“I didn’t understand any of that when you married me, Roddy; it was just like a dream to me—like a fairy story come true. If any one had told me a year ago, that I should ever be anything but perfectly happy in your love for me, I’d have laughed at him. I remember telling Madame Greville that our marriage had turned out well—ended happily. And she did laugh. That was before I’d begun to understand. But I do understand now. I know why it was you could talk to me, back in those days before we were married, about anything under the sun—things ten thousand miles above my head; what it was that fooled me into thinking we were friends as well as lovers. I know why you’ve never been able to talk to me like that since. And I know—this is the worst of all, Roddy,—this is the piece of knowledge that makes it impossible—I know what a good mistress I could make. I know I could make you love me whether you wanted to or not; whether I loved you or not. I could make other men love me, if I could make up my mind to do it—make them tell me all their hopes and dreams, and think I had a fine mind and a wonderful understanding. Oh, it’s too easy—it’s too hatefully easy!
“Do you know why I told you that? Because if you believe it and understand it, you will see why I can’t go on living on your love. Because how can you be sure, knowing that my position in the world, my friends—oh, the very clothes on my back, and the roof over my head, are dependent on your love,—how are you going to be sure that my love for you is honest and disinterested? What’s to keep you from wondering—asking questions? Love’s got to be free, Roddy. The only way to make it free is to have friendship growing alongside it. So, when I can be your partner and your friend, I’ll be your mistress, too. But not—not again, Roddy, till I can find a way. I’ll have to find it for myself. I’ll have to go....”
She broke down there over a word she couldn’t at first say, buried her face in her arms and let a deep racking sob or two have their own way with her. But presently she sat erect again and, with a supreme effort of will, forced her voice to utter the word.
“I’ve got to go somewhere alone—away from you, and stay until I find it. If I ever do, and you want me, I’ll come back.”
ROSE OPENS THE DOOR
The struggle between them lasted a week—a ghastly week, during which, as far as the surface of things showed, their life flowed along in its accustomed channels. It was a little worse than that, really, because the week included, so an ironic Fate had decreed, Thanksgiving Day and a jolly family party at Frederica’s, with congratulations on the past, plans for the future. And Rose and Rodney, as civilized persons will do, kept their faces, accepted congratulations, made gay plans for the twins; smiled or laughed when necessary—somehow or other, got through with it.