The Law and the Lady
4. On The Way Home
LEFT by ourselves, there was a moment of silence among us. Eustace spoke first.
"Are you able to walk back?" he said to me. "Or shall we go on to Broadstairs, and return
to Ramsgate by the railway?"
He put those questions as composedly, so far as his manner was concerned, as if nothing
remarkable had happened. But his eyes and his lips betrayed him. They told me that he
was suffering keenly in secret. The extraordinary scene that had just passed, far from
depriving me of the last remains of my courage, had strung up my nerves and restored my
self-possession. I must have been more or less than woman if my self-respect had not
been wounded, if my curiosity had not been wrought to the highest pitch, by the
extraordinary conduct of my husband's mother when Eustace presented me to her. What
was the secret of her despising him, and pitying me? Where was the explanation of her
incomprehensible apathy when my name was twice pronounced in her hearing? Why had
she left us, as if the bare idea of remaining in our company was abhorrent to her? The
foremost interest of my life was now the interest of penetrating these mysteries. Walk? I
was in such a fever of expectation that I felt as if I could have walked to the world's end,
if I could only keep my husband by my side, and question him on the way.
"I am quite recovered," I said. "Let us go back, as we came, on foot."
Eustace glanced at the landlady. The landlady understood him.
"I won't intrude my company on you, sir," she said, sharply. "I have some business to do
at Broadstairs, and, now I am so near, I may as well go on. Good-morning, Mrs.
She laid a marked emphasis on my name, and she added one significant look at parting,
which (in the preoccupied state of my mind at that moment) I entirely failed to
comprehend. There was neither time nor opportunity to ask her what she meant. With a
stiff little bow, addressed to Eustace, she left us as his mother had left us taking the way
to Broadstairs, and walking rapidly.
At last we were alone.
I lost no time in beginning my inquiries; I wasted no words in prefatory phrases. In the
plainest terms I put the question to him:
"What does your mother's conduct mean?"
Instead of answering, he burst into a fit of laughter--loud, coarse, hard laughter, so utterly
unlike any sound I had ever yet heard issue from his lips, so strangely and shockingly