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Night and Day

CHAPTER XXVIII
Like a strain of music, the effect of Katharine's presence slowly died from the
room in which Ralph sat alone. The music had ceased in the rapture of its
melody. He strained to catch the faintest lingering echoes; for a moment the
memory lulled him into peace; but soon it failed, and he paced the room so
hungry for the sound to come again that he was conscious of no other desire left
in life. She had gone without speaking; abruptly a chasm had been cut in his
course, down which the tide of his being plunged in disorder; fell upon rocks;
flung itself to destruction. The distress had an effect of physical ruin and disaster.
He trembled; he was white; he felt exhausted, as if by a great physical effort. He
sank at last into a chair standing opposite her empty one, and marked,
mechanically, with his eye upon the clock, how she went farther and farther from
him, was home now, and now, doubtless, again with Rodney. But it was long
before he could realize these facts; the immense desire for her presence churned
his senses into foam, into froth, into a haze of emotion that removed all facts
from his grasp, and gave him a strange sense of distance, even from the material
shapes of wall and window by which he was surrounded. The prospect of the
future, now that the strength of his passion was revealed to him, appalled him.
The marriage would take place in September, she had said; that allowed him,
then, six full months in which to undergo these terrible extremes of emotion. Six
months of torture, and after that the silence of the grave, the isolation of the
insane, the exile of the damned; at best, a life from which the chief good was
knowingly and for ever excluded. An impartial judge might have assured him that
his chief hope of recovery lay in this mystic temper, which identified a living
woman with much that no human beings long possess in the eyes of each other;
she would pass, and the desire for her vanish, but his belief in what she stood
for, detached from her, would remain. This line of thought offered, perhaps, some
respite, and possessed of a brain that had its station considerably above the
tumult of the senses, he tried to reduce the vague and wandering incoherency of
his emotions to order. The sense of self-preservation was strong in him, and
Katharine herself had strangely revived it by convincing him that his family
deserved and needed all his strength. She was right, and for their sake, if not for
his own, this passion, which could bear no fruit, must be cut off, uprooted, shown
to be as visionary and baseless as she had maintained. The best way of
achieving this was not to run away from her, but to face her, and having steeped
himself in her qualities, to convince his reason that they were, as she assured
him, not those that he imagined. She was a practical woman, a domestic wife for
an inferior poet, endowed with romantic beauty by some freak of unintelligent
Nature. No doubt her beauty itself would not stand examination. He had the
means of settling this point at least. He possessed a book of photographs from
the Greek statues; the head of a goddess, if the lower part were concealed, had
often given him the ecstasy of being in Katharine's presence. He took it down
from the shelf and found the picture. To this he added a note from her, bidding
him meet her at the Zoo. He had a flower which he had picked at Kew to teach
 
 
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