“Not in normal circumstances; not when he can give as much as he takes.”
“Hynds House,” I said, “is costing me a steep and bitter price, Mr. Jelnik!”
“Do I not also pay?” he asked fiercely.
“Oh, you have your pride!” said I, wearily; “Hynds pride!”
“A poor enough possession, Sophy, but all that remains to me,” he said gently. “Is it a light thing for Nicholas Jelnik to say to the woman he loves, ‘I cannot marry you: I am a beggar’? Is it such a small sacrifice to give you up, Sophy?”
“It would appear so.”
“You crucify me!” he said, in a choking voice. “Good God, don’t you understand that I love you?”
“I don’t understand anything, except that you are going away from me. And I have waited for you all my life,” I said.
“And I for you! and I for you!” he said passionately. “Don’t make it too hard for me, Sophy!”
“If you go away from me,” I gasped, “I think I shall die. Nicholas—I can’t bear it! It was easier for me when I thought you loved somebody else. But now that I know you love me” and I paused.
He took a step forward, but stopped. His arms fell to his sides.
“Not as a beggar!” he said. “Not as a beggar! Never that, for Nicholas Jelnik! I love you too much for that, Sophy. I love you not only for yourself, but for my own best self, too, my dearest.”
For a moment he stood there, regarding me fixedly. It was a long look, of suffering, of love, of pride, of unyielding resolve. Then he lifted my hand to his lips, bowed, and left me.
I sat staring over the garden. I wondered if, somewhere on the other side of things, Great-Aunt Sophronisba wasn’t snickering.
“My faith, but I’m glad you’re entirely well again, Sophy!” wrote The Author, in his small, fine, hypercritical script. “You make the world a pleasanter place by being alive in it. People like you should inculcate in themselves the fixed and unalterable habit of being alive. They should firmly refuse to be anything else. I call this to your attention, in the hope that you will see your bounden duty and do it.
“When I thought you were going to quit, I ran away. That was a calamity I could not stand by and witness, without disaster. However, Jelnik stayed!
“Your nurse (I do not like Miss Ransome, though I respect, admire, and fear her. Her emotions are carbolized, her heart is sterilized, her personality has the mathematical perfection of something turned out by a super-machine: like, say, the last word in machine-guns. None of the divine imperfection of your hand-wrought, artist-stuff there! I forgive her for existing, because she is intelligent and useful, two things that, without lying like a Christian and a gentleman, one may not say of many women, and seldom of one woman at the same time), your nurse gave me