The Evil Genius
BY William Wilkie Collins
If he had known that she had gone out, seeking a temporary separation, with his fear of self-betrayal—if he had suspected that she, too, had thoughts which must be concealed: sad forebodings of losing her hold on his heart, terrifying suspicions that he was already comparing her, to her own disadvantage, with the wife whom he had deserted—if he had made these discoveries, what would the end have been?
But she had, thus far, escaped the danger of exciting his distrust. That she loved him, he knew. That she had begun to doubt his attachment to her he would not have believed, if his oldest friend had declared it on the best evidence.
She had said to him, that morning, at breakfast: "There was a good woman who used to let lodgings here in London, and who was very kind to me when I was a child;" and she had asked leave to go to the house, and inquire if that friendly landlady was still living—with nothing visibly constrained in her smile, and with no faltering tone in her voice.
It was not until she was out in the street that the tell-tale tears came into her eyes, and the bitter sigh broke from her, and mingled its little unheard misery with the grand rise and fall of the tumult of London life. While he was still at the window, he saw her crossing the street on her way back to him.
She came into the room with her complexion heightened by exercise; she kissed him, and said with her pretty smile: "Have you been lonely without me?" Who would have supposed that the torment of distrust, and the dread of desertion, were busy at this woman's heart?
William Wilkie Collins (8 January 1824 – 23 September 1889).