“I am glad you have come,” she began. “I could not be at peace with myself until I had seen you and told you how sorry I am for yesterday, and how deeply ashamed I—”
“There, there. It’s not so bad as all that.” They were still standing, and he took a step nearer to her. “I assure you I can appreciate your side of it; and though, looking at it theoretically, it was the highest conduct, demanding the fullest meed of praise, still, in all frankness, there is much to—to—”
“Much to deplore in it from the social stand-point. And unhappily, we cannot leave the social stand-point out of our reckoning. But so far as I may speak for myself, you have done nothing to feel sorry for or be ashamed of.”
“It is kind of you,” she cried, graciously. “Only it is not true, and you know it is not true. You know that you acted for the best; you know that I hurt you, insulted you; you know that I behaved like a fish-wife, and you do know that I disgusted you—”
“No, no!” He raised his hand as though to ward from her the blows she dealt herself.
“But yes, yes. And I have all reason in the world to be ashamed. I can only say this in defence: the woman had affected me deeply—so deeply that I was close to weeping. Then you came on the scene,—you know what you did,—and the sorrow for her bred an indignation against you, and—well, I worked myself into a nervous condition such as I had never experienced in my life. It was hysteria, I suppose. Anyway, I was not myself.”
“We were neither of us ourselves.”
“Now you are untrue. I did wrong, but you were yourself, as much so then as now. But do be seated. Here we stand as though you were ready to run away at first sign of another outbreak.”
“Surely you are not so terrible!” he laughed, adroitly pulling his chair into position so that the light fell upon her face.
“Rather, you are not such a coward. I must have been terrible yesterday. I—I almost struck you. And you were certainly brave when the whip hung over you. Why, you did not even attempt to raise a hand and shield yourself.”
“I notice the dogs your whip falls among come nevertheless to lick your hand and to be petted.”
“Ergo?” she queried, audaciously.
“Ergo, it all depends,” he equivocated.
“And, notwithstanding, I am forgiven?”
“As I hope to be forgiven.”
“Then I am glad—only, you have done nothing to be forgiven for. You acted according to your light, and I to mine, though it must be acknowledged that mine casts the broader flare. Ah! I have it,” clapping her hands in delight, “I was not angry with you yesterday; nor did I behave rudely to you, or even threaten you. It was utterly impersonal, the whole of it. You simply stood for society, for the type which aroused my indignation and anger; and, as its representative, you bore the brunt of it. Don’t you see?”