I went up to her quickly, and closed the door, saying, ‘You have come’; my voice was not much above a breath.
She looked distrustfully down the length of the room; ’You were speaking to some one?’
‘You were speaking.’
‘To myself, then, I suppose.’
I remembered and repeated the gipsy burden.
She smiled faintly and said it was the hour for Anna and Ursel and Kith and Liese to be out.
Her hands were gloved, a small matter to tell of.
We heard the portico-sentinel challenged and relieved.
‘Midnight,’ I said.
She replied: ’You were not definite in your directions about the minutes.’
‘I feared to name midnight.’
’Lest the appointment of midnight—I lose my knowledge of you!—should make you reflect, frighten you. You see, I am inventing a reason; I really cannot tell why, if it was not that I hoped to have just those few minutes more of you. And now they’re gone. I would not have asked you but that I thought you free to act.’
‘And you come freely?’
‘A “therefore” belongs to every grant of freedom.’
‘I understand: your judgement was against it.’
‘Be comforted,’ she said; ’it is your right to bid me come, if you think fit.’
One of the sofa-volumes fell. She caught her breath; and smiled at her foolish alarm.
I told her that it was my intention to start for England in the morning; that this was the only moment I had, and would be the last interview: my rights, if I possessed any, and I was not aware that I did, I threw down.
‘You throw down one end of the chain,’ she said.
‘In the name of heaven, then,’ cried I, ‘release yourself.’
She shook her head. ‘That is not my meaning.’
Note the predicament of a lover who has a piece of dishonesty lurking in him. My chilled self-love had certainly the right to demand the explanation of her coldness, and I could very well guess that a word or two drawn from the neighbourhood of the heart would fetch a warmer current to unlock the ice between us, but feeling the coldness I complained of to be probably a suspicion, I fixed on the suspicion as a new and deeper injury done to my loyal love for her, and armed against that I dared not take an initiative for fear of unexpectedly justifying it by betraying myself.
Yet, supposing her inclination to have become diverted, I was ready frankly to release her with one squeeze of hands and take all the pain of she pain, and I said: ‘Pray, do not speak of chains.’
‘But they exist. Things cannot be undone for us two by words.’
The tremble as of a strung wire in the strenuous pitch of her voice seemed to say she was not cold, though her gloved hand resting its finger-ends on the table, her restrained attitude, her very calm eyes, declared the reverse. This and that sensation beset me in turn.