“It’s the only thing possible, isn’t it?” he said. And then he tried to show me that love was everything, and if people loved each other nothing else mattered—religious ceremonies were nothing, the morality of society was nothing, the world and its back-biting was nothing.
The great moment had come for me at last, and though I felt torn between love and pity I had to face it.
“Martin, I . . . I can’t do it,” I said.
He looked steadfastly into my face for a moment, but I dare not look back, for I knew he was suffering.
“You think it would be wrong?”
I tried to say “Yes” again, but my reply died in my throat.
There was another moment of silence and then, in a faltering voice that nearly broke me down, he said:
“In that case there is nothing more to say. . . . There isn’t, is there?”
I made an effort to speak, but my voice would not come.
“I thought . . . as there was no other way of escape from this terrible marriage . . . but if you think . . .”
He stopped, and then coming closer he said:
“I suppose you know what this means for you, Mary—that after all the degradation you have gone through you are shutting the door to a worthier, purer life, and that . . .”
I could bear no more. My heart was yearning for him, yet I was compelled to speak.
“But would it be a purer life, Martin, if it began in sin? No, no, it wouldn’t, it couldn’t. Oh, you can’t think how hard it is to deny myself the happiness you offer me. It’s harder than all the miseries my husband has inflicted upon me. But it wouldn’t be happiness, because our sin would stand between us. That would always be there, Martin—every day, every night, as long as ever we lived. . . . We should never know one really happy hour. I’m sure we should not. I should be unhappy myself and I should make you unhappy. Oh, I daren’t! I daren’t! Don’t ask me, I beg—I beseech you.”
I burst into tears after this, and there was a long silence between us. Then Martin touched my arm and said with a gentleness that nearly broke my heart:
“Don’t cry, Mary. I give in. I find I have no will but yours, dear. If you can bear the present condition of things, I ought to be able to. Let us go back to the house.”
He raised me to my feet and we turned our faces homeward. All the brightness of the day had gone for both of us by this time. The tide was now far out. Its moaning was only a distant murmur. The shore was a stretch of jagged black rocks covered with sea-weed.
Notwithstanding Martin’s tenderness I had a vague fear that he had only pretended to submit to my will, and before the day was over I had proof of it.
During dinner we spoke very little, and after it was over we went out to the balcony to sit on a big oak seat which stood there.