“I merely wanted—”
“I didn’t,” he broke in impetuously. “No, no, I didn’t. Why, Marcia, it wouldn’t have been possible—we were merely friends. Don’t think I’ve ever kissed Una, and don’t ever believe she would let me. She wouldn’t. She’s not in love with me. She wouldn’t let me, if I wanted to.”
“And you don’t want to?”
“No, no. I never think about her in that way. I can’t. She’s different from you. You allure me. It’s subtle. I can’t explain. I want to take you in my arms and yet I don’t dare, for fear that I may crush you. I might, Marcia. I’m afraid. Just now, the thought of my strength frightened me. Don’t let me kiss you like that again, Marcia.”
“I’m not afraid,” I heard her whisper. “Kiss me again, Jerry.”
But he didn’t. Apparently he still stood before her at a distance, fearsome of he knew not what.
“Jerry!” she murmured again, in a little tone of petulance.
“Marcia, we—we should be going on,” he muttered.
“Ah, Jerry, not yet,” she sighed. “Isn’t it wonderful that there’s no quarrel between us? Just you and I, Jerry, here, alone, like the first man and woman—alone in the world. There’s no man in it but you, no woman but me, we’re mated, Jerry, like the birds. Don’t you hear them singing? The woods are alive with songs of love. And you, Jerry, you stand there staring at me with those great, timid eyes of yours. Why do you stare at me so? Are you frightened? I think that I am stronger than you. It is love that makes me strong. Come to me, Jerry. Kiss me, again.”
“Marcia!” he gasped. And then another silence.
“I love you, Jerry.”
“Will you marry me? Tomorrow!”
“Marriage, Jerry? Yes, some day—”
“Aren’t you satisfied—with this? The wonder of it.”
“But I have no right. I can’t explain. It’s desecration!”
“A sacrament!” she said.
“You said so.”
“Not this, Marcia. A sacrament should be gentle. I want to be gentle in my thoughts of you. But I can’t, not now. I could strangle you if you let another man do this, and kill—”
“I love you—when you talk like that. Strangle me if you like, kill me, I’m yours—”
I think that to Marcia, this was the greatest moment of her strange passion. Fear was its dominant motive, Jerry’s innocence its inspiration. If he had crushed the breath from her body, I think she would have died rapturously. But Jerry, it seems, tore himself from her and moved some distance away, I think, his head bent into the hollow of his arm, torn between his emotions. I would have given all that I possessed on earth to have caught a glimpse of her face at that moment. Flushed with victory of course—but passion—Bah! I couldn’t believe her capable of it. If she had been wholly animal I might have forgiven her