“I don’t know. How could I know?”
“He hasn’t told you so, one way or the other?”
“But you think he doesn’t?”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“Then what makes you so frightfully unhappy?”
“Because I’m never going to see him again.”
The words were thick, choked almost in her throat.
“Oh, then he doesn’t care,” said Janet, softly.
“Yes, he does!” retorted Sally, wildly. “He does care, only—only—”
“Only, he thinks too little of himself and—and too much of me. He says he’s not the sort of man I ought to have anything to do with”—the words were rushing from her now—the torrent of earth that a landslip sets free. “He never wants to marry, he hates the conventionalities and the bonds of marriage like you say you do. And he asked me to forgive him for thinking I was different—different—to what he had expected. He said he ought never to have spoken to me in the first instance, and that it was his fault, and he blamed himself entirely for what had happened. Then he took me downstairs and put me in a hansom and said good-bye. And—I’m not to see him—any more.”
It was a pitiable little story, pitiably told; punctuated with tears and choking breaths, with no heed for effect, nor attempt to make it dramatic or sadder than it already was.
When she had finished, she lay there, crying quietly in Janet’s arms, all courage gone, all vitality sapped from her.
For a long time Janet waited, thinking it all through. Then she whispered in Sally’s ears.
“And you love him, Sally?”
The heavy sigh, so deep drawn that it seemed to strain down to her heart—that was answer enough. What further answer need she give? Sighs, tears, the catch in the breath, the look in the eyes, the look from the eyes—those are the language in which a woman really speaks. Words, she uses to hide them.
If you look into life, you will find that the key-note of every woman’s existence is love—the broad, the great, the grand passion. She may take up a million causes, champion a thousand aims; but the end that she reaches—is love. To fail in such an end—to lose the grasp of it when once it might have been hers—this is the most bitter of aloes; gall that eats into her blood and corrodes her clearest vision. A man, forging destinies, is a king, to be mated only with a woman who loves.
There are exceptions; but these are not needed to prove the rule; for there hangs even some doubt, like a fly in the amber, in the history of Jeanne D’Arc, the most patent an example of them all. Yet whether, as some chronicles would say, she was never burnt as a witch, but smuggled into the country, and there mated in love—and it would seem a shame unpardonable to rob history of a great martyr and the Church of Rome of a saint—it makes no odds in the counting. Great women have loved greatly—lesser women have loved less—but all who are of the sex have made the heart their master, and obeyed it whenever it has truly called.