By Mrs. Murray Hickson
I—At the Cross Roads
"For to no man is it given to understand a woman, nor to any woman to understand a man."
THE boat from Dieppe had just arrived, and the passengers were pushing from the decks on to the quay. A tall woman, wrapped in a handsome mantle trimmed with sables, waited for her turn to cross the gangway. Her eyes, wandering restlessly over the little crowd of spectators that had assembled to watch for the arrival of the boat, met those of a man who pressed into the throng towards her. She started, and a sudden flush, beautiful but transitory, touched her face into a youthfulness which it did not otherwise possess. The man took off his hat in salute, and, holding it above his head, thrust forward to the foot of the gangway. He kept his eyes fastened upon her face; and the expression of his own, in spite of the smile on his lips, was doubtful and anxious. She returned his look gravely, yet with a certain tenderness in her glance. Beckoning to the maid who followed her, she slipped adroitly before a party of staggering sea-sick tourists, and made her way on to the quay.
Page:The Yellow Book - 05.djvu/117 Page:The Yellow Book - 05.djvu/118 Page:The Yellow Book - 05.djvu/119 Page:The Yellow Book - 05.djvu/120 Page:The Yellow Book - 05.djvu/121 Page:The Yellow Book - 05.djvu/122 Page:The Yellow Book - 05.djvu/123 Page:The Yellow Book - 05.djvu/124 Page:The Yellow Book - 05.djvu/125 Page:The Yellow Book - 05.djvu/126 Page:The Yellow Book - 05.djvu/127 "You understand how it was? I was unable to help it," he said, his voice stumbling a little as he spoke. She lifted her head.
"Yes," she said, "I understand."
He looked at her in silence, then picking up a paper, unfolded it and began to read. She shivered a little, and leant nearer to the fire. Her thoughts wandered vaguely. She knew that he had lied to her, but she did not care. The stealthy sorrow of her married life, after stalking her spirit for a couple of years, had sprung upon her in the space of time which it took her to read his letter. Instinct guided her to the truth, and there it left her. The rest was a tangle, and, for the moment, she cared only for the physical comfort of apathy and quiescence.
She stretched out her cold hands to the blaze, while her husband watched her furtively from behind his newspaper.
The deep tones of the village clock, striking the half-hour, broke upon the silence; and a moment later the timepiece on the mantel shelf chimed an echoing response.