“I knew that this would come one day,” she went on. “Why don’t you speak and get it over? Are you waiting to clothe your phrases? Are you afraid of the naked words? I’m not. Let me hear them. Don’t be more melodramatic than you can help because, as you know, I am cursed with a sense of humour, but don’t stand there saying nothing.”
He raised his eyes and looked at her in silence, an alternative which she found it hard to endure. Then, after a moment’s shivering recoil into her chair, she sprang to her feet.
“Listen,” she cried passionately, “I don’t care what you think! I tell you that if you were really a man, if you had a man’s heart in your body, you’d have sinned yourself before now—robbed some one, murdered them, torn the things that make life from the fate that refuses to give them. What is it they pay you,” she went on contemptuously, “at that miserable art school of yours? Sixty pounds a year! How much do you get to eat and drink out of that? What sort of clothes have you to wear? Are you content? Yet even you have been better off than I. You have always your chance. Your play may be accepted or your stories published. I haven’t even had that forlorn hope. But even you, Philip, may wait too long. There are too many laws, nowadays, for life to be lived naturally. If I were a man, a man like you, I’d break them.”
Her taunts apparently moved him no more than the inner tragedy which her words had revealed. He did not for one moment give any sign of abandoning the unnatural calm which seemed to have descended upon him. He took up his hat from the table, and thrust the little brown paper parcel which he had been carrying, into his pocket. His eyes for a single moment met the challenge of hers, and again she was conscious of some nameless, inexplicable fear.
“Perhaps,” he said, as he turned away, “I may do that.”
His hand was upon the latch before she realized that he was actually going. She sprang to her feet. Abuse, scorn, upbraidings, even violence—she had been prepared for all of these. There was something about this self-restraint, however, this strange, brooding silence, which terrified her more than anything she could have imagined.
“Philip!” she shrieked. “You’re not going? You’re not going like this? You haven’t said anything!”
He closed the door with firm fingers. Her knees trembled, she was conscious of an unexpected weakness. She abandoned her first intention of following him, and stood before the window, holding tightly to the sash. He had reached the gate now and paused for a moment, looking up the long, windy street. Then he crossed to the other side of the road, stepped over a stile and disappeared, walking without haste, with firm footsteps, along a cindered path which bordered the sluggish-looking canal. He had come and gone, and she knew what fear was!