But she only closed her eyes and shook her head, standing there, slim and tear-stained in her ruffled, wine-stained dinner dress. And, watching her, he retreated, one step after another, slowly; and slowly closed the door, and went out into the dawn, weary, haggard, the taste of life bitter in his mouth.
“What a spectacle,” he sneered, referring to himself, “the vicious god from the machine! Chorus of seraphim. Apotheosis of little Miss Turveydrop——”
He swayed a trine as he walked, but it was not from the wine.
A policeman eyed him unfavourably,
“No,” said Berkley, “I’m not drunk. You think I am. But I’m not. And I’m too tired to tell you how I left my happy, happy home.”
In the rosy gray of the dawn he sat down on the steps of his new lodgings and gazed quietly into space.
“This isn’t going to help,” he said. “I can stand years of it yet. And that’s much too long.”
He brooded for a few moments.
“I hope she doesn’t write me again. I can’t stand everything.”
He got up with an ugly, oblique glance at the reddening sky.
“I’m what he’s made me—and I’ve got to let her alone. . . . Let her alone. I—” He halted, laid his hand heavily on the door, standing so, motionless.
“If I—go—near her, he’ll tell her what I am. If he didn’t, I’d have to tell her. There’s no way—anywhere—for me. And he made me so. . . . And—by God! it’s in me—in me—to—to—if she writes again—” He straightened up, turned the key calmly, and let himself in.
Burgess was asleep, but Berkley went into his room and awoke him, shining a candle in his eyes.
“Suppose you knew you could never marry a woman. Would you keep away from her? Or would you do as much as you could to break her heart first?”
Burgess yawned: “Yes, sir.”
“You’d do all you could?”
There was a long silence; then Berkley laughed. “They drowned the wrong pup,” he said pleasantly. “Good night.”
But Burgess was already asleep again.
And now at last she knew what it was she feared. For she was beginning to understand that this man was utterly unworthy, utterly insensible, without character, without one sympathetic trait that appealed to anything in her except her senses.
She understood it now, lying there alone in her room, knowing it to be true, admitting it in all the bitter humiliation of self-contempt. But even in the light of this new self-knowledge her inclination for him seemed a thing so unreasonable, so terrible, that, confused and terrified by the fear of spiritual demoralisation, she believed that this bewildering passion was all that he had ever evoked in her, and fell sick in mind and body for the shame of it.