“Douglas, you have called me heartless. You were nearer the truth than you thought, perhaps. You are the first man whom I have ever cared for, it is all new to me. Don’t make me crush it. Don’t destroy what seems like a beautiful dream. You can be patient for a little while, can you not? You shall be my dearest friend, my life shall be moulded as you will—listen, I will swear that no one in this world shall ever have a single word of love from me save you. Don’t wreck our lives, dear, just from an impulse. Do you know you have saved me from a nightmare? I am older than you, Douglas, and I was beginning to wonder, to fear, whether I might not be one of those poor, unfortunate creatures to whom God has never given the power to love anything—and life sometimes was so cold and lonely. You could light it all for me, dear, with your love. You have shown me how different it could be. Don’t go away.
“It is an easy thing I ask,” he cried, hoarsely. “I have given you my whole love—my whole life. I want yours.”
“You are the only man, dear,” she answered, “whom I have ever loved, and I do love you.”
“Your life too, every corner of it. I want it swept clear of shadows. You need have no fear. If you were a murderess, or if every day of it was black with sin, my love could never alter,” he cried.
“Dearest,” she whispered, “haven’t I told you that you shall take my life into your keeping and do with it what you will?”
He unwound her arms.
“And the past?”
“Everything you shall know—there’s nothing terrifying—save that one thing—and that before long.”
“Is it like this,” he cried, “that you have kept men in chains before—watched them go mad for sport? I’ll not be your slave, Emily—shut out from your confidence—waiting day by day for God knows what.”
She drew herself up. A storm of passion blazed in her face. The new tenderness which had so transfigured it, had passed away.
“Then go!” she ordered, pointing to the door. “You make a mockery of what you call love. I never wish to see you again, Douglas Jesson.”
He stood facing her for a moment without movement. Then he turned and walked slowly out of the house.
THE WOOING OF CICELY
The completion of Douglas Jesson’s novel was the principal event of the following week. There had come no word from Emily de Reuss, nor had Douglas himself sought her. Better, he told himself, to face his suffering like a man, grapple with it once and for all, than to become even as Drexley and those others, who had never found strength to resist. She was beautiful, magnetic, fascinating, and he loved her; on the other hand there was his self-respect and the strength of his manhood. He was young, he had courage and a career—surely the battle would go for him. But the days which followed were weary and the nights were pitiless.