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21.The Colleges Of Unreason
I had now been a visitor with the Nosnibors for some five or six months, and though I
had frequently proposed to leave them and take apartments of my own, they would not
hear of my doing so. I suppose they thought I should be more likely to fall in love with
Zulora if I remained, but it was my affection for Arowhena that kept me.
During all this time both Arowhena and myself had been dreaming, and drifting towards
an avowed attachment, but had not dared to face the real difficulties of the position.
Gradually, however, matters came to a crisis in spite of ourselves, and we got to see the
true state of the case, all too clearly.
One evening we were sitting in the garden, and I had been trying in every stupid
roundabout way to get her to say that she should be at any rate sorry for a man, if he
really loved a woman who would not marry him. I had been stammering and blushing,
and been as silly as any one could be, and I suppose had pained her by fishing for pity for
myself in such a transparent way, and saying nothing about her own need of it; at any
rate, she turned all upon me with a sweet sad smile and said, "Sorry? I am sorry for
myself; I am sorry for you; and I am sorry for every one." The words had no sooner
crossed her lips than she bowed her head, gave me a look as though I were to make no
answer, and left me.
The words were few and simple, but the manner with which they were uttered was
ineffable: the scales fell from my eyes, and I felt that I had no right to try and induce her
to infringe one of the most inviolable customs of her country, as she needs must do if she
were to marry me. I sat for a long while thinking, and when I remembered the sin and
shame and misery which an unrighteous marriage--for as such it would be held in
Erewhon--would entail, I became thoroughly ashamed of myself for having been so long
self- blinded. I write coldly now, but I suffered keenly at the time, and should probably
retain a much more vivid recollection of what I felt, had not all ended so happily.
As for giving up the idea of marrying Arowhena, it never so much as entered my head to
do so: the solution must be found in some other direction than this. The idea of waiting
till somebody married Zulora was to be no less summarily dismissed. To marry
Arowhena at once in Erewhon--this had already been abandoned: there remained
therefore but one alternative, and that was to run away with her, and get her with me to
Europe, where there would be no bar to our union save my own impecuniosity, a matter
which gave me no uneasiness.
To this obvious and simple plan I could see but two objections that deserved the name,--
the first, that perhaps Arowhena would not come; the second, that it was almost
impossible for me to escape even alone, for the king had himself told me that I was to
consider myself a prisoner on parole, and that the first sign of my endeavouring to escape
would cause me to be sent to one of the hospitals for incurables. Besides, I did not know
the geography of the country, and even were I to try and find my way back, I should be