He said, “Yes. There’s right and wrong, Nona. Nothing else in between. No compromise. No way of getting round them or over them. You must be either one thing or the other. Once we took a step towards wrong, there it is for ever, and all its horrible things with it—deceit, concealment, falsehood, subterfuge, pretence: vile and beastly things like that. I couldn’t endure them; and I much less could endure thinking I had caused you to suffer them. And then on through that mire to dishonour.—It’s easy, it sounds rather fine, to say the world well lost for love; but honour, honour’s not well lost for anything. You can’t replace it. I couldn’t—”
The austere asylum of their pains. He looked back upon it as he had unfolded it. He looked forward across it as, most stern and bleak, it awaited them. He cried with a sudden loudness, as though he protested, not before her, but before arbitrament in the high court of destiny, “But I cannot help you upward; I can only lead you downward.”
She said, “Upward, Marko. You help me upward.”
Her gentle acquiescence!
There swept upon him, as one reckless in sudden surge of intoxication, most passionate desire to take her in his arms; and on her lips to crush to fragments the barriers of conduct he had in damnable sophistries erected; and in her ears to breathe, “You are beloved to me! Honour, honesty, virtue, rectitude—words, darling, words, words, words! Beloved, let the foundations of the world go spinning, so we have love.”
He called most terribly upon himself, and his self answered him; but shaken by that most fierce onset he said thickly, “I’ll have this. If ever it grows too hard for you, tell me—tell me.”
It must be kept locked. In grievous doubt of his own strength, in loneliness more lonely for his doubt, more deeply, as advancing summer lengthened out his waking solitude, he explored among his inmost thoughts; more eagerly, in relief from their perplexities, turned to the companionship of Fargus and the Perches. How very, very glad they always were to see him! It was the strong happiness they manifested in greeting him that most deeply gave the pleasure he had in their company. He often pondered the fact. It was, in their manifestation of it, as though he brought them something,—something very pleasurable to them and that they much wanted. Certainly he, for his own part, received such from them: a sense of warmth, a kindling of the spirit, a glowing of all his affections and perceptions.
His mind would explore curiously along this train of thought. He came to determine that infinitely the most beautiful thing in life was a face lighting up with the pleasure of friendship: in its apotheosis irradiating with the wonder of love. That frequent idea of his of the “wanting something” look in the faces of half the people one saw: he thought that the greeting of some one loved might