“Oh, yes,” he said slowly, “I know. They’re even reported engaged. Perhaps they are.”
There was a long silence. We were sitting in the library late one night, a month at least after he had returned, reading and talking by turns.
“She wasn’t worthy of you. Jerry,” I remarked.
“No, that’s not true,” he said, a hand shading his eyes from the lamplight. “It would be a poor creature that wouldn’t be worthy of such a beast as I. But she tried me, Roger, terribly.”
“She tempted you purposely. It was a game. I saw it. But you, poor blind Jerry—”
“Yes, blind and worse than blind, deaf to the appeals of my friends—you and—and Una, who saw where I did not. Marcia had promised to marry me, Roger, to be my wife. Do you understand what such a promise meant to me then? All ideals and clean thoughts. I worshiped her, did not even dare to touch her—until—Oh, I kissed her, Roger. She taught me—many things, little things, innocent they seemed in themselves at the time, but dangerous to my body and to my soul. I knew nothing. I was like a new-born babe. My God! Roger—if only you had told me! If you had told me—”
“I couldn’t then, Jerry,” I said softly. “It would have been too late. You wouldn’t have believed—”
“No,” he muttered, “you’re right. I wouldn’t have believed anything against her at the time or found a real meaning in the truth. She could have done no wrong. Then I saw her kissing that fellow—you remember? I think the change came in me then, my vision. I seemed to see things differently without knowing why. Rage possessed me, animal rage. I saw red. I wanted to kill.”
He rose and paced the length of the room with great strides.
“I mustn’t, Roger. I can’t say more. It’s impossible.”
I was silent. A reaction had come.
DRYAD AND SATYR
Little by little the story came from him. Perhaps I urged him but I think the larger impelling motive to speak was his conscience which drove him on to confession. He needed another mind, another heart, to help him bear his burden. And the years had taught him that the secrets of his lips were mine. I could be as silent, when I chose, as a mummy. He had not named me old Dry-as-dust for nothing.