The silence that came between them was broken by Mantel, who looked up at him with a trace of the old ironical smile on his face.
“Your plans are all right as far as they go, but it seems to me the hardest part of the tangle still remains to be unraveled.”
“What do you mean?” asked David.
“What are you going to do about this beautiful Pepeeta?”
“Oh, I have settled that, too! You do not know how clearly I see it all. It is as if a fog had lifted from the ocean, and the sailor had found himself inside the harbor. I shall write and tell her all.”
“Do you mean that you will tell her that her husband is alive?”
“And perhaps you will advise her to return to him!”
“You are right, I shall.”
Mantel shook his head.
“You do not think it best?” said David.
“I do not know.”
“But there is nothing else to do.”
“It is natural that I should see only the difficulties.”
“What difficulties can there be?”
“Will you do anything more than destroy her by binding her once more to the man she loathes?”
“You do not know Pepeeta.”
“It is true, I only know human nature.”
“But she is more than human!”
“And are you?”
“Then how will you endure to see her once more the wife of your enemy and rival?”
“Mantel,” said David, pausing in his restless walk across the room, “I do not wonder that you ask this. It was the first question that I asked myself. It struck my heart like the blow of a hammer. But I have settled it. I have weighed the pains which I have suffered in a just and even balance. I know I cannot escape suffering, whichever way I turn. I have felt the pains of doing wrong, and I now deliberately choose the pains of doing right, let them be what they will!”
“It is easy to scorn the bitterness of an untasted cup.”
“No matter! I have settled it. It must be done.”
Mantel shrugged his shoulders and said, “I am afraid that the great Joker of whom we were talking yesterday is about to perpetrate another of his jests.”
“You think it absurd, then?”
“I regard it as impossible.”
“Because you are making a plan to act as if you were a disembodied conscience. You have forgotten that you still have the passions of a man. I fear there will be another tragedy as dark as the first. But if you are determined, I must obey you. I never know how to act for myself; but if some one wishes me to act for him I can do so without fear, even if I am compelled to do so without hope.”