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The Man

9. In The Spring
The months since her father's death spread into the second year before Stephen began to
realise the loneliness of her life. She had no companion now but her aunt; and though the
old lady adored her, and she returned her love in full, the mere years between them made
impossible the companionship that youth craves. Miss Rowly's life was in the past.
Stephen's was in the future. And loneliness is a feeling which comes unbidden to a heart.
Stephen felt her loneliness all round. In old days Harold was always within hail, and
companionship of equal age and understanding was available. But now his very reticence
in her own interest, and by her father's wishes, made for her pain. Harold had put his
strongest restraint on himself, and in his own way suffered a sort of silent martyrdom. He
loved Stephen with every fibre of his being. Day by day he came toward her with eager
step; day by day he left her with a pang that made his heart ache and seemed to turn the
brightness of the day to gloom. Night by night he tossed for hours thinking, thinking,
wondering if the time would ever come when her kisses would be his . . . But the tortures
and terrors of the night had their effect on his days. It seemed as if the mere act of
thinking, of longing, gave him ever renewed self-control, so that he was able in his
bearing to carry out the task he had undertaken: to give Stephen time to choose a mate for
herself. Herein lay his weakness--a weakness coming from his want of knowledge of the
world of women. Had he ever had a love affair, be it never so mild a one, he would have
known that love requires a positive expression. It is not sufficient to sigh, and wish, and
hope, and long, all to oneself. Stephen felt instinctively that his guarded speech and
manner were due to the coldness--or rather the trusting abated worship--of the
brotherhood to which she had been always accustomed. At the time when new forces
were manifesting and expanding themselves within her; when her growing instincts,
cultivated by the senses and the passions of young nature, made her aware of other
forces, new and old, expanding themselves outside her; at the time when the heart of a
girl is eager for new impressions and new expansions, and the calls of sex are working
within her all unconsciously, Harold, to whom her heart would probably have been the
first to turn, made himself in his effort to best show his love, a quantite negligeable.
Thus Stephen, whilst feeling that the vague desires of budding womanhood were
trembling within her, had neither thought nor knowledge of their character or their
ultimate tendency. She would have been shocked, horrified, had that logical process,
which she applied so freely to less personal matters, been used upon her own intimate
nature. In her case logic would of course act within a certain range; and as logic is a
conscious intellectual process, she became aware that her objective was man. Man--in the
abstract. 'Man,' not 'a man.' Beyond that, she could not go. It is not too much to say that
she did not ever, even in her most errant thought, apply her reasoning, or even dream of
its following out either the duties, the responsibilities, or the consequences of having a
husband. She had a vague longing for younger companionship, and of the kind naturally
most interesting to her. There thought stopped.
 
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