“He ’s made a donkey of himself!”
“Ah! it’s too distressin’!”
They, too, thought him unsound, and did n’t want him; but to save the situation they would be glad to keep him. She did n’t want him, but she refused to lose her right to say, “Commoner girls may break their promises; I will not!” He sat down at the table between the candles, covering his face. His grief and anger grew and grew within him. If she would not free herself, the duty was on him! She was ready without love to marry him, as a sacrifice to her ideal of what she ought to be!
But she had n’t, after all, the monopoly of pride!
As if she stood before him, he could see the shadows underneath her eyes that he had dreamed of kissing, the eager movements of her lips. For several minutes he remained, not moving hand or limb. Then once more his anger blazed. She was going to sacrifice herself and—him! All his manhood scoffed at such a senseless sacrifice. That was not exactly what he wanted!
He went to the bureau, took a piece of paper and an envelope, and wrote as follows:
There never was, is not, and never would have been any question of being bound between us. I refuse to trade on any such thing. You are absolutely free. Our engagement is at an end by mutual consent.
He sealed it, and, sitting with his hands between his knees, he let his forehead droop lower and lower to the table, till it rested on his marriage settlement. And he had a feeling of relief, like one who drops exhausted at his journey’s end.
THE COUNTRY HOUSE
By John Galsworthy
A PARTY AT WORSTED SKEYNES
The year was 1891, the month October, the day Monday. In the dark outside the railway-station at Worsted Skeynes Mr. Horace Pendyce’s omnibus, his brougham, his luggage-cart, monopolised space. The face of Mr. Horace Pendyce’s coachman monopolised the light of the solitary station lantern. Rosy-gilled, with fat close-clipped grey whiskers and inscrutably pursed lips, it presided high up in the easterly air like an emblem of the feudal system. On the platform within, Mr. Horace Pendyce’s first footman and second groom in long livery coats with silver buttons, their appearance slightly relieved by the rakish cock of their top-hats, awaited the arrival of the 6.15.
The first footman took from his pocket a half-sheet of stamped and crested notepaper covered with Mr. Horace Pendyce’s small and precise calligraphy. He read from it in a nasal, derisive voice:
“Hon. Geoff, and Mrs. Winlow, blue room and dress; maid, small drab. Mr. George, white room. Mrs. Jaspar Bellew, gold. The Captain, red. General Pendyce, pink room; valet, back attic. That’s the lot.”