“He won’t fight, won’t he! He thinks I will die like a rat in a trap with all my life before me. I will not. I offered him a fair chance of revenging himself—I would have fired into the air—and if he won’t take it is his own look-out, damn him! He can shoot me at sight if he likes. Let him.”
ne peut jamais dire.
“Fontaine je ne boirai jamais de ton eau.”
If we could choose our ills we should not choose suspense. Rachel aged perceptibly during these last weeks. Her strong white hands became thinner; her lustreless eyes and haggard face betrayed her. In years gone by she had said to herself, when a human love had failed her, “I will never put myself through this torture a second time. Whatever happens I will not endure it again.”
And now she was enduring it again, though in a different form. There is an element of mother-love in the devotion which some women give to men. In the first instance it had opened the door of Rachel’s heart to Hugh, and had gradually merged, with other feelings, and deepened into the painful love of a woman not in her first youth for a man of whom she is not sure.
Rachel was not sure of Hugh. Of his love for her she was sure, but not of the man himself, the gentle, refined, lovable nature that mutely worshipped and clung to her. She could not repulse him any more than she could repulse a child. But through all her knowledge of him—the knowledge of love, the only true knowledge of our fellow-creatures—a thread of doubtful anxiety was interwoven. She could form some idea how men like Dick, Lord Newhaven, or the Bishop would act in given circumstances, but she could form no definite idea how Hugh would act in the same circumstances. Yet she knew Hugh a thousand times better than any of the others. Why was this? Many women before Rachel have sought diligently to find, and have shut their eyes diligently, lest they should discover what it is that is dark to them in the character of the man they love.
Perhaps Rachel half knew all the time the subtle inequality in Hugh’s character. Perhaps she loved him all the better for it. Perhaps she knew that if he had been without a certain undefinable weakness he would not have been drawn towards her strength. She was stronger than he, and perhaps she loved him more than she could have loved an equal.