A Spinner in the Sun (Chapter 3, page 1 of 6)

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Chapter 3

A rap at the door roused Miss Evelina from a deadly stupor which seemed stabbed through with daggers of pain. She sat quite still, determined not to open the door. Presently, she heard the sound of retreating footsteps, and was reassured. Then she saw a bit of folded paper which had been slipped under the door, and, mechanically, she picked it up.

"Here's your supper," the note read, briefly. "When you get done, leave the tray outside. I'll come and get it. I would like to have you come over if you want to.--Mehitable Smith."

Touched by the unexpected kindness, Miss Evelina took in the tray. There was a bowl of soup, steaming hot, a baked potato, a bit of thin steak, fried, in country fashion, two crisp, buttered rolls, and a pot of tea. Faint and sick of heart, she pushed it aside, then in simple justice to Miss Hitty, tasted of the soup. A little later, she put the tray out on the doorstep again, having eaten as she had not eaten for months.

She considered the chain of circumstances that had led her back to Rushton. First, the knowledge that Doctor Dexter had left the place for good. She had heard of that, long ago, but, until now, no one had told her that he had returned. She had thought it impossible for him ever to return--even to think of it again, Otherwise--here the thread of her thought snapped, and she clutched at the vial of laudanum which, as always, was in the bag at her belt. She perceived that the way of escape was closed to her. Broken in spirit though she was, she was yet too proud to die like a dog at Anthony Dexter's door, even after five-and-twenty years.

Bitterest need alone had driven her to take the step which she so keenly regretted now. The death of her mother, hastened by misfortune, had left her with a small but certain income, paid regularly from two separate sources. One source had failed without warning, and her slender legacy was cut literally in two. Upon the remaining half she must eke out the rest of her existence, if she continued to exist at all. It was absolutely necessary for her to come back to the one shelter which she could call her own.

Weary, despairing, and still in the merciless grip of her obsession, she had come--only to find that Anthony Dexter had long since preceded her. A year afterward, Miss Hitty said, he had come back, with a pretty young wife. And he had a son.

The new knowledge hurt, and Evelina had fancied that she could be hurt no more, that she had reached the uttermost limits of pain. By a singular irony, the last refuge was denied her at the very moment of her greatest temptation to avail herself of it. Long hours of thought led her invariably to the one possible conclusion--to avoid every one, keep wholly to herself, and, by starvation, if need be, save enough of her insignificant pittance to take her far away. And after that--freedom.

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