15. The End Of The Meeting
Stephen went on in her calm, cold voice:
'Did he tell you that I had asked him to marry me?' Despite herself, as she spoke the
words a red tide dyed her face. It was not a flush; it was not a blush; it was a sort of flood
which swept through her, leaving her in a few seconds whiter than before. Harold saw
and understood. He could not speak; he lowered his head silently. Her eyes glittered more
coldly. The madness that every human being may have once was upon her. Such a
madness is destructive, and here was something more vulnerable than herself.
'Did he tell you how I pressed him?' There was no red tide this time, nor ever again whilst
the interview lasted. To bow in affirmation was insufficient; with an effort he answered:
'I understood so.' She answered with an icy sarcasm:
'You understood so! Oh, I don't doubt he embellished the record with some of his own
pleasantries. But you understood it; and that is sufficient.' After a pause she went on:
'Did he tell you that he had refused me?'
'Yes!' Harold knew now that he was under the torture, and that there was no refusing. She
went on, with a light laugh, which wrung his heart even more than her pain had done . . .
Stephen to laugh like that!
'And I have no doubt that he embellished that too, with some of his fine masculine
witticisms. I understood myself that he was offended at my asking him. I understood it
quite well; he told me so!' Then with feminine intuition she went on:
'I dare say that before he was done he said something kindly of the poor little thing that
loved him; that loved him so much, and that she had to break down all the bounds of
modesty and decorum that had made the women of her house honoured for a thousand
years! And you listened to him whilst he spoke! Oh-h-h!' she quivered with her white-hot
anger, as the fierce heat in the heart of a furnace quivers. But her voice was cold again as
she went on:
'But who could help loving him? Girls always did. It was such a beastly nuisance! You
"understood" all that, I dare say; though perhaps he did not put it in such plain words!'
Then the scorn, which up to now had been imprisoned, turned on him; and he felt as
though some hose of deathly chill was being played upon him.
'And yet you, knowing that only yesterday, he had refused me--refused my pressing
request that he should marry me, come to me hot-foot in the early morning and ask me to
be your wife. I thought such things did not take place; that men were more honourable, or
more considerate, or more merciful! Or at least I used to think so; till yesterday. No! till