“You have lied. Tell them the truth.”
“I have told the truth that lies at the bottom of the well.”
“Call them all in now, and tell them—I—did it, I—”
Lot Gordon raised himself a little, and looked at her with the mocking expression gone suddenly from his face. “What good do you think it would do if I did, Madelon?” he said, with a strange sadness in his voice.
She looked at him.
“I shall not die of the wound. You can’t escape me by prison or a disgraceful death, and as for me, do you think it would make any difference to me if all the village pointed at you, Madelon?”
Madelon looked at him as if she were frozen.
“All the way to be set loose from your promise is by your own breaking it,” said Lot.
“I will keep my promise,” said Madelon, shutting her lips hard upon her words. She turned away.
“Madelon,” said Lot.
She went towards the door as if she did not hear.
She turned her white face slightly towards him and paused.
“Won’t you come here to me a moment?”
“I cannot until I am driven to it!” she cried out, passion leaping into her voice like fire. “I cannot go near you, Lot Gordon!”
She opened the door, and then she heard a sob. She hesitated a second, then looked around; and Lot Gordon’s thin body was curled about in his chair and quivering with sobs like any child’s.
Madelon closed the door, and went back and stood over him. She looked at him with a curious expression of pity struggling with loathing, as she might have looked at some wounded reptile.
“Well, I am here,” she said, in a harsh voice.
“All my life my heart has had nothing, and now what it has it has not,” moaned Lot, as if it had been to his mother. He looked up at her with his hollow blue eyes swimming in tears. He seemed for a minute like a little ailing boy appealing for sympathy, and the latent motherhood in the girl responded to that.
“You know I cannot help that, Lot,” she said. “You know how you forced me into this to save the one I do love.”
“Oh, Madelon, can’t you love me?”
She shrank away from him and shook her head, but still her dark eyes were soft upon his face.
“Does not love for you count anything? I love you more than he—I do, Madelon.”
“It is no use talking, I can never love you, Lot,” she said, but gently.
“It ought to count. Love ought to count, dear. It is the best thing in the world we have to give. And I have given it to you; oh, God, how have I given it to you, Madelon!”
“Lot, don’t—it’s no use.”
“Listen—you must listen, dear. You must hear it once. It can’t turn you more against me. You don’t know how I have loved you—you don’t know. Listen. Never a morning have I waked but the knowledge of you came before the consciousness of myself. Never a night I fell asleep but ’twas you, you I lost last, and not myself. When I have been sick the sting of my longing for you has dulled all my pain of body. If I die I see not how that can die with me, for it is of my soul. I see not why I must not bear it forever.”