As soon as the term was over, Howard went down to Windlow. He was in a very unhappy frame of mind. He could not capitulate; but the more that he thought, the more that he tried to analyse his feelings, the more complex they became. It really seemed to him at times as if two perfectly distinct people were arguing within him. He was afraid of love; his aim had always been to simplify his life as far as possible, and to live in a serene and cheerful spirit, for the day and in the day. His work, his relations with colleagues and pupils, had all amused and interested him; he had cared for people, he had many friends; but it was all a cool, temperate, unimpassioned kind of caring. People had drifted in and out of his life; with his frank and easy manner, his excellent memory for the characteristics and the circumstances of others, it had been easy for him to pick up a relationship where he had laid it down; but it was all a very untroubled business, and no one had ever really entered into his life; he did not like dropping people, and took some trouble by means of letters to keep up communication with his old pupils; but his friendships had never reached the point at which the loss of a friend would have been a severe blow. He felt that he was always given credit for more affection than he possessed, and this had made him careful not to fail in any duty of friendship. He was always ready to take trouble, to advise, to help his old pupils in their careers; but it had been done more from a sense of courtesy than from any deeper motive.
Now, however, it was very different; he felt himself wholly preoccupied by the thought of Maud; and he found himself looking into the secret of love, as a man might gaze from a hill-top into a chasm where the rocky ridges plunged into mist, doubting of his way, and mistrusting his own strength to pursue the journey. He did not know what the quality of his love was; he recognised an intense kind of passion, but when he looked beyond that, and imagined himself wedded to Maud, what was the emotion that would survive the accomplishment of his desires? Would he find himself longing for the old, comfortable, isolated life again? did he wish his life to be inextricably intertwined with the life of another? He was not sure. He had a dread of having to concede an absolute intimacy, he wished to give only as much as he chose; and then, too, he told himself that he was too old to marry so young a girl, and that she would be happier if she could find a more equal partner for her life. Yet even so the thought of yielding her to another sickened him. He believed that she had been attracted by Guthrie, and that he had but to hold his hand and keep his distance, and the relation might broaden into marriage. He wondered if love could begin so, so easily and simply. He would like to have believed it could not, yet it was just so that love did begin! And then, too, he did not know what was the nature of Maud’s feelings to himself. He thought that she had been attracted to him, but in a sisterly sort of way; that he had come across her when she was feeling cramped and dissatisfied, and that a friendship with him had seemed to offer her a chance of expansion and interest.