“Convention!” My hands made impatient gesture. “It’s the drag-net of human effort, the shelter within which cowards run to cover. In its place it has purpose, but its place, for convenience sake, has been immensely magnified. And why is convention limited to women?”
It was childish—my outburst—and, ashamed of it, I started to go in, then turned and again looked at Selwyn. Into his face had come something I could not understand, something that involved our future friendship, and, frightened, I leaned against the iron railing of the little porch and gripped it with hands behind my back.
“Selwyn!” The words came unsteadily. “Have you nothing to say to me, Selwyn? Don’t you know that I know the girl with you to-night was the girl who—who we brought in here last night? If you knew her, why—”
Staring at me as if not understanding, Selwyn came closer. In his eyes was puzzled questioning, but as they held mine they filled with something of horror, and over his face, which had been white and worn, spread deep and crimson flush. “You don’t mean— God in heaven! Do you think the girl is anything to me?”
I did not answer, and, turning, he went down the steps and I into the house.
For the past ten days I have been a very restless person. Mrs. Mundy looks at me out of the corners of her kind and keen and cheery little eyes when she does not think I am noticing, but she asks me nothing. Mrs. Mundy is the wisest woman I know.
If only I could sleep! During the days I am busy, but I dread the long nights when questions crowd that, fight as I may, I cannot keep from asking. Selwyn is my friend. I never doubt a friend. But why does he not come to me? Why does he not make clear that which he must know is inexplicable to me?
I may never marry Selwyn, but certainly I shall marry no one else. How could we hope for happiness when we feel so differently toward much that is vital, when our attitude to life is as apart as the poles? When each thinks the other wrong in points of view and manner of living? Selwyn was born in a house with high walls around it. He likes its walls. He does not care for many to come in, and cares still less to go outside to others. Few people interest him. All sorts interest me. We are both selfish and stubborn, but both hate that which is not clean and clear, and save from his own lips I would not believe that in his life is aught of which he could not tell me.
I have never told him I loved him, never promised to marry him. To live in his high-walled house with its conventional customs, its age-dimmed portraits, its stiff furnishings, and shut-out sunshine, would stifle every cell in brain and lungs, and to marry him would be to marry his house. I hate his house, hate the aloofness, the lack of sympathy it represents. Its proud past I can appreciate, but not its useless present. Save his brother Harrie, it is the one thing of his old life left Selwyn. At the death of his father he bought Harrie’s interest and it is all his now. I would not ask him to live elsewhere, but I would choke and smother did I live in his house. And yet—