Miriam, as soon as their eyes met, went pale with mis-
" There's something here," Eleanor began, " that I must
show you. If I said nothing about it, you would see it all
the same. Sooner or later, we should speak of it."
378 THE EMANCIPATED.
" What is it ? About wliom ? " Miriam asked, witli fear-
ful impatience, talf rising.
" Your brother."
Miriam took the paper, and read what was indicated. It
was the report of a discreditable affair â€” in journalistic lan-
guage, a fracas â€” that had happened the previous night at
dotting Hill. A certain music-hall singer, a lady who had
of late achieved popularity, drove home about midnight, ac-
companied by a gentleman whose name was also familiar to
the public â€” at all events, to that portion of it which reads
society journals and has an interest in race-horses. The pair
had just alighted at the house-door, when they were hurriedly
approached by another gentleman, who made some remark
to the songstress ; whereupon the individual known to fame
struck him smartly with his walking-stick. The result was
a personal conflict, a rolling upon the pavement, a tearing of
shirt-collars, and the opportune arrival of police. The gen-
tleman whose interference had led to the rencontre â€” again to
borrow the reporter's phrase â€” and who was charged with
assault by the other, at first gave a false name ; it had since
transpired that he was a Mr. E. Elgar, of Belsize Park.
Miriam laid down the paper. She had overcome her ex-
treme agitation, but there was hot shame on her checks.
She tried to smile.
" One would think he had contrived it for his wife's greet-
ing on her return."
Eleanor was silent.
"I am not much surprised," Miriam added. "Nor you
either, I dare say? "
"I have felt uneasy; but I never pictured anything
like this. Can we do anything? Shall you go and see
him ? "
They sat for some minutes without speaking ; then Miriam
exclaimed angrily :
" What right had she to go abroad alone ? "
IN DUE COURSE. 379
" For auy tiling we know, Miriam, she may have had only
too good a reason."
" Then I don't see that it matters."
Eleanor sighed, and, after a little lingering, but without
fui-ther speech, went from the room.
In the meantime, Spence had entered the house. Eleanor
met him in the drawing-room, and held the paper to him,
with a silent indication of the paragraph. He read, and
with an exclamation of violent disgust threw the thing
aside. His philosophy failed him for once.
" What a blackguardly affair ! Does Miriam know ? "
"I have just shown it her. Evidently she had a sus-
picion of what was going on."
Spence muttered a little ; then regained something of his
" Our conjectures may be right," he said. " Perhaps no
revelation awaits her."
" I begin to think it very likely. Oh, it is hateful, vile !
She oughtn't to return to him."
" Pray, what is she to do ? "
" I had rather she died than begin such a life ! "
" I see no help for her. Her lot is that of many a woman
no worse than herself. We both foresaw it ; Mallard fore-
" I am afraid to look forward. I don't think she is the
""rind of woman to forgive again and again. This will revolt
her, and there is no telling what she may do."
" It is the old difficulty. Short of killing herself, whatever
she does will be the beginning of worse things. In this re-
spect, there's no distinction between Cecily and the wife of
the costermonger. Civilization is indifferent. Her life is
marred, and there's an end on't."
Eleanor turned away. Her eyes were wet with tears of
38':> THE EMANCIPATED.
On alighting at Cliaring Cross, Cecily searched the plat-
form for Eeuben. There could be no doubt of his coming
to meet her, for she had written to tell him that Mrs. Les-
singham would at once go into the country from another
station, and she would thus be alone. But she looked about
and waited in vain. In the end she took a cab, parted with
her companion, and drove homewards.
It was more than a trivial disapjjointment. On the jour-
ney, she had felt a longing for home, a revival of affection ;
she had tried to persuade herself that this long separation
would have made a happy change, and that their life might
take a new colour. Had Eeuben appeared at the station,
she would have pressed his hand warmly. Her health had
improved ; hope was again welcome. It came not like the
ho2>e of years ago, radiant, with eyes of ecstasy ; but sober,
homely, a gentle smile on its compassionate lips.
His failure would easily be explained ; either he had mis-
taken the train, or something inevitable had hindered him ;
possibly she had made a shp of the pen in writing, bearing
home, she grew tremulous, nervously impatient. Before the
cab had stopped, she threw the door open.
The servant who admitted her wore an unusual expression,
but Cecily did not obsei-ve this.
" Mr. Elgar is at home ? "
" No, ma'am."
" When did he go out ? "
" He has not been at home for three days, ma'am.*'
Cecily controlled herself.
CECILY'S RETURN. 381
"Tliere are some parcels in the cab. Take them â– up-
She went into the study, and stood looking about her. On
the writing-table lay some unopened letters, all addressed to
her husband ; also two or three that had * been read and
thrown aside. Whilst she was still at the mercy of her con-
fused thoughts, the servant came and asked if she would pay
Then she ascended to the di-awing-room and sat down.
Had her letter gone astray ? But if he had not been home
for three days, and, as appeared, his letters were not for-
warded to him, did not this prove (supposing a miscarriage
of what she had written) that he was not troubling himself
about news from her ? If he had received her letter â€” and
it ought to have arrived at least four days ago â€” what was the
meaning of his absence ?
She shrank from questioning the servants further. Pres-
ently, without having changed her dress, she went down
again to the library, and re-examined the letters waiting to
be read ; and the handwriting was in each case unknown to
her. Then she took up the letters that were open. One
was an invitation to dine, one the appeal of some charitable
institution ; last, a few lines from Mallard. He wrote ask-
ing Elgar to come and see him â€” seemingly with no purpose
beyond a wish to re-establish friendly relations. Cecily read
the note again and again, wondering whether it had led to a
Why had not the housekeeper made her appearance ? She
rang the bell, and the woman came. With as much com-
posure as she could command, Cecily inquired whether Mr.
Elgar had spoken of her expected ari-ival. Yes, he had done
so ; everything had been made ready. And had he left word
when he himself should be back ? No ; he had said nothing.
Naturally, she thought of going to the Spences' ; but her
dignity resisted. How could she seek information about her
husband from friends ? It was difficult to believe that he
382 THE EMANCIPATED.
kept away voluntarily. Would he not in any case have s^mt
word, ereu though the excuse were untruthful? What
motive could he have for treating her thus ? His la.st letter
was longer and kinder than usual.
She was troubling herself needlessly. The simple explana-
tion was of course the true one. He had been away in the
country, and had arranged to be back in time to meet her
at the station ; then some chance had intervened. Doubtless
he would very soon present himself. Her impatience and
anxiety would never occur to him ; what difference could
a few hours make ? They were not on such lover-like terms
Compelling herself to rest in this view, she made a change
of clothing, and again summoned the housekeeper, this time
for discussion of domestic details. Cecily had no feminine
delight in such matters for their own sake ; the butcher, the
baker, and the candlestick-maker were necessary evils, to be
put out of mind as soon as possible. She learned incidentally
that Eeuben had been a great deal from home ; but this did
not surprise her. She had never imagined him leading a
methodical life, between Belsize Park and the British
Museum. That was not in his nature.
At the usual hour she had luncheon. Shortly after, when
her patience was yielding to fears â€” fears which, in truth, she
had only masked with the show of explanation â€” a letter was
brought in. But nothing to the purpose. It came from
Zillah Denyer, who began with apologies for writing, and ex-
pressed uncertainty whether Mrs. Elgar had yet returned
from abroad ; then went on to say that her sister Madeline
had been suffering dreadfully of late. " Perhaps you know
that Mrs. Travis has left us. Madeline has missed her com-
pany very much, and often longs to see the face of some
visitor. She speaks of the one visit you paid her, and would
so like to see you again. Forgive me for asking if you could
spare half an hour. The evening is best ; I venture to say
this, as you came in the evening before."
CECILY'S RETURN. 383
Cecily forgot herself for a few minutes in sorrows graver
than her own. Her impression after the one visit had been
that Madeline would not greatly care for her to repeat it ;
this, it seemed, was a mistake. So Mrs. Travis had left her
lodgings ? She heard of it for the first time.
About half-past three there sounded the knock of a visitor
at the house door. Expecting no one, Cecily had given no
directions ; the parlour-maid hurried upstairs to ask if she
was " at home." She replied that the name must first be an-
nounced to her.
It was Mrs. Travis. Cecily hesitated, but decided to re-
Though the intercourse between them had been resumed,
it was with a restraint on both sides that seemed to forbid
the prospect of friendship. They had met two or three times
only ; once it was in the Denyers' house, and on that occasion
Cecily had renewed her acquaintance with the family and sat
a little with Madeline. Interest in each other they certainly
felt, but not in like degrees ; Mrs. Travis showed herself
more strongly attracted to Cecily than Cecily was to her,
as it had been from the first. That this was the attraction
of simple liking and goodwill, Cecily could never quite con-
vince herself. Mrs. Travis always seemed to be studying her,
and sometimes in a spirit of curiosity that was disagreeable.
But at the same time she was so manifestly in need of sym-
pathetic companionship, and allowed such sad glimpses into
her own wrecked hfe, that Cecily could not reject her, nor
even feel with actual coldness.
" Have you been home long ? " the visitor asked, as they
" A few hours only."
" Indeed ? You have arrived to-day ? "
They sat down. Mrs. Travis fixed her eyes on Cecily.
" I hardly hoped to find you."
" I should have let you know that I was back."
Their conversations were accustomed to begin awkwardly,
384 THE EMANCIPATED.
constrainedly. They never spoke of ordii.ary topics, and
eacli seemed to wait for a suggestion of the other's mood.
At present Cecily was uneasy under her visitor's gaze, which
was stranger and more inquisitive than usual.
" So you have left the Denyers' ? " she said.
" From whom did you hear ? "
" I have just had a note from Zillah Denyer, about Made-
line. She merely mentions that you are no longer there."
â€¢' I ought to go and see them ; but I can't to-day."
" Have you been in London all the time ? "
" Yes. â€” I have gone back to my husband."
It was spoken in a matter-of-fact tone (obviously assumed)
which was very incongruous with the feeling it excited in
Cecily. She could not hear the announcement without an
" Of your own free will ? " she asked, in a diffident voice.
" Oh yes. That is to say, he persuaded me."
Their eyes met, and Cecily had an impulse of distrust,
more decided than she had ever felt. She could not find any-
thing to say, and by keeping silence she hoped the interview
might be shortened.
" You are disposed to feel contempt for me," Mrs. Travis
added, after a few moments.
" No one can judge another in such things. It is your own
affair, Mrs. Travis."
" Yes, but you despise me for my weakness, naturally you
do. Had you no suspicion that it would end again in this
way ? "
" I simply believed what you told me."
" That nothing would induce me to return to him. That
is how women talk, you know. We are all very much the
Again Cecily kept silence. Mrs. Travis, observing her,
saw an offended look rise to her face.
" I mean, we are few of us, us women, strong enough to
hold out against natural and social laws. We feel indignant,
CECILY'S RETURN. 385
we suffer more than men can imagine, but "we have to yield.
But it is true that most women are wise enough not to act
in my way. You are quite right to despise me."
" Why do you repeat that ? It is possible you are acting
quite rightly. How should I be able to judge ? "
" I am not acting rightly," said the othei-, with bitterness.
Â«' Two courses are open to a woman in my position. Either
she must suffer in silence, care nothing for the world's talk,
take it for granted that, at any cost, she remains under her
husband's roof ; or she must leave him once and for ever,
and regard herself as a free woman. The first is the ordinary
choice ; most women are forced into it by circumstances ; very
few have courage and strength for the second. But to do
first one thing, then the other, to be now weak and now
strong, to yield to the world one day and defy it the next,
and then to yield again, â€” that is base. Such a woman is a
traitor to her sex."
Cecily did not lift her eyes. She heard the speaker's voice
tremble, and could not bear to look at her face. Her heart
was sinking, though she knew not exactly what oppressed
her. There was a long silence ; then Cecily sj^oke.
" If your husband persuaded you to return, it must have
been that you still have affection for him."
" The feeling is not worthy of that name."
" That is for yourself to determine. Why should we talk
of it ? "
Looking up, Cecily found the other's eyes again fixed on
her. It was as though this strange gaze were meant to be a
â€¢' Would it not be better," she continued, " if we didn't
speak of these things ? If it could do any good- But
surely it cannot."
" Sympathy is good â€” offered or received."
" I do sympathize with you in your difficulties."
" But you do not care to receive mine," replied Mrs.
Travis, in an undertone,
386 THE EMANCIPATED.
Cecily gazed at lier with changed eyes, inquiring, offended^
" What need have I of your sympathy, Mrs. Travis ? "
she asked distantly.
" None, I see," auswered the other, with a scarcely per-
" I don't understand you. Please let us never talk in this
" Never, if you will first let me say one thing. You re-
member that Mr. Elgar once had doubts about my character.
He was anxious on your account, lest you should be friendly
with a person who was not all he could desire from the moi*al
point of view. He did me justice at last, but it was very
j)ainful, as you will undei'stand, to be suspected by one who
embodies such high morality."
There was no virulence in her tone ; she spoke as though
quietly defending herself against some unkindness. But
Cecily could not escape her eyes, which searched and
" Why do you say this ? "
" Because T am weak, and therefore envious. Why should
you reject my sympathy ? I could be a better friend to you
than any you have. I myself have no friend ; I can't make
myself liked. I feel di-eadfully alone, without a soul who
cares for me. I am my husband's plaything, and of course
he scorns me. I am sure he laughs at me with his friends
and mistresses. And you too scorn me, though I have tried
to make you my friend. Of course it is all at an end between
us now. I understand your nature ; it isn't quite what I
Cecily heard, but scarcely with understanding. The word
for which she was waiting did not come.
" Why," she asked, " do you speak of offering me sym-
pathy ? What do you hint at ? "
*â€¢ Seriously, you don't know ? "
"I don't," was the cold answer.
CECILY'S RETURN. 387
" Wliy did you go abroad without youi* husband ? "
It came uj)on Cecily with a shock. Were peo^^le discussing
her, and thus interi^reting her actions ?
"Surely that is my own business, Mrs. Travis. I was in
poor health, and my husband was too busy to accompany
" That is the simple truth, from your point of view ? "
" How have you done me the honour to understand me ? "
Mrs. Travis examined her ; then put another question.
" Have you seen your husband since you arrived ? "
" No, I have not."
" And you don't know that he is being talked about every-
where â€” not exactly for his moral qualities ? "
Cecily was mute. Thereupon Mrs. Travis opened the little
sealskin-bag that lay on her lap, and took out a newspaper.
She held it to Cecily, pointing to a certain report. It was a
long account of lively j)roceedings at a police-court. Cecily
read. When she had come to the end, her eyes remained on
the paper. She did not move until Mrs. Travis j)ut out a
hand and touched hers ; then she drew back, as in repug-
" You had heard nothing of this ? '*
Cecily did not reply. Thereupon Mrs. Travis again opened
her little bag, and took out a cabinet photograph. It re-
presented a young woman in tights, her arms folded, one
foot across the other; the face was vulgarly piquant, and
wore a smile which made eloquent declaration of its pi-ice.
" That is the ' lady,' " said Mrs. Travis, with a slight em-
phasis on the last word.
Cecily looked for an instant only. There was perfect
silence for a minute or two after that ; then Cecily rose.
She did not speak ; but the other, also rising, said :
" I shouldn't have come if I had known you were still
ignorant. But now you can, and will, think the worst of me ;
from this day you will hate me."
" I an* uot sure," replied Cecily, " that you haven't some
c c 2
388 THE EMANCIPATED.
strange pleasure in what you have been telling me ; but I
know you are very unhappy, and that alone would prevent
me from hating you. I can't be your friend, it is true ; we
are too unlike in our tempers and habits of thought. Let us
shake hands and say good-bye."
But Mrs. Travis refused her hand, and with a look of
bitter suffering, which tried to appear resignation, went from
Cecily felt a cold burden upon her heart. She sat in a
posture of listlessness, corresponding to the weary misery,
numbing instead of torturing, which possessed her now that
the shock was over. Perhaj^s the strange manner of the re-
velation tended to produce this result; the strong self-con-
trol which she had exercised, the mingling of incongruous
emotions, the sudden end of her expectation, bi-ought about
a mood resembling apathy.
She began presently to reflect, to readjust her view of the
life she had been living. It seemed to her now unaccountable
that she had been so little troubled with fears. Ignorance
of the world had not blinded her, nor was she unaware of
her husband's history. But the truth was that she had not
cared to entertain suspicion. For a long time she had not
seriously occupied her mind with Reuben. Self-absorbed,
she was practically content to let happen what would, pro-
vided it called for no interference of hers. Her indifference
had reached the point of idly accepting the present, and
taking for granted that things would always be much the
Yet she knew the kind of danger to which Reuben was
exposed from the hour when her indifference declared itself ;
it was present to her imagination when he chose to remain
alone in London. But such thoughts were vague, impalpa-
ble. She had never realized a picture of such degradation as
this which had just stamped itself upon her brain. In her
surmises jealousy had no part, and therefore nothing was
conceived in detail. In the certainty that he no longer loved
CECILY'S RETURN. 389
her wth love of the nobler kind, did it matter much what
he concealed ? But this flagrant shame had never threatened
her. This was indeed the " experience " in which, as Eeuben
had insisted, she was lacking.
No difficulty in understanding now why he kept away.
Would he ever come ? Or had he determined that their life
in common was no longer possible, and resolved to spare her
the necessity of saying that they were no longer husband
and wife ? Doubtless that was what he expected to hear
from her ; his view of her character, which she understood
sufficiently well, would lead him to think that.
But she had no impulse to leave his house. The example
of Mrs. Travis was too near. Escape, with or without melo-
dramatic notes of farewell, never suggested itself. She knew
that it was a practical impossibility to make that absolute
severance of their lives without which they were still man
and wife, though at a distance from each other ; they must
still be linked by material interests, by common acquaint-
ances. The end of sham heroics wovild come, sooner or later,
in the same way as to Mrs. Travis. How was her life
different from what it had been yesterday ? By an addition
of shame and scorn, that was all ; actually, nothing was
altered. AVhen Eeuben heard that she was remaining at
home, he would come to her. Perhaps they might go to live
in some other place ; that was all.
Tea was brought in, but she paid no heed to it. Sunset
and twilight came ; the room grew dusk ; then the sei-vants
appeared with lamps. She dined, returned to the drawing-
room, and took up a book she had been I'eading on her jour-
ney. It was a volume of Quinet, and insensibly its interest
concentrated her attention. She read for nearly two hours.
Then she was tired of it, and began to move restlessly
about. Again she grew impatient of the uncertainty whether
Eeuben would return to-night. She lay upon a couch and
tried to forget herself in recollection of far-off places and
people. But instead of the pictures she wislicd to form.
390 THE EMANCIPATED.
tliere kept coming before her mind tlie repulsive pliotograph
â€¢which Mrs. Travis had produced. Though she had barely
glanced at it, she saw it distinctly â€” the tawdry costume, the
ignoble attitude, the shameless and sordid face. It polluted
Jealousy, of a woman such as that ? Had she still loved
him, she must have broken her heart to think that he could
fall so low. If it had been told her that he Avas overcome
by passion for a wornan of some nobleness, she could have
heard it with resignation; in that there would have been
nothing base. But the choice he had made would not allow
her even the consolation of reflecting that she felt no
jealousy 5 it compelled her to involve him in the scorn, if not
in the loathing, with which that portrait inspired her.
That he merely had ceased to love her, what right had she
to blame him ? The very word of " blame " was unmeaning
in such reference. In this, at all events, his fatalism had
become her own way of thinking. To talk of controlling
love is nonsensical; dead love is dead beyond hope. But
need one sink into a slough of vibness ?
At midnight she went to her bedroom. He would not
Sleep seemed far from her, and yet before the clock struck
one she had fallen into a painful slumber. When she awoke,
it was to toss and writhe for hours in uttermost misery. She
could neither sleej? nor command a train of thoughts. At
times she sobbed and wailed in her suffering.
No letter arrived in the morning. She could no longer
read, and knew not how to pass the hours. In some way
she must put an end to her intolerable loneliness, but she
could not decide how to act. Eeuben might come to-
day; she washed it, that the meeting might be over and
But the long torment of her nerves had caused a change of
mood. She was feverish now, and impatience grew to resent-
ment. The emotions which were yesterday so dulled began
CECILY'S RETURN. 391
to stir in lier heart and brain. Walking about tte room,
unable to occupy herself for a moment, she felt as though
fetters were upon her ; this house had become a prison ; her
life was that of a captive without hope of release.
There came in her a sudden outbreak of passionate in-
dignation at the unequal hardships of a woman's lot. Often
as she had read and heard and talked of this, she seemed to
understand it for the first time ; now firet was it real to her,