“I can’t, that is all. After what you’ve said—after what you’ve been so generous to tell me that you thought of me, I—couldn’t. I’ll write it.”
He threw the pieces of the switch away into the grass.
“You’re going to be married?” he muttered. “You’re in love, you’re engaged to some one else?”
“No, no, it’s not that. Please don’t ask me. I’m not engaged to be married.”
“You’re married already?” He leant forward, bending over her, the words clicking on his tongue.
“No—no—not even that.”
“Then, what is it?”
She looked up to his eyes and let him read them. Then he stood upright—slowly stood erect. His cheeks were patched with white, there was a sweat on his forehead. He wiped it off with his hand.
“My God!” he whispered. “You, you? Great God, no!”
He turned, strode a few steps away from her, and stood looking down into the grass. She could hear him muttering. For a little time she waited, head bent, expectant of the sudden bursting of his revolt against the truth. But it never came. His silence was more pregnant with rebuke than speech could ever have been. She bore with it until she thought she had given him full opportunity to rail against her had he wished, then she walked slowly away, the unconquerable sickness in her heart. She walked slowly; but she did not look back. Would he follow her? Would he? Would he? She reached the gap in the hedge. Then she turned her head. He was still standing where she had left him, gazing down into the forest of grass stems.
This ended her life at Cailsham. How could she remain, how face the reproach, no matter what effort she knew he would make to conceal it, which at any moment she might find herself compelled to meet in the eyes of Wilfrid Grierson? Cailsham was too small a place, the little set in which her mother moved too narrow and confined to ever hope of avoiding it. This must end her life at Cailsham.
With the readiness of this realization, then, why had she told? Cry the woman a fool! She was a fool. Most good women are. But just as the matter is vital in the mind of a man, so is it in the woman the crucial test of honour. A thousand reasons—her happiness—the happiness of content,—the sheltering of her name, the sheltering of her position, all the cared-for security of her life to follow—these can be placed in the scale, weighty arguments against that little drachm of abstract honour, to plead for her silence. A thousand times she could have been justified in saying nothing; but had she done so she would have been a different woman. Fine things must be done sometimes; mean things will be done always. There are men and women to do them both.