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HOME > Classical Novels > White Motley > CHAPTER VII AN ULTIMATUM
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It had just grown dark when Lily returned to the Palace Hotel, and the hall was quite full of muffled folk, whose arguments upon the events of the day waxed hot and eloquent. Some of these turned their heads as the "pretty little woman" went by; but the many were too interested in their narration of particular exploits to notice her. Upstairs, she found her sitting-room in darkness, but she knew, even before she had switched on the electric light, that it was not untenanted, and presently she discovered her husband, Luton, sitting by the window and smiling a little sardonically while he waited for her to speak.

Eight months had passed since they had met, and time had not been kind to him. He looked very old, she thought, and his red hair was sown with grey. A fine man physically, he had lost flesh, and his clothes bagged upon his arms and chest. One characteristic remained—the evil of a face which had expressed little but evil since his childhood.

"Well," he said—and he had never been famous for his eloquence—"well, Lil, you didn't expect to see me, I suppose. Rather an unpleasant surprise for you, isn't it?"

She took off her furs and laid them upon a chair. The room had become insufferably hot, and she would have opened the window had he not barred the way. But all her instinct forbade her to approach him, and she had need of her courage that he might not see her trembling.

"What do you want of me?" she rejoined in a cold voice—and then: "Why do you come here?"

He liked the idea of it, and leaning back in the chair, laughed as though it were the drollest of notions.

"A man comes to see his wife, and she doesn't offer him the tips of her beautiful fingers! 'Pon my word, Lil, you look splendid when you stand like that—and since you press me, I will take a whisky-and-soda and a cigar just for luck."

She ignored the request and advancing a little nearer to him, repeated the question:

"Why do you come to me? Was it not understood that you should not come; was not that part of the bargain?"

He shrugged his shoulders, but his face flushed none the less.

"Bargain be d——d! I'm in a hole—nine thousand four hundred pounds with Bothand and Co.—you remember them? I bought your emeralds there. Well, they talk of fraud and all that sort of stuff. I'll have to pay them, Lil—it's jail if I don't."

She knew that it would be some story of this kind, and was relieved, it may be, to find it no worse. His exaggerations had ceased to alarm her, and she believed little of what he told her.

"You have had five thousand pounds from me in two years," she said quietly. "I am now making you an allowance of a thousand a year. If there is a duty in the matter, God knows I have done it. More I will not, whatsoever the consequences—you know that I cannot; it is quite impossible."

He nodded his head, and, failing the cigar, took a cigarette from his case and lighted it.

"Why don't you ask the old man?" he retorted. "I tell you, Lil, this is business, and if I don't pay in ten days' time, there'll be mischief. You don't mean to say you'd send me to prison for nine thousand pounds—your beautiful father wouldn't disgrace his daughter for a trifle like that? I've been pretty considerate, I must say. It's nearly a year since I came to you, and then for twopence-halfpenny which I had to beg on my knees. By ——, you're becoming a Jew, my dear, a devilish pretty little Jew—that's what it is."

She turned from him with contempt.

"You have my answer," she said. "I will continue to pay you a thousand a year while you leave me as I am. But I will not pay more, whatever the consequences. That is final and irrevocable. If you come to me at this hotel again, you shall never receive another penny. The understanding was made, and I will have it kept. Have I not suffered enough at your hands; is there to be no end to a woman's patience? You have ceased to be anything to me but a name—take care that I do n............
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