[Defiantly.] I am an artist, Irene. And I take no shame to myself for the frailties that perhaps cling to me. For I was born to be an artist, you see. And, do what I may, I shall never be anything else.
[Looks at him with a lurking evil smile, and says gently and softly.] You are a poet, Arnold. [Softly strokes his hair.] You dear, great, middle-aged child,—is it possible that you cannot see that!
[Annoyed.] Why do you keep on calling me a poet?
[With malign eyes.] Because there is something apologetic in the word, my friend. Something that suggests forgiveness of sins—and spreads a cloak over all frailty. [With a sudden change of tone.] But I was a human being—then! And I, too, had a life to live,—and a human destiny to fulfil. And all that, look you, I let slip—gave it all up in order to make myself your bondwoman.—Oh, it was self-murder—a deadly sin against myself! [Half whispering.] And that sin I can never expiate!
[She seats herself near him
beside the brook, keeps close, though
unnoticed, watch upon him, and, as though in absence of mind,
plucks some flowers form the shrubs around them.
[With apparent self-control.] I should have borne children in the world—many children—real children—not such children as are hidden away in grave-vaults. That was my vocation. I ought never to have served you—poet.
[Lost in recollection.] Yet those were beautiful days, Irene. Marvellously beautiful days—as I now look back upon them—–
[Looking at him with a soft expression.] Can you remember a little word that you said—when you had finished—finished with me and with our child? [Nods to him.] Can you remember that little word, Arnold?
[Looks inquiringly at her.] Did I say a little word then, which you still remember?
Yes, you did. Can you not recall it?
[Shaking his head.] No, I can’t say that I do. Not at the present moment, at any rate.
You took both my hands and pressed them warmly. And I stood there in breathless expectation. And then you said: “So now, Irene, I thank you from my heart. This,” you said, “has been a priceless episode for me.”