“I don’t want to look into the future,” she said bravely. “I hate looking into the future. I’m happy in the present; why shouldn’t I remain so?”
“How will this prevent you? Doesn’t it appeal to you at all, that when we came to live together, I took up a certain responsibility with you? I’ve got to fulfil that responsibility. This evening, when we go back, I’m going to draw out some form of settlement which I intend to place with you. I shall take it to my solicitor and get it legalized to-morrow morning.”
She leant forward across the table and touched his hand again. Her lips were trembling; her whole face, which only a few moments before was bright with cheerfulness, was now drawn, pinched with the suffering and terror in her mind.
“Please don’t,” she said brokenly. “Please don’t. I don’t want any settlement as long as you care for me. What is a settlement to me if, as you say, you were to die? What good would it be to me then? Do you think I could bear to go On living?”
He searched her face with amazement. “You mustn’t talk foolishness like this,” he replied firmly, but not unkindly. “We’ve all got our own lives to get through. We’ve all got to answer for them one by one, and live them one by one as well. There’s no condition of relationship in existence, which can make a man and a woman one person except in their imaginations and according to the fairy tales of the Church. You’re a dear, simple, little child to talk about not being able to go on living if I were to peg out; but you would. You’d go on living. There’s no doubt in my mind, but that you’d love some one else again.”
“You little understand me,” she exclaimed bitterly, “if you could ever think that.”
“Well—in that respect, at least, I believe I understand human nature; and in that respect, too, I imagine it must be a surer criterion from which to judge of such matters. I don’t insist upon it as a certainty—I only suppose it possible. But in any event you would want money to live upon, and my mind is quite made up that I ought to make a settlement on you. Why should you not want me to—eh? Why?”
She hung her head. To tell him, when she had no definite proof that he had thought of leaving her, might be to put the thought into his mind. She could not tell him. But pride did not enter the matter in the least. If it could have served her purpose in any way, she would willingly have let him know that she counted it possible for him to desert her. But the fear that it might create a suggestion to his consciousness which hitherto had not existed, locked the words in her lips. She would not have uttered them for a crown of wealth.
“Why?” he repeated. “Eh?”
“I’d rather you didn’t,” she said, with trouble in voice. “I’d rather you didn’t—that’s all.”
“Well—I’m afraid it’s got to be,” he replied finally. “In my mind it’s not fair to you, and I’m determined that where you’re concerned, I shall have nothing with which to reproach myself. I shall draw it up this evening when we go back.”