Virginia Woolf: Night and Day

19. CHAPTER XIX (continued)

"In most ways, at least in the important ways, as you said, we know each other and we think alike. I believe you are the only person in the world I could live with happily. And if you feel the same about me--as you do, don't you, Mary?--we should make each other happy." Here he paused, and seemed to be in no hurry for an answer; he seemed, indeed, to be continuing his own thoughts.

"Yes, but I'm afraid I couldn't do it," Mary said at last. The casual and rather hurried way in which she spoke, together with the fact that she was saying the exact opposite of what he expected her to say, baffled him so much that he instinctively loosened his clasp upon her arm and she withdrew it quietly.

"You couldn't do it?" he asked.

"No, I couldn't marry you," she replied.

"You don't care for me?"

She made no answer.

"Well, Mary," he said, with a curious laugh, "I must be an arrant fool, for I thought you did." They walked for a minute or two in silence, and suddenly he turned to her, looked at her, and exclaimed: "I don't believe you, Mary. You're not telling me the truth."

"I'm too tired to argue, Ralph," she replied, turning her head away from him. "I ask you to believe what I say. I can't marry you; I don't want to marry you."

The voice in which she stated this was so evidently the voice of one in some extremity of anguish that Ralph had no course but to obey her. And as soon as the tone of her voice had died out, and the surprise faded from his mind, he found himself believing that she had spoken the truth, for he had but little vanity, and soon her refusal seemed a natural thing to him. He slipped through all the grades of despondency until he reached a bottom of absolute gloom. Failure seemed to mark the whole of his life; he had failed with Katharine, and now he had failed with Mary. Up at once sprang the thought of Katharine, and with it a sense of exulting freedom, but this he checked instantly. No good had ever come to him from Katharine; his whole relationship with her had been made up of dreams; and as he thought of the little substance there had been in his dreams he began to lay the blame of the present catastrophe upon his dreams.

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