A Spinner in the Sun (Chapter 7, page 1 of 7)

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Chapter 7

Anthony Dexter sat in his library, alone, as usual. Under the lamp, Ralph's letters were spread out before him, but he was not reading. Indeed, he knew every line of them by heart, but he could not keep his mind upon the letters.

Between his eyes and the written pages there came persistently a veiled figure, clothed shabbily in sombre black. Continually he fancied the horror the veil concealed; continually, out of the past, his cowardice and his shirking arose to confront him.

A photograph of his wife, who had died soon after Ralph was born, had been taken from the drawer. "A pretty, sweet woman," he mused. "A good wife and a good mother." He told himself again that he had loved her--that he loved her still.

Yet behind his thought was sure knowledge. The woman who had entered the secret fastnesses of his soul, and before whom he had trembled, was the one whom he had seen in the dead garden, frail as a ghost, and again on the road that morning.

Dimly, and now for the first time, there came to his perception that recognition of his mate which each man carries in his secret heart when he has found his mate at all. Past the anguish that lay between them like a two-edged sword, and through the mists of the estranging years, Evelina had come back to claim her own.

He saw that they were bound together, scarred in body or scarred in soul; crippled, mutilated, or maimed though either or both might be, the one significant fact was not altered.

He knew now that his wife and the mother of his child had stood outside, as all women but the one must ever stand. Nor did he guess that she had known it from the first and that heart-hunger had hastened her death.

Aside from a very deep-seated gratitude to her for his son, Anthony Dexter cherished no emotion for the sake of his dead wife. She had come and gone across his existence as a butterfly crosses a field, touching lightly here and there, but lingering not at all. Except for Ralph, it was as though she had never been, so little did she now exist for him.

Yet Evelina was vital, alive, and out of the horror she had come back. To him? He did not believe that she had come definitely to seek him--he knew her pride too well for that. His mind strove to grasp the reason of her coming, but it eluded him; evaded him at every point. She had not forgotten; if she had, she would not have given back that sinuous necklace of discoloured pearls.

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