“Yes, nearer,” she repeated, under her breath.
“You think that? You feel that? I have not repelled you?”
“You have not”
“And if I stood before you, now, as you know me—egotistic, sceptical, calm—and told you that you are the only being in whom I have ever felt complete confidence, whose word and thought I felt to be one; that you exercise more power over me than any other ever did or shall; that life in your companionship might gain the unity I long for; that in your presence I feel myself face to face with a higher and nobler nature than my own, one capable of sustaining me in effort and leading me to great results—”
He became silent, for her face had turned deadly pale. But this passed, and in her eyes, as they met his, trouble grew to a calm joy. Without speaking, she held her hand to him.
“You are not afraid,” Waymark said, “to link your fate with mine? My life is made up of uncertainties. I have no position; it may be a long time before I can see even the promise of success in my work. I have chosen that work, however, and by it I stand or fall. Have you sufficient faith in me to wait with confidence?”
“I have absolute faith in you. I ask no greater happiness than to have a share in your aims. It will give me the strength I need, and make my life full of hope.”
It had come then, and just as he had foreseen it would. It was no result of deliberate decision, he had given up the effort to discover his true path, knowing sufficiently that neither reason nor true preponderance of inclination was likely to turn the balance. The gathering emotion of the hour had united with opportunity to decide his future. The decision was a relief; as he walked homewards, he was lighthearted.
On the way, he thought over everything once more, reviewing former doubts from his present position. On the whole, he felt that fate had worked for his happiness.
And yet there was discontent. He had never known, felt that perhaps he might never know, that sustained energy of imaginative and sensual longing which ideal passion demands. The respectable make-believe which takes the form of domestic sentiment, that everyday love, which, become the servant of habit, suffices to cement the ordinary household, is not the state in which such men as Waymark seek or find repose; the very possibility of falling into it unawares is a dread to them. If he could but feel at all times as he had felt at moments in Maud’s presence. It might be that the growth of intimacy, of mutual knowledge, would make his love for her a more real motive in his life. He would endeavour that it should be so. Yet there remained that fatal conviction of the unreality of every self-persuasion save in relation to the influences of the moment. To love was easy, inevitable; to concentrate love finally on one object might well prove, in his case, an impossibility. Clear enough to him already was the likelihood of a strong revulsion of feeling when Ida once more came back, and the old life—if it could be—was resumed. Compassion would speak so loudly for her; her face, pale and illuminated with sorrow, would throw a stronger spell than ever upon his senses. Well, there was no help. Whatever would be, would be. It availed nothing to foresee and scheme and resolve.