’"No,” I said. He meditated, with his legs slightly apart and his chin sunk. “A hair’s-breadth,” he muttered. “Not the breadth of a hair between this and that. And at the time . . .”
’"It is difficult to see a hair at midnight,” I put in, a little viciously I fear. Don’t you see what I mean by the solidarity of the craft? I was aggrieved against him, as though he had cheated me—me!—of a splendid opportunity to keep up the illusion of my beginnings, as though he had robbed our common life of the last spark of its glamour. “And so you cleared out—at once.”
’"Jumped,” he corrected me incisively. “Jumped—mind!” he repeated, and I wondered at the evident but obscure intention. “Well, yes! Perhaps I could not see then. But I had plenty of time and any amount of light in that boat. And I could think, too. Nobody would know, of course, but this did not make it any easier for me. You’ve got to believe that, too. I did not want all this talk. . . . No . . . Yes . . . I won’t lie . . . I wanted it: it is the very thing I wanted—there. Do you think you or anybody could have made me if I . . . I am—I am not afraid to tell. And I wasn’t afraid to think either. I looked it in the face. I wasn’t going to run away. At first—at night, if it hadn’t been for those fellows I might have . . . No! by heavens! I was not going to give them that satisfaction. They had done enough. They made up a story, and believed it for all I know. But I knew the truth, and I would live it down—alone, with myself. I wasn’t going to give in to such a beastly unfair thing. What did it prove after all? I was confoundedly cut up. Sick of life—to tell you the truth; but what would have been the good to shirk it—in—in—that way? That was not the way. I believe—I believe it would have—it would have ended—nothing.”
’He had been walking up and down, but with the last word he turned short at me.
’"What do you believe?” he asked with violence. A pause ensued, and suddenly I felt myself overcome by a profound and hopeless fatigue, as though his voice had startled me out of a dream of wandering through empty spaces whose immensity had harassed my soul and exhausted my body.
’”. . . Would have ended nothing,” he muttered over me obstinately, after a little while. “No! the proper thing was to face it out—alone for myself—wait for another chance—find out . . ."’
’All around everything was still as far as the ear could reach. The mist of his feelings shifted between us, as if disturbed by his struggles, and in the rifts of the immaterial veil he would appear to my staring eyes distinct of form and pregnant with vague appeal like a symbolic figure in a picture. The chill air of the night seemed to lie on my limbs as heavy as a slab of marble.
’"I see,” I murmured, more to prove to myself that I could break my state of numbness than for any other reason.