“For Heaven’s sake, Tennys, don’t talk like that! The trouble is that I do not regret having saved you. That’s why you see the change in me—that’s why I’ve hurt you. I cannot be to you what I would be—I cannot and be true to myself,” he cried fiercely.
“What do you mean? Why are you so unhappy, Hugh? Have I hurt you?’ she asked, coming quite close in sudden compassion.
“Hurt me!” he exclaimed. “You will kill me!” She paled with the thought that he was delirious again or crazed from the effects of the fever.
“Don’t say that, Hugh. I care more for you than for any one in the world. Why should I hurt you?” she asked tenderly, completely misunderstanding him.
“You don’t mean to, but you do. I have tried to conquer it but I cannot. Don’t you know why I have forced myself to be unhappy during the past few weeks? Can’t you see why I am making you unhappy, too, in my struggle to beat down the something that has driven everything else out of my mind?”
“Don’t talk so, Hugh; it will be all right. Come home now and I will give you some wine and put some cool bandages on your head. You are not well.” She was so gentle, so unsuspecting that he could contain himself no longer.
“I love you—I worship you! That is why I am cruel to you!” he burst out. A weakness assailed him and he leaned dizzily against the tree at his side. He dared not look at her, but he marvelled at her silence. If she loved him, as he believed, why was she so quiet, so still?
“Do you know what you say?” she asked slowly.
“I have said it to myself a thousand times since I left you at the temple. I did not intend to tell you; I had sworn you should never know it. What do you think of me?”
“I thought you called it love that sent you to Manila,” she said wonderingly, wounding without malice.
“It was love, I say. I loved her better than all the world and I have not forgotten her. She will always be as dear to me as she was on the night I lost her. You have not taken her place. You have gone farther and inspired a love that is new, strange, overpowering—infinitely greater, far different from the love I had known before. She was never to me what you are. That is what drives me mad—mad, do you hear? I have simply been overwhelmed by it.”
“I must be dreaming,” she murmured.
“I have tried to hide it from myself, but it has broken down all barriers and floods the world for me.”
“It is because we are here alone in this island—”
“No, no! Not that, I swear. It would have come sooner or later.”
“You are not like other men. I have not thought of you as I see you now. I cannot understand being loved by you. It hurts me to see that you are in earnest. Oh, Hugh, how sorry I am,” she cried, laying her hand upon his arm. His heart dropped like lead. He saw that he had been mistaken—she did not love him.