“You’ll never pay me. You think you will. It’s your way of glossing over the ethical position. It’s the sort of way a woman always does gloss over her ethical positions. You’re all dependents—all of you. By instinct. Only you good ones—shirk. You shirk a straightforward and decent return for what you get from us—taking refuge in purity and delicacy and such-like when it comes to payment.”
“Mr. Ramage,” said Ann Veronica, “I want to go—now!”
But she did not get away just then.
Ramage’s bitterness passed as abruptly as his aggression. “Oh, Ann Veronica!” he cried, “I cannot let you go like this! You don’t understand. You can’t possibly understand!”
He began a confused explanation, a perplexing contradictory apology for his urgency and wrath. He loved Ann Veronica, he said; he was so mad to have her that he defeated himself, and did crude and alarming and senseless things. His vicious abusiveness vanished. He suddenly became eloquent and plausible. He did make her perceive something of the acute, tormenting desire for her that had arisen in him and possessed him. She stood, as it were, directed doorward, with her eyes watching every movement, listening to him, repelled by him and yet dimly understanding.
At any rate he made it very clear that night that there was an ineradicable discord in life, a jarring something that must shatter all her dreams of a way of living for women that would enable them to be free and spacious and friendly with men, and that was the passionate predisposition of men to believe that the love of women can be earned and won and controlled and compelled.
He flung aside all his talk of help and disinterested friendship as though it had never been even a disguise between them, as though from the first it was no more than a fancy dress they had put quite understandingly upon their relationship. He had set out to win her, and she had let him start. And at the thought of that other lover—he was convinced that that beloved person was a lover, and she found herself unable to say a word to explain to him that this other person, the person she loved, did not even know of her love—Ramage grew angry and savage once more, and returned suddenly to gibe and insult. Men do services for the love of women, and the woman who takes must pay. Such was the simple code that displayed itself in all his thoughts. He left that arid rule clear of the least mist of refinement or delicacy.
That he should pay forty pounds to help this girl who preferred another man was no less in his eyes than a fraud and mockery that made her denial a maddening and outrageous disgrace to him. And this though he was evidently passionately in love with her.
For a while he threatened her. “You have put all your life in my hands,” he declared. “Think of that check you endorsed. There it is—against you. I defy you to explain it away. What do you think people will make of that? What will this lover of yours make of that?”