I gave up my soul to him in that long kiss; all that was me, all that was most secret and precious in me, ascended and poured itself out through my tense lips, and was received by him. I kissed him with myself, with the entire passionate energy of my being—not merely with my mouth. And if I sighed, it was because I tried to give him more—more than I had—and failed. Ah! The sensation of his nearness, the warmth of his face, the titillation of his hair, the slow, luxurious intake of our breaths, the sweet cruelty of his desperate clutch on my shoulders, the glimpses of his skin through my eyelashes when I raised ever so little my eyelids! Pain and joy of life, you were mingled then!
I remembered that I was a woman, and disengaged myself and withdrew from him. I hated to do it; but I did it. We became self-conscious. The brilliant and empty drawing-room scanned us unfavourably with all its globes and mirrors. How difficult it is to be natural in a great crisis! Our spirits clamoured for expression, beating vainly against a thousand barred doors of speech. There was so much to say, to explain, to define, and everything was so confused and dizzily revolving, that we knew not which door to open first. And then I think we both felt, but I more than he, that explanations and statements were futile, that even if all the doors were thrown open together, they would be inadequate. The deliciousness of silence, of wonder, of timidity, of things guessed at and hidden....
‘It makes me afraid,’ he murmured at length.
‘To be loved like that.... Your kiss ... you don’t know.’
I smiled almost sadly. As if I did not know what my kiss had done! As if I did not know that my kiss had created between us the happiness which brings ruin!
‘You do love me?’ he demanded.
I nodded, and sat down.
‘Say it, say it!’ he pleaded.
‘More than I can ever show you,’ I said proudly.
‘Honestly,’ he said, ’I can’t imagine what you have been able to see in me. I’m nothing—I’m nobody—’
‘Foolish boy!’ I exclaimed. ‘You are you.’
The profound significance of that age-worn phrase struck me for the first time.
He rushed to me at the word ‘boy,’ and, standing over me, took my hand in his hot hand. I let it lie, inert.
’But you haven’t always loved me. I have always loved you, from the moment when I drove with you, that first day, from the office to your hotel. But you haven’t always loved me.’
‘No,’ I admitted.
‘Then when did you—? Tell me.’
’I was dull at first—I could not see. But when you told me that the end of Fate and Friendship was not as good as I could make it—do you remember, that afternoon in the office?—and how reluctant you were to tell me, how afraid you were to tell me?—your throat went dry, and you stroked your forehead as you always do when you are nervous—There! you are doing it now, foolish boy!’