“If I were not offering you my whole life,” he pleaded, “believe me, I would not open my lips. If I were thinking of episodes, I would throw myself into the sea before I asked you to give me even your fingers. But you, and you alone, could fill the place in my life which I have always prayed might be filled, not for a year or even a decade of years, but for eternity.”
“Oh, but you forget!” she faltered.
“I remember so much,” he replied, “that I know it is hard for you to speak. There are bonds which you have made sacred, and your fingers shrink from tearing them asunder. If it were not for this, Philippa—hear the speech of a renegade—my mandate should be torn in pieces. My instructions should flutter into the waste-paper basket, To-morrow should see us on our way to a new country and a new life. But you must be very sure indeed.”
“Is it because of me that you are staying here?” she asked.
“Upon my honour, no,” he assured her. “I must stay here a little longer, whatever it may mean for me. And so I am content to remain what I am to you at this minute. I ask from you only that you remain just what you are. But when the moment of my freedom comes, when my task here is finished and I turn to go, then I must come to you.”
She rose suddenly to her feet, crossed the floor, and threw open the window. The breeze swept through the room, flapping the curtains, blowing about loose articles into a strange confusion. She stood there for several moments, as though in search of some respite from the emotional atmosphere upon which she had turned her back. When she finally closed the window, her hair was in little strands about her face. Her eyes were soft and her lips quivering.
“You make me feel,” she said, taking his hand for a moment and looking at him almost piteously, “you make me feel everything except one thing.”
“Except one thing?” he repeated.
“Can’t you understand?” she continued, stretching out her hand with a quick, impulsive little movement. “I am here in Henry’s house, his wife, the mistress of his household. All the years we’ve been married I have never thought of another man. I have never indulged in even the idlest flirtation. And now suddenly my life seems upside down. I feel as though, if Henry stood before me now, I would strike him on the cheek. I feel sore all over, and ashamed, but I don’t know whether I have ceased to love him. I can’t tell. Nothing seems to help me. I close my eyes and I try to think of that new world and that new life, and I know that there is nothing repulsive in it. I feel all the joy and the strength of being with you. And then there is Henry in the background. He seems to have had so much of my love.”
He saw the tears gathering in her eyes, and he smiled at her encouragingly.
“Remember that at this moment I am asking you for nothing,” he said. “Just think these things out. It isn’t really a matter for sorrow,” he continued. “Love must always mean happiness—for the one who is loved.”