But she was not well. Through those first hours, and through most of the hours of the night that followed, the knowledge of the insidious disease that was hers was the high, hard wall against which I struck at every turn of thought, at every possibility at which I grasped, and in the dawn of a new day I knew I must not go away.
It was not easy to surrender. Always my two selves are fighting and I wanted much to know more of life than I could know in the costly shelter, controlled by custom and convention, wherein I lived. I had long been looking through stained glass. I was restless to get out and see clearly, to know all sorts of people, all conditions of life, and the chance had seemed within my grasp—and now it must be given up.
There are times when I am heedless of results, when I am daring and audacious and count no cost, but that is only where I alone am concerned. When it comes to making decisions which affect others I am a coward. I lack the courage to have my own way at the expense of some one else; and though through the night I protested stormily, if inwardly, that I was not meant for gilded cages, but for contact, for encounter, I knew I should yield in the end.
The next day I told her I would not go away. She said nothing save she hardly thought I had entirely lost my senses, but the thing I am gladdest to remember since her death is the look that came into her eyes when I told her. For two years longer I lived with her, years for her of practical invalidism, and for me of opportunity to do for her what she had never permitted me to do before. Two weeks after Kitty’s marriage she died suddenly, and at times I still shiver with the cold clamminess that came over me as I stood by her in her last sleep and realized my aloneness in the world. My parents had died in my early childhood. I had no brothers or sisters, no near relatives, save an uncle who lived abroad and some cousins here in town. Mr. Chesmond was very kind, but I could not continue to accept what he had willingly given his wife’s adopted child, and Kitty no longer needed me. It is a fearful feeling, this sense of belonging to no one, of having no one belonging to you. Lest it overwhelm me, I went at once to work upon the house in Scarborough Square left me by Aunt Matilda, together with an annuity of a thousand dollars. Already it means much to me. For a while, at least, it is a haven, a shelter, a home. What it may prove—
I have been thinking much to-day of Aunt Matilda. Perhaps it is because Selwyn was here last night. She was afraid I would marry him.
I did not tell Selwyn I was coming to Scarborough Square to live. I told no one. The day after I reached here I sent him a note, giving him my new address.
His answer was short and stiff. He was leaving town on a business trip and would see me on his return, he wrote, and as I read what was not written between what was I was glad he was going away. It would give him time to cool off. I am beyond Selwyn’s comprehension. We should not be friends, we are so apart in many matters. But compatible people must find life dull. Selwyn and I are never dull.