“I guessed as much when she met me that day and said I might let you know where she was.”
“Ha!” exclaimed O’Gree, with a long breath.
“And so the matter is settled?”
“All but the most important part of it. There’s no chance of my being able to marry for long enough to come. Now, can you give me any advice? I’ve quite made up my mind to leave Tootle. The position isn’t worthy of a gentleman; I’m losing my self-respect. The she-Tootle gets worse and worse. If I don’t electrify her, one of these days, with an outburst of ferocious indignation, she will only have my patience to thank. Let her beware how she drives the lion to bay!”
“Couldn’t you get a non-resident mastership?”
“I must try, but the pay is so devilish small.”
“We must talk the matter over.”
Waymark had a good deal of frank talk with himself before meeting Ida again on the Sunday. Such conversation was, as we know, habitual. Under the circumstances, however, he felt that it behoved him to become especially clear on one or two points; never mind what course he might ultimately pursue, it was always needful to him to dissect his own motives, that he might at least be acting with full consciousness.
One thing was clear enough. The fiction of a mere friendship between himself and Ida was impossible to support. It had been impossible under the very different circumstances of a year ago, and was not likely to last a week, now that Ida could so little conceal how her own feelings had changed. What, then, was to be their future? Could he accept her love, and join their lives without legal bond, thinking only of present happiness, and content to let things arrange themselves as they would in the years to come?
His heart strongly opposed such a step. Clearly Ida had changed her life for his sake, and was undergoing hardships in the hope of winning his respect as well as his love. Would she have done all this without something of a hope that she might regain her place in the every-day world, and be held by Waymark worthy to become his wife? He could not certainly know, but there was little doubt that this hope had led her on. Could he believe her capable of yet nobler ideas; could he think that only in reverence of the sanctity of love, and without regard to other things, she had acted in this way; then, regarding her as indeed his equal, he would open his heart to her and speak somewhat in this way. “Yes, I do love you; but at the same time I know too well the uncertainty of love to go through the pretence of binding myself to you for ever. Will you accept my love in its present sincerity, neither hoping nor fearing, knowing that whatever happens is beyond our own control, feeling with me that only an ignoble nature can descend to the affectation of union when the real links are broken?” Could Waymark but have felt sure of her answer to such an appeal, it would have gone far to make his love for Ida all-engrossing. She would then be his ideal woman, and his devotion to her would have no bounds.