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The Man and the Moment
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through breakfast, Sabine devoted herself sedulously to Lord Fordyce—and this
produced two results. It sent Henry into a seventh heaven and caused Michael to burn
with jealous rage. Primitive instincts were a good deal taking possession of him—and he
found it extremely difficult to keep up his rôle of disinterested friend. It must be admitted
he was in really a very difficult position for any man, and it is not very easy to decide
what he ought to have done short of telling Henry the truth at once—but this he found
grew every moment more hard to do. It would mean that he would have to leave Héronac
immediately. In any case, he must do this directly. Sabine admitted, even to him, that she
was his wife. They could not together agree to leave Henry in ignorance, that would be
deliberately deceiving, and would make them both feel too mean. But while nothing was
even tacitly confessed, there seemed some straw for his honor to grasp; he clutched at it
knowing its flimsy nature. He had given himself until the next day and now refused to
look beyond that. Every moment Sabine was attracting him more deeply—and bringing
certain memories more vividly before him with maddening tantalization.
But did she love Henry? Of that he could not be sure. If she did, he certainly must divorce
her at once. If she did not—why was she wishing to marry him? Henry was an awfully
good fellow, far better than he—but after all, she was his wife—even though he had
forfeited all right to call her so, and if she did not love Henry, no friendship toward him
ought to be allowed to stand in the way of their reunion. It is astonishing how civilization
controls nature! If we put as much force into the controlling of our own thoughts as we
put into acting up to a standard of public behavior, what wonderful creatures we should
Here were these two human beings—young and strong and full of passion, playing each a
part with an art as great as any displayed at the Comédie Française! And all for reasons
suggested by civilization!—when nature would have solved the difficulty in the twinkling
of an eye!
Michael spent a breakfast hour in purgatory. It was plain to be seen that Henry expected
him to show some desire to go fishing, or to want some other sport which required
solitude, or only the company of Madame Imogen—and his afternoon looked as if it were
not going to be a thing of joy. The result of civilization then made him say:
"May I take out that boat I saw in the little harbor after breakfast, Mrs. Howard? I must
have some real exercise. Two days in a motor is too much."
And his hostess graciously accorded him a permission, while her heart sank—at least she
experienced that unpleasant physical sensation of heaviness somewhere in the diaphragm
which poets have christened heart-sinking! She knew it was quite the right thing for him