And at that very moment he was wondering if he really loved her, if his marriage were a mistake. The passion he had felt when walking with her on the wet country road he felt no longer, only an undefinable sadness and a weariness which he could not understand. He looked at his wife, and fearing that she divined his thoughts, he kissed her. She returned his kiss coldly and he wondered if she loved him. He thought that it was improbable that she did. Why should she love him? He had never loved any one. He had never inspired love in any one, except perhaps Emily.
‘I wonder if you really wished to be married,’ she said.
‘I always wished to be married,’ he replied. ’I hated the Bohemianism I was forced to live in. I longed for a home, for a wife.’
‘You were very poor once?’
’Yes: I’ve lived on tenpence and a shilling a day. I’ve worked in the docks as a labourer. I went down there hoping to get a clerkship on board one of the Transatlantic steamers. I had had enough of England, and thought of seeking fortune elsewhere.’
‘I can hardly believe you worked as a labourer in the docks.’
’Yes; I did. I saw some men going to work, and I joined them. I don’t think I thought much about it at the time. A very little misery rubs all the psychology out of us, and we return more easily than one thinks to the animal.’
’At the end of a week the work began to tell upon me, and I drifted back in search of my manuscript.’
‘But you must have been in a dreadful condition; your clothes——’
’Ah! thereby hangs a tale. An actress lived in one of the houses I had been lodging in.’
‘Oh, tell me about her! This is getting very interesting.’
Then passing his arm round his wife’s neck, and with her sweet blonde face looking upon him, and the insinuating warmth of the fire about them, he told her the story of his failure.
‘But,’ she said, her voice trembling, ’you would not have committed suicide?’
’No man knows beforehand whether he will commit suicide. I can only say that every other issue was closed.’
At the end of a long silence Julia said, ’I wish you hadn’t spoken about suicide. I cannot but think of Emily. If she were to make away with herself! The very possibility turns my heart to ice. What should I do—what should we do? I ought never to have given way; we were both abominably selfish. I can see that poor girl sitting alone in that house grieving her heart out.’
‘You think that we ought never to have given way!’
’I suppose we ought not. I tried very hard, you know I did.... But do you regret?’ she said, looking at him suddenly.
‘No; I don’t regret, but I wish it had happened otherwise.’
‘You don’t fear anything. Nothing will happen. What can happen?’
‘The most terrible things often happen—have happened.’