They remained standing at the tent door, with the growing moonlight about them. The camp was hushed in sleep, but sounds of music still came to them from the city below them, and fainter music from the tents of the Ouled Nails on the sandhill to the south. After Domini had spoken Androvsky moved a step towards her, looked at her, then moved back and dropped his eyes. If he had gone on looking at her he knew he could not have begun to speak.
“Domini,” he said, “I’m not going to try and excuse myself for what I have done. I’m not going to say to you what I daren’t say to God—’Forgive me.’ How can such a thing be forgiven? That’s part of the torture I’ve been enduring, the knowledge of the unforgivable nature of my act. It can never be wiped out. It’s black on my judgment book for ever. But I wonder if you can understand—oh, I want you to understand, Domini, what has made the thing I am, a renegade, a breaker of oaths, a liar to God and you. It was the passion of life that burst up in me after years of tranquillity. It was the waking of my nature after years of sleep. And you—you do understand the passion of life that’s in some of us like a monster that must rule, must have its way. Even you in your purity and goodness—you have it, that desperate wish to live really and fully, as we have lived, Domini, together. For we have lived out in the desert. We lived that night at Arba when we sat and watched the fire and I held your hand against the earth. We lived then. Even now, when I think of that night, I can hardly be sorry for what I’ve done, for what I am.”
He looked up at her now and saw that her eyes were fixed on him. She stood motionless, with her hands joined in front of her. Her attitude was calm and her face was untortured. He could not read any thought of hers, any feeling that was in her heart.
“You must understand,” he said almost violently. “You must understand or I—. My father, I told you, was a Russian. He was brought up in the Greek Church, but became a Freethinker when he was still a young man. My mother was an Englishwoman and an ardent Catholic. She and my father were devoted to each other in spite of the difference in their views. Perhaps the chief effect my father’s lack of belief had upon my mother was to make her own belief more steadfast, more ardent. I think disbelief acts often as a fan to the faith of women, makes the flame burn more brightly than it did before. My mother tried to believe for herself and for my father too, and I could almost think that she succeeded. He died long before she did, and he died without changing his views. On his death-bed he told my mother that he was sure there was no other life, that he was going to the dust. That made the agony of his farewell. The certainty on his part that