“Naturally you would be,” said the banker, sympathetically, “and we share your feelings. I don’t know of any man for whom I have a greater affection than I have for Theodore Wading. We shouldn’t have mentioned it now, Hugh, if Watling hadn’t started the thing himself, if it weren’t important to know where we stand right away. We can’t afford to lose the seat. Take your time, but remember you’re the man we depend upon.”
Gorse nodded. I was aware, all the time Dickinson was speaking, of being surrounded by the strange, disquieting gaze of the counsel for the Railroad....
I went back to my office to spend an uneasy morning. My sorrow for Mr. Watling was genuine, but nevertheless I found myself compelled to consider an honour no man lightly refuses. Had it presented itself at any other time, had it been due to a happier situation than that brought about by the illness of a man whom I loved and admired, I should have thought the prospect dazzling indeed, part and parcel of my amazing luck. But now—now I was in an emotional state that distorted the factors of life, all those things I hitherto had valued; even such a prize as this I weighed in terms of one supreme desire: how would the acceptance of the senatorship affect the accomplishment of this desire? That was the question. I began making rapid calculations: the actual election would take place in the legislature a year from the following January; provided I were able to overcome Nancy’s resistance—which I was determined to do—nothing in the way of divorce proceedings could be thought of for more than a year; and I feared delay. On the other hand, if we waited until after I had been duly elected to get my divorce and marry Nancy my chances of reelection would be small. What did I care for the senatorship anyway—if I had her? and I wanted her now, as soon as I could get her. She—a life with her represented new values, new values I did not define, that made all I had striven for in the past of little worth. This was a bauble compared with the companionship of the woman I loved, the woman intended for me, who would give me peace of mind and soul and develop those truer aspirations that had long been thwarted and starved for lack of her. Gradually, as she regained the ascendency over my mind she ordinarily held—and from which she had been temporarily displaced by the arrival of Mr. Watling’s letter and the talk in the bank—I became impatient and irritated by the intrusion. But what answer should I give to Dickinson and Gorse? what excuse for declining such an offer? I decided, as may be imagined, to wait, to temporize.
The irony of circumstances—of what might have been—prevented now my laying this trophy at Nancy’s feet, for I knew I had only to mention the matter to be certain of losing her.