“No, no! It is not that! Please don’t be foolish again, Hugh. You will make me very unhappy.”
“But you do love me. You love me, and you do not know it,” he said, thrilled with exultation. She looked at him wonderingly, a half scornful, half dubious smile flitting over her face.
“I will try to be patient with you. Don’t you think I know my own mind?” she asked.
“No; you do not,” he said vigorously. “Let me ask you a few questions, and I beg of you, for your own sake and mine, to answer them without equivocation. I’ll prove to you that you love me.”
“Who is to be the judge?” she asked merrily. She trembled and turned cold as he took her hand in his and—she was not merry.
“First, is there another man in the world that you would rather have here? Answer, dear.” The blood mounted to her cheek at the term of endearment.
“Not one,” she answered firmly, trying to smile.
“Have you never thought—be honest, now—that you don’t want to leave the island because it would mean our separation?”
“Yes, but—but it would be the same with anybody else if I cared for him,” she exclaimed quickly.
“But there is no one else, is there?” She looked at him helplessly. “Answer!”
“Oh, Hugh, I—it would not be right for me to encourage you by answering that. Please let us go back to the village,” she pleaded.
“Well, I know there is no one else. Tell me that you don’t want to leave me because we should drift apart in the big world,” he persisted.
“I had thought of that,” she said so low that he could barely hear.
“You have prayed that Grace may be alive. What would it mean to you if she should be alive and we should be reunited?”
“I—I don’t know,” she muttered blankly.
“Would you be willing and happy to give me up to her?”
“I never thought of that,” she said. Then a terror leaped to her eyes and her breast heaved as with pain. “Oh, Hugh, what would that mean to me? I could not give you up—I could not!” she cried, clasping his hand feverishly in both of hers.
“Would you be glad to see us married, to see us living together, to see children come to us? Would you be happy if I forgot you in my love for her?” he went on remorselessly, yet delightedly.
“You couldn’t forget me,” she whispered, faint and trembling now. “You don’t mean to say I never could be near you again!” There was dismay in her face and a sob in her voice.
“Oh, occasionally, but in a very formal way.”
“I believe I should die,” she cried, unable to restrain herself.
“You admit then that you want me for yourself only,” he said.
“Yes, yes I do, Hugh! I want you every minute of my life!”