“Conceited!” she exclaimed.
“It wasn’t that,” he protested. “It was simply when I sat down in that little room, high up over the roofs and buildings of a strange city, shut myself in and told myself that it was for you—well, the thoughts came too easily. They tumbled over one another. And when I looked away from my work, I saw the people moving around me, and I knew that I had made my dreams real, and that’s the great thing, isn’t it?... Elizabeth!”
“I am lonely in that little room.”
“You lonely, taking out typewriters to dine!” she mocked tenderly.
“It is lonely,” he repeated, “and I am afraid of you here in all this luxury. I am so far away. I come from my attic to this, and I am afraid. Do you know why?”
She sat quite still for a moment. Dimly she felt the presage of a coming change in their relations. Up to now she had been the mistress, she had held him so easily in check with her practised skill, with an unfinished sentence, a look, a touch. And now the man was rising up in him, and she felt her powers weaken.
“Shall I change my abode?” she murmured.
“Ah! but you would be just as wonderful and as far away even if we changed places—if you sat in my attic and I took your place here. That isn’t why I torture myself, why I am always asking myself if you are real, if the things we talk about are real, if the things we feel belong to ourselves, well up from our own hearts for one another or are just the secondary emotions of other people we catch up without knowing why. This is foolish, but you understand—you do understand. It is because you keep me so far away from yourself, when my fingers are burning for yours, when even to touch your face, to feel your cheek against mine, would banish every fear I have ever had. Elizabeth, you do understand! I have never kissed you, I have never held you for one moment in my arms—and I love you!”
He was leaning over her chair and she held him tightly by the shoulders. There was nothing left of that hidden fear in his dark eyes. They shone now with another light, and she began to tremble.
“I wanted to wait a little, Philip, but if you feel like that—well, I can’t.”
He took her silently into his arms. With the half closing of her eyes, the first touch of her responsive lips, himself dimly conscious of the change, he passed into the world where stronger men live.
Three months later, a very different Philip stood in the smaller of a handsome suite of reception rooms in a fashionable Fifth Avenue hotel. He was wearing evening clothes of the most approved cut and carried himself with a dignity and assurance entirely transforming. The distinction of birth and breeding, little apparent in those half-starved, passionate days of his misery, had come easily to the surface. His shoulders, too, seemed to have broadened, and his face had lost its cadaverous pallor.