“Don’t you think I’m branded plainly enough already? What do you think a man like Devenish thinks of me?”
“Oh, Devenish be damned! There are other men than Devenish in the world. Men who know nothing; men who’d be ready to marry you.”
“Yes, I found one—one who thought me everything—everything till I told him.”
“You told him?”
“In the name of God, what for? You must be crazy. What the deuce did you want to tell him for?”
“It was the only fair thing to do,” she said quietly.
“Fair? Rot! That’s chucking your chances away. That’s playing the fool! What’s he got to do with your life before you met him?” This was flinging the blame at him.
“Would you rather that the woman you were going to marry kept silent, risked your not finding out afterwards? Would you think she’d treated you fairly if she said nothing, and you were to discover it when it was too late?”
He had no answer. He tried to make one. His lips parted; then, in silence, he turned away.
“It might have made your mind easier,” she said quietly, without tone of blame, “but it wouldn’t have been fair.”
He twisted back. “There’s no need for my mind to be made easier,” he said hardly. “I’ve treated you fairly from the beginning to the end. I warned you in the first instance; I told you to have no truck with me. I sent you away. You came back. I didn’t ask you to come back.”
Janet’s words flashed across Sally’s memory; the words she had said when they were talking over the bangle: “I don’t care what you say about that letter, the letter’s nothing! It’s the gift that’s the thing. That’s the song of sex if you like, and whether you return it, or whether you don’t, you’ll answer it, as he means you to.”
It was on the edge of her mind to repeat them then to him, but she refrained. It was better then, at that moment, to let him think that he had no cause to blame himself.
“No, my mind’s perfectly easy,” he added. “Thank God, I don’t pose for a paragon; I’ve got the beast in me all right, but I’ve treated you square—absolutely square.”
Her fingers clutched. To win her desires she must let him think so. And perhaps he had treated her square; she supposed he had.
“Then help me not to be lonely now,” she begged. She could see the wave of repulsion beat across his face, but even that did not deter her. “Oh, I don’t mean that you should come back and live with me,” she went on. “It isn’t for that. You can’t—you surely can’t hate me as much as all that.” It was not in her knowledge to realize that he must love her, greater than he had ever loved, if she were to win. To the woman needing the child it is the child alone; to the man, the child is only the child when it is his.
“I don’t hate you,” he said. He picked up his hat from the settee, and her heart dropped to a leaden weight. “You seem to harp on that. But what you ask, you surely must realize is frankly impossible. I don’t wish to be responsible for a child.”