He thought, “No, that wasn’t laughing at me. Not that. No, it wasn’t. Not that—nor any of it. What did she mean when she said ‘There!’ like that when she gave me her hand when she first came in? And took off her glove first. What did she mean when she said she had to come? ’Well, I had to come,’ she said.—What did she mean when she said she was flotsam?—Flotsam! Why? Made me angry in my voice when I asked her. I said, ‘How can you be flotsam?’ And how the devil can she?—Nona, with Tybar, flotsam? But she said it. I said, ’How can you be flotsam, the life you’ve—taken?’ I didn’t mean to say ‘taken’ like that. I meant to have said ‘the life you’ve got, you live.’ But I meant taken, chosen. She did take it, deliberately. She chose between us. I might almost have heard her choose ‘Marko or Tybar? Oh, dash it—Tybar.’ I never reproached her, not by a look. I saw her point of view. My infernal failing, even then. Not by a look I ever reproached her. I thought I’d forgotten it, absolutely. But I haven’t. It came out in that moment that I haven’t. ‘The life you’ve—taken!’ I meant it to sting. Damn me, it did sting. That look she gave! As if I had struck her.—What rot! How could it sting her? How could she mind? Only if she regretted.—Is it likely?”
He thought, “But is she happy? Is it all what it appears between them? That remark she made to that woman and the extraordinary way she said it. ‘You never forget you’re married, do you?’ Amazing thing to say, the way she said it. What did she mean? And that woman. She said something like, ‘Nor you, do you?’ and looked at me and then at Tybar. And Tybar looked—at Nona, at me, as if he’d got some joke, some mock....”
He thought, “What rot! She chose. She knew he was her sort. She knew I wasn’t. She chose deliberately....”
Clearly, as it were yesterday, he remembered the day she had declared to him her choice. In the Cathedral cloisters. Walking together. And suddenly, in the midst of indifferent things, she told him, “I say, Marko, I’m going to marry Lord Tybar.”
And his reply, the model of indifference. “Are you, Nona?”
Nothing else said of it between them. There would certainly have been more discussion if she had said she was going to buy a packet of hairpins. And his thought had immediately been, not this nor that nor the other of a hundred thoughts proper to a blow so stunning, but merely and immediately and precisely that he would tell his father Yes to what that very morning he had told him No,—that he would go into the Fortune, East and Sabre business. Extraordinary effect from such a cause! Grotesque. Paradoxical. Going into Fortune, East and Sabre meant “settling down”; marriage conventionally involved settling down; yet, while he had visioned marriage with Nona, settling down had been the last thing in the world to think of,—because he projected marriage with Nona, he had that very morning rejected settling down. He was not to marry her; therefore, yes, he would settle down. Amazing. He had not realised how amazing till now.