The Law and the Lady
5. The Landlady's Discovery
I SAT down, and tried to compose my spirits. Now or never was the time to decide what
it was my duty to my husband and my duty to myself to do next.
The effort was beyond me. Worn out in mind and body alike, I was perfectly incapable of
pursuing any regular train of thought. I vaguely felt--if I left things as they were--that I
could never hope to remove the shadow which now rested on the married life that had
begun so brightly. We might live together, so as to save appearances. But to forget what
had happened, or to feel satisfied with my position, was beyond the power of my will.
My tranquillity as a woman--perhaps my dearest interests as a wife--depended absolutely
on penetrating the mystery of my mother-in-law's conduct, and on discovering the true
meaning of the wild words of penitence and self-reproach which my husband had
addressed to me on our way home.
So far I could advance toward realizing my position--and no further. When I asked
myself what was to be done next, hopeless confusion, maddening doubt, filled my mind,
and transformed me into the most listless and helpless of living women.
I gave up the struggle. In dull, stupid, obstinate despair, I threw myself on my bed, and
fell from sheer fatigue into a broken, uneasy sleep.
I was awakened by a knock at the door of my room.
Was it my husband? I started to my feet as the idea occurred to me. Was some new trial
of my patience and my fortitude at hand? Half nervously, half irritably, I asked who was
The landlady's voice answered me.
"Can I speak to you for a moment, if you please?"
I opened the door. There is no disguising it--though I loved him so dearly, though I had
left home and friends for his sake--it was a relief to me, at that miserable time, to know
that Eustace had not returned to the house.
The landlady came in, and took a seat, without waiting to be invited, close by my side.
She was no longer satisfied with merely asserting herself as my equal. Ascending another
step on the social ladder, she took her stand on the platform of patronage, and charitably
looked down on me as an object of pity.
"I have just returned from Broadstairs," she began. "I hope you will do me the justice to
believe that I sincerely regret what has happened."
I bowed, and said nothing.