16. Chapter XVI.
For a moment he could not speak; then he said:
"There is no pledge--no obligation whatever--of the
kind you think. Such cases don't always--present themselves
quite as simply as . . . But that's no matter . . . I
love your generosity, because I feel as you do about
those things . . . I feel that each case must be judged
individually, on its own merits . . . irrespective of stupid
conventionalities . . . I mean, each woman's right
to her liberty--" He pulled himself up, startled by the
turn his thoughts had taken, and went on, looking at
her with a smile: "Since you understand so many things,
dearest, can't you go a little farther, and understand
the uselessness of our submitting to another form of
the same foolish conventionalities? If there's no one
and nothing between us, isn't that an argument for
marrying quickly, rather than for more delay?"
She flushed with joy and lifted her face to his; as he
bent to it he saw that her eyes were full of happy tears.
But in another moment she seemed to have descended
from her womanly eminence to helpless and timorous
girlhood; and he understood that her courage and
initiative were all for others, and that she had none for
herself. It was evident that the effort of speaking had
been much greater than her studied composure betrayed,
and that at his first word of reassurance she had dropped
back into the usual, as a too-adventurous child takes
refuge in its mother's arms.
Archer had no heart to go on pleading with her; he
was too much disappointed at the vanishing of the new
being who had cast that one deep look at him from her
transparent eyes. May seemed to be aware of his
disappointment, but without knowing how to alleviate it;
and they stood up and walked silently home.