“‘Marriage!’ she said, ‘My God!’ It was almost as though I had uttered a sacrilege.
“I pleaded with her gently, but she shook me off. A fearful change had come over her. She drew away and looked at me with alien eyes.
“‘Marriage!’ she repeated. ‘You!’
“‘Marry me tomorrow, Marcia—’
“She thrust her naked arms in front of her, their tatters flying, the rags of her honor.
“‘Oh, God! How I loathe you!’
“‘Go away from me. Go!’
“She put her arm before her eyes as though to shut out the sight of me.
“‘For God’s sake, go,’ she repeated, with words that cut like knives. ‘Leave me alone, alone.’
“‘I must see you—tomorrow.’
“She turned on me furiously.
“‘No, no, no,’ she screamed, ’not tomorrow—or ever. It would kill me to see you. Kill me. Go away—never comeback. Do you hear? Never! Never!’
“She was in a harrowing condition now, mad where I was quite sane. There was nothing left for me to do. I turned as in a daze into the woods and wandered around as though only half-awake, stupidly trying to plan. At last I went back to the spring. Marcia had gone—gone out of my life—
“That’s all, Roger. I wrote to her from New York, from Manitoba, from the ranch in Colorado, repeating my offer of marriage, but she has never answered me. You know the rest—” a slow and rather bitter smile crossed his features. “She goes about—with Lloyd—and others. She is gay. Her picture is in the papers and magazines—at hunt-meets—bazaars. She has forgotten—and I—No, I can never forget. She will dwell with me all the days I live. I can’t forget or forgive—myself. Why, Roger, the Mission—the place that I’m giving money to support—to keep those women. You understand—I know now. She might be one of them and I—I would have brought her there.”
I had been stricken dumb by the fearful revelation of Jerry’s sin. I was silent, thinking of new words of comfort for him and for myself—for I was not innocent—but they would not come, and Jerry rose and walked the length of the room. “I’ve got to get away from it all again—somewhere. I can’t stay here. Everything brings it all back. I’m going away.”
“Going, Jerry? Where?”
“I don’t know. I’ve made a kind of plan. But I mustn’t tell. I don’t want you to know or anyone. But I’ve got to leave here.” He smiled a little as he saw the anxious look in my eyes. “Oh, don’t worry. I’m going to be all right, I don’t drink, you know.”
I think he was really a little proud of that admission.
“Are you sure, Jerry,” I asked after awhile, “that you care nothing for Marcia?”
He took a turn up and down the room before he replied. And then, quite calmly:
“It’s curious, Roger. She has gone out of my life. Gone like—like a burned candle. I do not love her, nor ever could again, and yet I would marry her tomorrow if she would have me. I wrote her again yesterday, and I’m going to try to see her in New York. But I’ll fail. My face would always be a reproach to her. I know. She is like that—bitter. I don’t know that I can blame her.”