards. 'Not his wife? O, what is it--what--who is living?' She awoke by degrees. 'What must I do? Edward, it is you! Why did you come? Where is Owen?'
'What has Manston shown you in proof of the death of his other wife? Tell me quick.'
'Nothing--we have never spoken of the subject. Where is my brother Owen? I want him, I want him!'
'He is coming by-and-by. Come to the station to meet him--do,' implored Springrove. 'If Mr. Manston comes, he will keep you from me: I am nobody,' he added bitterly, feeling the reproach her words had faintly shadowed forth.
'Mr. Manston is only gone out to post a letter he has just written,' she said, and without being distinctly cognizant of the action, she wildly looked for her bonnet and cloak, and began putting them on, but in the act of fastening them uttered a spasmodic cry.
'No, I'll not go out with you,' she said, flinging the articles down again. Running to the door she flitted along the passage, and downstairs.
'Give me a private room--quite private,' she said breathlessly to some one below.
'Number twelve is a single room, madam, and unoccupied,' said some tongue in astonishment.
Without waiting for any person to show her into it, Cytherea hurried upstairs again, brushed through the corridor, entered the room specified, and closed the door. Edward heard her sob out--
'Nobody but Owen shall speak to me--nobody!'
'He will be here directly,' said Springrove, close against the panel, and then went towards the stairs. He had seen her; it was enough.
He descended, stepped into the street, and hastened to meet Owen at the railway-station.
As for the poor maiden who had received the news, she knew not what to think. She listened till the echo of Edward's footsteps had died away, then bowed her face upon the bed. Her sudden impulse had been to escape from sight. Her weariness after the unwonted strain, mental and bodily, which had been put upon her by the scenes she had passed through during the long day, rendered her much more timid and shaken by her position than she would naturally have been. She thought and thought of that single fact which had been told her --that the first Mrs. Manston was still living--till her brain seemed ready to burst its confinement with excess of throbbing. It was only natural that she should, by degrees, be unable to separate the discovery, which was matter of fact, from the suspicion of treachery on her husband's part, which was only matter of inference. And thus there arose in her a personal fear of him.
'Suppose he should come in now and seize me!' This at first mere frenzied supposition grew by degrees to a definite horror of his presence, and especially of his intense gaze. Thus she raised herself to a heat of excitement, which was none the less real for being vented in no cry of any kind. No; she could not meet Manston's eye alone, she would only see him in her brother's company.
Almost delirious with this idea, she ran and locked the door to prevent all possibility of her intentions being nullified, or a look or word being flung at her by anybody whilst she knew not what she was.