It was a new phase of the man who unconsciously had grown so dominant in her life. She felt the pull at her heartstrings. Her eyes were soft with unshed tears as her arm stole through his.
“Please go on,” she whispered.
“There is the ego,” he confessed, his voice shaking. “Why it has come to me just at this period of life—but there it is. I have neglected human society, human intercourse, sport, pleasures, the joys of a man who was born to be a man. I am philosopher enough not to ask myself whether it has been worth while, but I do ask myself—what of the next ten years?”
“Who am I to give you counsel?” she asked, trembling.
“The only person who can.”
“Then I advise you to go on. This is just a mood. There are muddy places through which one must pass, even in the paths that lead to the mountain tops, muddy and ugly and depressing places. As one climbs, one loses the memory of them.”
“But I climb always alone,” he answered, with a sudden fierceness. “I walk alone in life. I have been strong enough to do it and I am strong enough no longer.—Jane,” he went on, his voice a little unsteady, his hands almost clutching hers, “it is only since I have known you that I have realised from what source upon this earth a man may draw his inspiration, his courage, the strength to face the moving of mountains, day by day. My heart has been as dry as a seed plot. You have brought new things to me, the soft, humanising stimulus of a new hope, a new joy. If I am to fight on to the end, I must have you and your love.”
She was trembling and half afraid, but her hands yielded their pressure to his. Her lips and her eyes, the little quivering of her body, all spoke of yielding.
“I have done foolish things in my life,” he went on, drawing her nearer to him. “When I was young, I felt that I had the strength of a superman, and that all I needed in life was food for the brain. I placed woman in her wrong place. I sold myself and my chance of happiness that I might gain more power, a wider influence. It was a sin against life. It was a greater crime against myself. Now that the thunder is muttering and the time is coming for the last test, I see the truth as I have never seen it before. Nature has taken me by the hand—shows it me.—Tell me it isn’t too late, Jane? Tell me you care? Help me. I have never pleaded for help before. I plead to you.”
Her eyes were wet and beautiful with the shine of tears. It seemed to him in that moment of intense emotion that he could read there everything he desired in life. Her lips met his almost eagerly, met his and gave of their own free will.
“Andrew,” she murmured, “you see, you are the only man except those of my family whom I have ever kissed, and I kiss you now—again—and again—because I love you.”