“Oh! So you’ve come back.”
“Yes, dear, I have come back; and I am sorry that—”
“Of course. Be kind enough to be quiet now you have come back, because my head aches.”
And he addressed himself to a palpable French novel with assumed gusto.
This was the line of treatment he had determined on. He would not left his wife see that he had been annoyed at her absence. He would assume the rôle of a calm man of the world, one whom nothing could offend or distress.
Carry was taken aback. Very little provocation would have made her rush into her husband’s arms, and weep out her penitence, but her pride took fire now.
“I am going out for a walk,” she said. “I only came in for a moment to see if you had come home.”
“Where are you going?”
“You are inquisitive?”
A thought crossed Cyril’s mind, but he dismissed it instantly. He would temporise.
“And, pray, how is dear mamma?”
Carry grew hot and angry, but she kept her passion down.
“‘Dear mamma’ is very well.”
“Ah! I rejoice. Pull down that blind, my love; the sun hurts my eyes. Thank you. What a treasure a wife is, to be sure!”
“Cyril, you are very unkind to speak like that.”
“Unkind! Not at all. One cannot always be billing and cooing, and even your charming little minauderies grow wearisome at times.”
Carry’s eyes filled with bitter tears. He was speaking harshly to her, and he was speaking French, which she did not understand.
“I am very sorry for going away,” she said, after a pause.
“So you have remarked before. I regret that you are sorry, my dear love; but you might easily have avoided any annoyance to yourself by stopping at home.”
“I was angry at something.”
Cyril would have given much to know what she had been angry at, but he would not ask.
“You should learn to control your temper, my dear girl.” Puff—puff. “Young women in civilised spheres of life do not behave like the heroines of French novels, without some valid reason.”
“I don’t know anything about French novels, but I had a valid reason.
“I beg your pardon,” says this young Petruchio, ignoring the latter part of the sentence; “I should have said the ‘London Journal’ perhaps. I had forgotten that your literary tastes are not very refined.”
Carry began to cry. The tormentor went on delightedly.
“Suppose you give us a little exhibition now. Let us see Lady Bellarmine, or Lucy the Pirate’s Daughter. You would do well upon the stage, my dear. Mrs. Cyril Chatteris, as the ‘Deserted Wife,’ would look well on the bills.”
“Oh! Cyril, don’t. I am not as clever as you are, I know; but you need not say such cruel things.”
The pitiful action of her hands, raised as though to ward off some cruel blow, touched him, and he had half risen to kiss and forgive her; but he thought of Dacre, and his “man of the world” model, and refrained. She went to him, and kissed him.
“I have nothing to forgive. I am only sorry that you were so foolish. What made you go?”
“I don’t know. I was unhappy. I thought that you had deceived me—and—”
She broke down in a passion of sobs.
Cyril was silent. A new idea had possessed him. Though he had denied his marriage to Dacre, he had never contemplated deceiving his wife. He had thought himself too closely bound to break his chains. Mrs. Manton was too wary, and his wife—ah! his wife, he might deceive her, keep her in ignorance, and perhaps ——. A crowd of thoughts rushed upon him, and it was as though a trap door had opened in his heart, and a flood of light let in to its dark recesses. He loved Kate Ffrench, and he hated his wife.
She clung to his knees.
“Oh! Cyril, forgive me. I will always believe what you say. I will never go away again.”
He looked down upon her raised face and streaming eyes. He had conquered again, and the suppliant was kneeling at his feet. This constant triumph was wearisome.
“Poor little fool,” was his inward reflection, and then he raised and kissed her.
“There, be a good girl, and dry your eyes, and we will have tea like domestic persons.”
She felt the contempt in the tone, and the expanded flower of wifely love and obedience shut up its petals. He did not care for her. He thought her beneath him in intellect and birth, and despised her. Well, others did not. She was pretty and lady-like, and quite as good as the well-dressed women she saw in the Park or the Gardens. Men admired her—gentlemen. Mr. Dacre did. Ah! Mr. Dacre, he would not have been so unkind.
She did not tell her thoughts to Cyril. In fact, the pair made up their quarrel, and were quite domestic all the evening—Cyril reading the “Princess” to his wife, while she buried herself in the cushions of the ottoman, and wished that he was always in such good humour.