Something, then, to appease the wrath of God; something to blunt this persistent agony. It was not necessary to appease the wrath of human society; it was necessary only to appease that of God for the broken Commandment. To divide the agony into two spheres so that one would mitigate the other. In fine, to marry Ruth (if she would consent) as a punishment for what he had done! To whip his soul so long as he lived, but to let his body go free! To provide for her, to work and dream for her, to be tender and thoughtful and loyal, to shelter and guard her, to become accountable to God for her future.
It was the sing-song girl idea, magnified many diameters. In this hour its colossal selfishness never occurred to him.
So, then, when McClintock offered the coveted haven, Spurlock became afire to dramatize the idea.
She had gone to the door, aimlessly, without purpose. All the sombre visions she had been pressing back, fighting out of her thoughts, swarmed over the barrier and crushed her. She did not want to go to the doctor’s people; however kindly that might be, they would be only curious strangers. She would never return to her father; that resolution was final. What she actually wanted was the present state of affairs to continue indefinitely.
That is what terrified her: the consciousness that nothing in her life would be continuous, that she would no sooner form friendships (like the present) than relentless fate would thrust her into a new circle. All the initial confidence in herself was gone; her courage was merely a shell to hide the lack. To have the present lengthen into years! But in a few hours she would be upon her way, far lonelier than she had ever been. As Spurlock called her name, she paused and turned.
“Dawn Pearl!... come here!”
She moved to the side of the bed. “What is it?”
“Can’t you see? Together, down there; you and I!... As my wife! Both of us, never to be lonely again!... Will you marry me, Ruth?”
As many a wiser woman had done, Ruth mistook thrilling eagerness for love. Love and companionship. A fire enveloped her, a fire which was strangely healing, filling her heart with warmth, blotting out the menace of the world. She forgot her vital hatred of the South Seas; she forgot that McClintock’s would not differ a jot from the old island she had for ever left behind her; she forgot all the doctor’s lessons and warnings.
She would marry him. Because of the thought of love and companionship? No. Because here was the haven for which she had been blindly groping: the positive abolition of all her father’s rights in her—the right to drag her back. The annihilation of the Terror which fascinated her and troubled her dreams o’ nights.
“You want me, then?” she said.
“Oh, yes!—for always!”
He took her hands and pressed them upon his thrumming heart; and in this attitude they remained for some time.