She paused, flushing with the repressed fervour of her utterance, though her voice had not been raised beyond its usual discreet modulations; and Durham felt himself tingling with the transmitted force of her resolve. Whatever shock her words brought to his personal hope, he was grateful to her for speaking them so clearly, for having so sure a grasp of her purpose.
Her decision strengthened his own, and after a pause of deliberation he said quietly: “There might be a good deal to urge on the other side—the ineffectualness of your sacrifice, the probability that when your son marries he will inevitably be absorbed back into the life of his class and his people; but I can’t look at it in that way, because if I were in your place I believe I should feel just as you do about it. As long as there was a fighting chance I should want to keep hold of my half, no matter how much the struggle cost me. And one reason why I understand your feeling about your boy is that I have the same feeling about you: as long as there’s a fighting chance of keeping my half of you—the half he is willing to spare me—I don’t see how I can ever give it up.” He waited again, and then brought out firmly: “If you’ll marry me, I’ll agree to live out here as long as you want, and we’ll be two instead of one to keep hold of your half of him.”
He raised his eyes as he ended, and saw that hers met them through a quick clouding of tears.
“Ah, I am glad to have had this said to me! But I could never accept such an offer.”
He caught instantly at the distinction. “That doesn’t mean that you could never accept me?”
“Under such conditions—”
“But if I am satisfied with the conditions? Don’t think I am speaking rashly, under the influence of the moment. I have expected something of this sort, and I have thought out my side of the case. As far as material circumstances go, I have worked long enough and successfully enough to take my ease and take it where I choose. I mention that because the life I offer you is offered to your boy as well.” He let this sink into her mind before summing up gravely: “The offer I make is made deliberately, and at least I have a right to a direct answer.”
She was silent again, and then lifted a cleared gaze to his. “My direct answer then is: if I were still Fanny Frisbee I would marry you.”
He bent toward her persuasively. “But you will be—when the divorce is pronounced.”
“Ah, the divorce—” She flushed deeply, with an instinctive shrinking back of her whole person which made him straighten himself in his chair.
“Do you so dislike the idea?”
“The idea of divorce? No—not in my case. I should like anything that would do away with the past—obliterate it all—make everything new in my life!”
“Then what—?” he began again, waiting with the patience of a wooer on the uneasy circling of her tormented mind.