The Law and the Lady
12. The Scotch Verdict
We walked to the far end of the hall. Major Fitz-David opened the door of a long, narrow
room built out at the back of the house as a smoking-room, and extending along one side
of the courtyard as far as the stable wall.
My husband was alone in the room, seated at the further end of it, near the fire-place. He
started to his feet and faced me in silence as I entered. The Major softly closed the door
on us and retired. Eustace never stirred a step to meet me. I ran to him, and threw my
arms round his neck and kissed him. The embrace was not returned; the kiss was not
returned. He passively submitted--nothing more.
"Eustace!" I said, "I never loved you more dearly than I love you at this moment! I never
felt for you as I feel for you now!"
He released himself deliberately from my arms. He signed to me with the mechanical
courtesy of a stranger to take a chair.
"Thank you, Valeria," he answered, in cold, measured tones. "You could say no less to
me, after what has happened; and you could say no more. Thank you."
We were standing before the fire-place. He left me, and walked away slowly with his
head down, apparently intending to leave the room.
I followed him--I got before him--I placed myself between him and the door.
"Why do you leave me?" I said. "Why do you speak to me in this cruel way? Are you
angry, Eustace? My darling, if you are angry, I ask you to forgive me."
"It is I who ought to ask your pardon," he replied. "I beg you to forgive me, Valeria, for
having made you my wife."
He pronounced those words with a hopeless, heart-broken humility dreadful to see. I laid
my hand on his bosom. I said, "Eustace, look at me."
He slowly lifted his eyes to my face--eyes cold and clear and tearless--looking at me in
steady resignation, in immovable despair. In the utter wretchedness of that moment, I was
like him; I was as quiet and as cold as my husband. He chilled, he froze me.
"Is it possible," I said, "that you doubt my belief in your innocence?"
He left the question unanswered. He sighed bitterly to himself. "Poor woman!" he said, as
a stranger might have said, pitying me. "Poor woman!"