`And I stuck to un - the more fool I! Have that strumpet in the house indeed!'
Almost as soon as the words were spoken Jude sprang from the chair, and before Arabella knew where she was he had her on her back upon a little couch which stood there, he kneeling above her.
`Say another word of that sort,' he whispered, `and I'll kill you - here and now! I've everything to gain by it - my own death not being the least part. So don't think there's no meaning in what I say!'
`What do you want me to do?' gasped Arabella.
`Promise never to speak of her.'
`Very well. I do.'
`I take your word,' he said scornfully as he loosened her. `But what it is worth I can't say.'
`You couldn't kill the pig, but you could kill me!'
`Ah - there you have me! No - I couldn't kill you - even in a passion. Taunt away!'
He then began coughing very much, and she estimated his life with an appraiser's eye as he sank back ghastly pale. `I'll send for her,' Arabella murmured, `if you'll agree to my being in the room with you all the time she's here.'
The softer side of his nature, the desire to see Sue, made him unable to resist the offer even now, provoked as he had been; and he replied breathlessly: `Yes, I agree. Only send for her!'
In the evening he inquired if she had written.
`Yes,' she said; `I wrote a note telling her you were ill, and asking her to come to-morrow or the day after. I haven't posted it yet.'
The next day Jude wondered if she really did post it, but would not ask her; and foolish Hope, that lives on a drop and a crumb, made him restless with expectation. He knew the times of the possible trains, and listened on each occasion for sounds of her.
She did not come; but Jude would not address Arabella again thereon. He hoped and expected all the next day; but no Sue appeared; neither was there any note of reply. Then Jude decided in the privacy of his mind that Arabella had never posted hers, although she had written it. There was something in her manner which told it. His physical weakness was such that he shed tears at the disappointment when she was not there to see. His suspicions were, in fact, well founded. Arabella, like some other nurses, thought that your duty towards your invalid was to pacify him by any means short of really acting upon his fancies.
He never said another word to her about his wish or his conjecture. A silent, undiscerned resolve grew up in him, which gave him, if not strength, stability and calm. One midday when, after an absence of two hours, she came into the room, she beheld the chair empty.
Down she flopped on the bed, and sitting, meditated. `Now where the devil is my man gone to!' she said.
A driving rain from the north-east had been falling with more or less intermission all the morning, and looking from the window at the dripping spouts it seemed impossible to believe that any sick man would have ventured out to almost certain death. Yet a conviction possessed Arabella that he had gone out, and it became a certainty when she had searched the house. `If he's such a fool, let him be!' she said. `I can do no more.'
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|