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A Devotee by Mary Cholmondeley

Loftus found fault with her gowns

He saw her start and shrink away from him.

'Oh! did Doll tell you?' she gasped, turning crimson.

'My dear, he told me nothing,' said Mr. Loftus gently, moving slightly away from her, and looking at her with grave attention. He greatly feared that unhappiness was before her in some form or other. He waited in the hope that she would speak to him of her own accord. But she only began to cry again. She was still weak. Was it possible that she was afraid of him? What could be troubling her that she, who did not know what reticence meant, could fear to tell him, which yet Doll knew? Doll was in love with her. Had he lost his head on the night of the ball? Had she discovered that she and Doll were young?

'Crack,' said Mr. Loftus, 'I have a very neglectful wife. I come to ask for something for my headache, and she pays no attention to me at all.'

In earlier days Sibyl would have been on the alert in a moment if Mr. Loftus's sacred head confessed an ache. Now she moved slowly to the writing-table and produced certain innocuous remedies which he had brought to her and asked her to apply for him after that terrible time when he had had an attack of the heart and had repulsed her.

Presently the headache was better, and Mr. Loftus went back to the library and lit his pipe, which was remarkable, because he was as a rule unable to smoke after a headache.

He sat motionless a long time, his eyes fixed.

'I hope,' he said at last, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, 'that I shall not live to become Sibyl's natural enemy, for I think I am about the only real friend she has in the world.'

And the small seed that would have quickened in another man's heart into a deep-rooted jealousy remained upon the surface of his mind as a misgiving, which took the form of anxiety for her.


'Oui, sans doute, tout meurt; ce monde est un grand reve, Et le peu de bonheur qui nous vient en chemin, Nous n'avons pas plus tot ce roseau dans la main, Que le vent nous l'enleve.'


Sibyl continued pale and listless, and presently Mr. Loftus found fault with her gowns. They were not new enough. The colours of her tea-gowns did not suit her. He suggested that she should go to London to Lady Pierpoint's house for a few days to see her dressmaker, and added, as an afterthought, that he should like her to consult the specialist to whom she had gone on former occasions, and whose name he had reason to remember.

Sibyl received the suggestion of this visit in silence. She did not oppose herself to it, but left the room to shed a torrent of angry tears in private. The truth, which seldom visited her feeble judgment, did not tell her that Mr. Loftus was anxious about her health. Hysteria took up the tale instead, and officiously informed her that he was tired of her. He wanted to get rid of her. Men were always like that after they had been married a little time. What was a woman's love and devotion to them when the first novelty had worn off? She would go. She would certainly go; and when she was gone she would write to him, telling him that she saw only too plainly that his love for her was dead, and that she had decided never to return, and at the same time making over to him her entire fortune, reserving only for herself a pittance, on which she would live in seclusion in a cottage in some remote locality.

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