You can't be too careful, by H. G. Wells

Chapter 19

Exit Evangeline

MATTERS hung in suspense for nearly a fortnight more after this very definitive quarrel. Plainly Mr and Mrs Tewler had come to a breaking-point, but except For a very definite wish to hurt each other, neither of them had very lucid ideas for the next phase in this antagonism. Edward Albert had that habit of indecision which the normal English training develops, and still he clung to some idea of a relapse on her part. She, for her part, had already made an indirect inquiry about her old business position and knew that she would be taken back there if she wanted it. She had been missed all the time. But that would reopen a relationship she had thought closed for ever. It wounded her pride to be dependent, on her husband any longer. She could go back to the old life and hold out, Edward Albert was not the only male upon the earth. Indeed no.

At the back of her mind she realised that it was she who had brought this unhappiness upon him, quite as much as upon herself. She hated him not only for his own sake but because it was her supreme blunder. It was hard to sustain her personal pride in the night against the gnawing realisation that she had snatched, that she had been a scheming fool. It was difficult to shift all that to his account. She would feel better about him if she could get square with him and then forget about him — forget about him altogether. But how was that to be done now? She had resisted any natural weakening towards the child, but it made a poor story for her if she did not do her duty by it. She had to feel there would be someone to care for it, and so she turned her thoughts and hopes towards Mrs Butter.

Matters were brought to a sudden crisis by an outbreak on the part of Edward Albert. In the dead of night the whole household was awakened by his beating and kicking at his wife’s locked door. “Let me in, you bitch,” he was shouting.

Mrs Butter appeared in a red flannel dressing-gown. “Go back to your bed, Mr Tewler. You’re waking the child.”

“Get out,” said Mr. Tewler; “I want my rights.”

“That’s as may be,” said Mrs Butter. “But this isn’t the time to demand them. One o’clock in the morning! And you’re waking the child.”

She overwhelmed him by her invincible sanity.

“Well, hasn’t a man rights?” he demanded.

“At a proper time,” said Mrs Butter, and stood expectant.

“Oh, what the Hell is a man 10 do?” he cried. “What the Hell is a man to do?”

He was sobbing.

“You go back to bed,” said Mrs Butter, almost kindly.

In the morning nothing was said at breakfast and Mr Tewler went out slamming the door behind him. Evangeline was busy for a time in her own room and then came into the. . . .

[Part of text missing]

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Well, passion.”

“There may be feelings I don’t know.”

“There are,” said Evangeline. “There are.”

“Like men have?”

“Listen, Mrs Butter. There’s another man. . . . I want him in my arms and in my body. That shocks you? I meant it to. But living with your master shocks me. It’s prostitution. I’ve done with all this. I’m resolved to go. I shall go, anyhow. One thing has kept me. That. But now, if you will promise me to stay on with that poor little wretch. . . . I don’t know what he will do, but if he turns you out, I’ll find some place for you. You understand what I mean? I’ll give it to you. . . . ”

“You’re doing wrong,” said Mrs Butter, but there was no severity now in her condemnation.

“There is only one rule for those who are in love, Mrs Butter. Do it now. . . . I’m going to. My lord and master has gone,off in the sulks. I doubt if we shall see him back before one. I’m packing now. I’ve started. Are you going to help me?”

“And when he comes back, what am I to tell him?”

“Jurst anything you like, my dear. Anything you like. Will you help me? There’s those two new valises upstairs I had for Torquay. And there’s the older bag with the French labels.”

Mrs Butter made no further protest. She was indeed suddenly helpful. She thought of a hindering complication.

“There’s Janet.”

“Tell her I’ve been called away suddenly.”

Mrs Butter brought the bags to the bedroom. Evangeline had already been folding her clothes. The packing went swiftly. When Henry Tewler demanded Mrs Butter’s presence, Janet in a state of helpful admiration came to assist her mistress. “Why! you’re going for quite a long visit,” she said. “You’re taking almost everything.”

“I may be away for months,” said Evangeline. “You never know.”

“You don’t, do you,” said Janet, and made no further comment.

“There’s the laundry,” she said presently.

“That can be sent after me. I’ll arrange all that.”

“Then you’re not going abroad or anything?”

“I’m not going abroad. So far as I know.”

“You don’t know exactly?”

“I don’t know exactly. Yet. It’s a very sudden call,”

The packing went on busily in a state of suppressed comment. Evangeline forgot nothing.

She gave Mrs Philip Chaser’s address to Mrs Butter and went to say good-bye to her son. He was very contentedly asleep. She knelt by the cot and betrayed very little emotion.

“Adieu,” she said. “Child of La Mère Inconnue.” She reflected profoundly. “Some day we may meet again. Who knows? Like ships that pass in the night.”

Janet went out to call a taxi.

Evangeline faced Mrs Butter for the last time. “After all,” she said, “what I am doing is quite the best that can happen to him.”

“Maybe that is true.”

“You will stick to your word?”

“I understand all I’ve undertook.”

Janet stood waiting with the hat box in her hand. All the rest of the luggage had gone down to the taxi.

There was a moment of hesitation. Evangeline would have liked to exchange kisses with Mrs Butter, but there was something in Mrs Butter’s bearing that dissuaded her.

“Anything, any message, I mean, or if you want anything, will reach me through that address. I shan’t be there, but they will send it on,”

“I quite understand,” said Mrs Butter.

There was nothing more to be said.

When Edward Albert came home at one o’clock he found Janet in a state of pleasant excitement awaiting him in the hall. “She’s gone, Sir,” she said. “Packed up everything she’s got and gone. Gone off, Sir.”

“Who’s gone?” asked Edward Albert, though he knew the answer.

“Mrs Tewler, Sir. She packed up everything she had and she’s gone off in a taxi-cab,”

“Where?” he asked, still outwardly calm.

“I tried to listen to the address she gave, but she saw that and she told the cabman just to drive into Gower Street first. . . . ” The girl’s face was bright with detective enthusiasm. The common human impulse to condemn and mob and pelt and pursue was all awake in her.

“Did you take the number of the taxi?”

“I didn’t think of that until it was too late, Sir.”

Mr Tewler sought Mrs Butter. “Why did you let that woman go?” he demanded.

“You mean your wife, Sir. I’m not her keeper, Sir.”

“Well, she’s gone. She shall never darken these doors again. Did she say where she’d gone?”

“She left this address. But she said she won’t be there. It’s just for sending on. . . . ”

Mr Tewler went to his wife’s room and regarded the ransacked wardrobe, the empty toilet table and the chest of drawers with all the drawers pulled out, in profound silence. Tissue paper was scattered on the floor. He thought she might have left a letter for him, but there was no letter. There ought to have been a letter. Still silent, he went to look at his son. Then he remarked: “Better ‘ave somethin’ to eat, I suppose.” He was treating the inevitable as though it were the unexpected. After lunch he sat in a sort of coma in the drawing-room for a long time. Tea brightened him. “Got to do something about it,” he said. “What’ve I got to do about it? It’ll be a divorce right enough. . . . On the streets.”

He had contemplated rows, accusations, recriminations, repentances, adulteries discovered, flights, pursuits, divorces, but he had not contemplated Evangeline vanishing quietly into nothingness. He did not want to betray his extreme bewilderment,

He decided to go round to the Chasers and cast his perplexities on Pip.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30