“It was impossible—it has always been so. My husband would not go; and since—since our separation—there have been family reasons.”
Durham sighed impatiently. “Why do you talk of reasons? The truth is, you have made your life here. You could never give all this up!” He made a discouraged gesture in the direction of the Place de la Concorde.
“Give it up! I would go tomorrow! But it could never, now, be for more than a visit. I must live in France on account of my boy.”
Durham’s heart gave a quick beat. At last the talk had neared the point toward which his whole mind was straining, and he began to feel a personal application in her words. But that made him all the more cautious about choosing his own.
“It is an agreement—about the boy?” he ventured.
“I gave my word. They knew that was enough,” she said proudly; adding, as if to put him in full possession of her reasons: “It would have been much more difficult for me to obtain complete control of my son if it had not been understood that I was to live in France.”
“That seems fair,” Durham assented after a moment’s reflection: it was his instinct, even in the heat of personal endeavour, to pause a moment on the question of “fairness.” The personal claim reasserted itself as he added tentatively: “But when he is brought up—when he’s grown up: then you would feel freer?”
She received this with a start, as a possibility too remote to have entered into her view of the future. “He is only eight years old!” she objected.
“Ah, of course it would be a long way off?”
“A long way off, thank heaven! French mothers part late with their sons, and in that one respect I mean to be a French mother.”
“Of course—naturally—since he has only you,” Durham again assented.
He was eager to show how fully he took her point of view, if only to dispose her to the reciprocal fairness of taking his when the time came to present it. And he began to think that the time had now come; that their walk would not have thus resolved itself, without excuse or pretext, into a tranquil session beneath the trees, for any purpose less important than that of giving him his opportunity.
He took it, characteristically, without seeking a transition. “When I spoke to you, the other day, about myself—about what I felt for you—I said nothing of the future, because, for the moment, my mind refused to travel beyond its immediate hope of happiness. But I felt, of course, even then, that the hope involved various difficulties—that we can’t, as we might once have done, come together without any thought but for ourselves; and whatever your answer is to be, I want to tell you now that I am ready to accept my share of the difficulties.” He paused, and then added explicitly: “If there’s the least chance of your listening to me, I’m willing to live over here as long as you can keep your boy with you.”