“She didn’t—she didn’t mention—?” the sentence remained unfinished.
“No,” I said quickly, “she didn’t. She must know, of course, but I’m sure that didn’t enter into it.”
Nancy’s eyes as they returned to me were wet, and in them was an expression I had never seen before,—of pain, reproach, of questioning. It frightened me.
“Oh, Hugh, how little you know!” she cried.
“What do you mean?” I demanded.
“That is what has brought her to this decision—you and I.”
“You mean that—that Maude loves me? That she is jealous?” I don’t know how I managed to say it.
“No woman likes to think that she is a failure,” murmured Nancy.
“Well, but she isn’t really,” I insisted. “She could have made another man happy—a better man. It was all one of those terrible mistakes our modern life seems to emphasize so.”
“She is a woman,” Nancy said, with what seemed a touch of vehemence. “It’s useless to expect you to understand.... Do you remember what I said to you about her? How I appealed to you when you married to try to appreciate her?”
“It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate her,” I interrupted, surprised that Nancy should have recalled this, “she isn’t the woman for me, we aren’t made for each other. It was my mistake, my fault, I admit, but I don’t agree with you at all, that we had anything to do with her decision. It is just the—the culmination of a long period of incompatibility. She has come to realize that she has only one life to live, and she seems happier, more composed, more herself than she has ever been since our marriage. Of course I don’t mean to say it isn’t painful for her.... But I am sure she isn’t well, that it isn’t because of our seeing one another,” I concluded haltingly.
“She is finer than either of us, Hugh,—far finer.”
I did not relish this statement.
“She’s fine, I admit. But I can’t see how under the circumstances any of us could have acted differently.” And Nancy not replying, I continued: “She has made up her mind to go,—I suppose I could prevent it by taking extreme measures,—but what good would it do? Isn’t it, after all, the most sensible, the only way out of a situation that has become impossible? Times have changed, Nancy, and you yourself have been the first to admit it. Marriage is no longer what it was, and people are coming to look upon it more sensibly. In order to perpetuate the institution, as it was, segregation, insulation, was the only course. Men segregated their wives, women their husbands,—the only logical method of procedure, but it limited the individual. Our mothers and fathers thought it scandalous if husband or wife paid visits alone. It wasn’t done. But our modern life has changed all that. A marriage, to be a marriage, should be proof against disturbing influences, should leave the individuals free; the binding element should be love, not the force of an imposed authority. You seemed to agree to all this.”