“You want to know exactly what it is,” he said suddenly. “Then it’s this. I’m not the type of man who marries. I’ve seen marriage with other men and I’ve seen quite enough of it. My sister’s married; marriage has the making of women as a rule, it gives them place, power, they want that—so much the better for them. With marriage, they get it. My sister has often tried to persuade me to marry, drop my life, adopt the social entity, and worship the god of respectability. I’d sooner put a rope round my neck and swing from the nearest lamp-post. And so, you see, I’m no fit company for you. I don’t live the sort of life you’d choose a man to live. I’m not really the sort of man you take me for in the least. At dinner, this evening, you called me a gentleman. I’m not even the sort of gentleman as you understand him; though I’ve been trying to live up to my idea of the genus, ever since you said it. My dear Sally”—he took her hand—she let him hold it—“you don’t know anything about the world, and I don’t want to teach you the lesson that I suppose some man or circumstances will bring you to learn one day. Take my advice and have no truck with me.”
He blew out the last remaining candle, took her arm and led her to the door. They walked down the one flight of stairs together, their footsteps echoing up through the empty house; out on the pavement he called a hansom, held his arm across the wheel as she stepped in; turned to the cabby, gave him his fare, told him Waterloo Station; then he leant across the step of the cab and held out his hand.
“Good-bye, Sally,” he said.
She tried to answer him, but her words were dry and clung in her throat.
The hour of twelve was tolling out across the water from the little church on Kew Green, when Sally fitted her borrowed latch-key into the door. She had performed the journey back to Kew Bridge in a stupor of mind that could hold no single thought, review no single event with any clearness of vision. It was as if not one evening, but three days, had passed by since she had left the office of Bonsfield & CO.—the day they had dined together—the day on which they had watched that terrible fight—the day, the last of all, when she had awakened from unconsciousness, had struggled through a cruel agony of mind, and had finally said good-bye to him for ever. How was it possible, with the length, breadth and depth of three days all crushed into the microscopic space of five hours—a dizzy whirling acceleration of time—how was it possible for her to think logically, consecutively, to even think at all? She could not think. She had lain back in the carriage, her head lax against the cushions, and simply permitted the whole procession of events, like some retreating army with death at its heels, to stagger across her brain. Down the old river-path to the Hewsons’ house, she had walked as if asleep,