He had desired her to look at him, but it was he who had turned away. He sat with his head between his hands, his elbows on his knees.
She repeated, with rather a plaintive note, as though in his pose she saw some pain she had caused him, “You see, I had known you all my life, Marko—”
He said, still looking upon the ground between his feet, “But you haven’t explained anything. You’ve only told me. You haven’t explained why.”
She said with astounding simplicity, “Well, you see, Marko, I made a mistake. I made a most frightful mistake. I chose. I chose wrong. I ought to have married you, Marko.”
And his words were a groan. “Nona—Nona—”
He was presently walking back, returning to Tidborough.
He was trying very hard, all his life’s training against sudden unbridling of his bridled passions, to grapple his mind back from its wild and passionate desires and from its amazed coursings upon the immense prairies, teeming with hazards, fears, enchantments, hopes, dismays, that broke before this hour as breaks upon the hunter’s gaze, amazingly awarded from the hill, savannas boundless, new, unpathed,—from these to grapple back his mind to its schooled thought and ordered habit, to its well-trodden ways of duty, obligation, rectitude. He had not left them. But for that cry of her name wrung from him by sudden application of pain against whose shock he was not steeled, he had answered nothing to her lamentable disclosure. This which he now knew, these violent passions which now he felt, but lit for him more whitely the road his feet must take. If he had ever tried consciously to see his life and Mabel’s from Mabel’s point of view, now, when his mind threatened disloyalty to her, he must try. And would! The old habit, the old trick of seeing the other side, acted never so strongly upon him as when unkindness appeared to lie in his own attitude. Unkindness was unfairness and unfairness was above all qualities the quality he could not tolerate. And here was unfairness, open, monstrous, dishonourable.
Mabel should not feel it.
But he was aware, he was informed as by a voice in his ears, “You have struck your tents. You are upon the march.”
He approached the town. The school lay in this quarter and his way ran through its playing fields and its buildings. Nature in her moods much fashioned his thoughts when he walked the countryside or rode his daily journey on his bicycle. He now carried his thoughts into her mood that stood about him.