`I cannot tell you. I have done wrong to-day. And I want to eradicate it.... Well - I will tell you this - Jude has been here this afternoon, and I find I still love him - oh, grossly! I cannot tell you more.'
`Ah!' said the widow. `I told 'ee how 'twould be!'
`But it shan't be! I have not told my husband of his visit; it is not necessary to trouble him about it, as I never mean to see Jude any more. But I am going to make my conscience right on my duty to Richard - by doing a penance - the ultimate thing. I must!'
`I wouldn't - since he agrees to it being otherwise, and it has gone on three months very well as it is.'
`Yes - he agrees to my living as I choose; but I feel it is an indulgence I ought not to exact from him. It ought not to have been accepted by me. To reverse it will be terrible - but I must be more just to him. O why was I so unheroic!'
`What is it you don't like in him?' asked Mrs. Edlin curiously.
`I cannot tell you. It is something ... I cannot say. The mournful thing is, that nobody would admit it as a reason for feeling as I do; so that no excuse is left me.'
`Did you ever tell Jude what it was?'
`I've heard strange tales o' husbands in my time,' observed the widow in a lowered voice. `They say that when the saints were upon the earth devils used to take husbands' forms o' nights, and get poor women into all sorts of trouble. But I don't know why that should come into my head, for it is only a tale.... What a wind and rain it is to-night! Well - don't be in a hurry to alter things, my dear. Think it over.'
`No, no! I've screwed my weak soul up to treating him more courteously - and it must be now - at once - before I break down!'
`I don't think you ought to force your nature. No woman ought to be expected to.'
`It is my duty. I will drink my cup to the dregs!'
Half an hour later when Mrs. Edlin put on her bonnet and shawl to leave, Sue seemed to be seized with vague terror.
`No - no - don't go, Mrs. Edlin,' she implored, her eyes enlarged, and with a quick nervous look over her shoulder.
`But it is bedtime, child.'
`Yes, but - there's the little spare room - my room that was. It is quite ready. Please stay, Mrs. Edlin! - I shall want you in the morning.'
`Oh well - I don't mind, if you wish. Nothing will happen to my four old walls, whether I be there or no.'
She then fastened up the doors, and they ascended the stairs together.
`Wait here, Mrs. Edlin,' said Sue. `I'll go into my old room a moment by myself.'
Leaving the widow on the landing Sue turned to the chamber which had been hers exclusively since her arrival at Marygreen, and pushing to the door knelt down by the bed for a minute or two. She then arose, and taking her night-gown from the pillow undressed and came out to Mrs. Edlin. A man could
|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.|