‘You know it will.’ She laughed joyously, trying to meet his look.
‘Perhaps you are right.’
‘I shall let no one hear of it until—. Then let us go abroad.’
‘You dare not face Mary?’
’I dare, if you wish it. Of course she will laugh at me. They will all laugh at me.’
‘Why, you may laugh as well.’
’But you have spoilt my life, you know. Such a grand life it might have been. Why did you come and interfere with me? And you have been so terribly obstinate.’
‘Of course; that’s my nature. But after all I have been weak.’
’Yielding in one point that didn’t matter to you at all? It was the only way of making sure that you loved me.’
Barfoot laughed slightingly.
‘And what if I needed the other proof that you loved me.’
THE UNIDEAL TESTED
And neither was content.
Barfoot, over his cigar and glass of whisky at the hotel, fell into a mood of chagrin. The woman he loved would be his, and there was matter enough for ardent imagination in the indulgence of that thought; but his temper disturbed him. After all, he had not triumphed. As usual the woman had her way. She played upon his senses, and made him her obedient slave. To prolong the conflict would have availed nothing; Rhoda, doubtless, was in part actuated by the desire to conquer, and she knew her power over him. So it was a mere repetition of the old story—a marriage like any other. And how would it result?
She had great qualities; but was there not much in her that he must subdue, reform, if they were really to spend their lives together? Her energy of domination perhaps excelled his. Such a woman might be unable to concede him the liberty in marriage which theoretically she granted to be just. Perhaps she would torment him with restless jealousies, suspecting on every trivial occasion an infringement of her right. From that point of view it would have been far wiser to persist in rejecting legal marriage, that her dependence upon him might be more complete. Later, if all went well, the concession could have been made—if, for instance, she became a mother. But then returned the exasperating thought that Rhoda had overcome his will. Was not that a beginning of evil augury?
To be sure, after marriage their relations would be different. He would not then be at the mercy of his senses. But how miserable to anticipate a long, perhaps bitter, struggle for predominance. After all, that could hardly come about. The commencement of any such discord would be the signal for separation. His wealth assured his freedom. He was not like the poor devils who must perforce live with an intolerable woman because they cannot support themselves and their families in different places. Need he entertain that worst of fears—the dread that his independence might fail him, subdued by his wife’s will?