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The Helpmate   By: (1863-1946)

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Author of "The Divine Fire," "Superseded," "Audrey Craven," Etc.

New York Henry Holt and Company 1907 The Quinn & Boden Co. Press Rahway, N.J.



It was four o'clock in the morning. Mrs. Walter Majendie still lay on the extreme edge of the bed, with her face turned to the dim line of sea discernible through the open window of the hotel bedroom.

Since midnight, when she had gone to bed, she had lain in that uncomfortable position, motionless, irremediably awake. Mrs. Walter Majendie was thinking.

At first the night had gone by her unperceived, black and timeless. Now she could measure time by the dull progress of the dawn among the objects in the room. A slow, unhappy thing, born between featureless grey cloud and sea, it had travelled from the window, shimmered in the watery square of the looking glass, and was feeling for the chair where her husband had laid his clothes down last night. He had thought she was asleep, and had gone through his undressing noiselessly, with movements of angelic and elaborate gentleness that well nigh disarmed her thought. He was sleeping now. She tried not to hear the sound of his placid breathing. Only the other night, their wedding night, she had lain awake at this hour and heard it, and had turned her face towards him where he lay in the divine unconsciousness of sleep. The childlike, huddled posture of the sleeper had then stirred her heart to an unimaginable tenderness.

Now she had got to think, to adjust a new and devastating idea to a beloved and divine belief.

Somewhere in the quiet town a church clock clanged to the dawn, and the sleeper stretched himself. The five hours' torture of her thinking wrung a low sob from the woman at his side.

He woke. His hand searched for her hand. At his touch she drew it away, and moved from under her cramped shoulder the thick, warm braid of her hair. It tossed a gleam of pale gold to the risen light. She felt his drowsy, affectionate fingers pressing and smoothing the springy bosses of the braid.

The caress kindled her dull thoughts to a point of flame. She sat up and twisted the offending braid into a rigid coil.

"Walter," she said, " who is Lady Cayley?"

She noticed that the name waked him.

"Does it matter now? Can't you forget her?"

"Forget her? I know nothing about her. I want to know."

"Haven't you been told everything that was necessary?"

"I've been told nothing. It was what I heard."

There was a terrible stillness about him. Only his breath came and went unsteadily, shaken by the beating of his heart.

She quieted her own heart to listen to it; as if she could gather from such involuntary motions the thing she had to know.

"I know," she said, "I oughtn't to have heard it. And I can't believe it, I don't, really."

"Poor child! What is it that you don't believe?"

His calm, assured tones had the force of a denial.

"Walter if you'd only say it isn't true "

"What Edith told you?"

"Edith? Your sister? No; about that woman that you that she "

"Why are you bringing all that up again, at this unearthly hour?"

"Then," she said coldly, "it is true."

His silence lay between them like a sword.

She had rehearsed this scene many times in the five hours; but she had not prepared herself for this. Her dread had been held captive by her belief, her triumphant anticipation of Majendie's denial.

Presently he spoke; and his voice was strange to her as the voice of another man.

"Anne," he said, "didn't she tell you? It was before I knew you. And it was the only time."

"Don't speak to me," she cried with a sudden passion, and lay shuddering.

She rose, slipped from the bed, and went to a chair that stood by the open window. There she sat, with her back to the bed, and her eyes staring over the grey parade and out to the eastern sea.

"Anne," said her husband, "what are you doing there?"

Anne made no answer.

"Come back to bed; you'll catch cold."

He waited.

"How long are you going to sit there in that draught?"

She sat on, upright, immovable, in her thin nightgown, raked by the keen air of the dawn... Continue reading book >>

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