It struck her that he was relieved. He gave the man the address, speaking hurriedly, and jumped in.
She had gone on. She heard the closing of the door behind her, and the next moment the cab passed her.
She did not see him again that night. They met in the morning at breakfast. A curious strangeness to each other seemed to have grown up between them, as if they had known one another long ago, and had half forgotten. When they had finished she rose to leave; but he asked her to stop, and, after the table had been cleared, he walked up and down the room, while she sat sideways on the window seat from where she could watch the little ships moving to and fro across the horizon, like painted figures in a show.
"I had a long talk with Nan last night," he said. "And, trying to explain it to her, I came a little nearer to understanding it myself. My love for you would have been strong enough to ruin both of us. I see that now. It would have dominated every other thought in me. It would have swallowed up my dreams. It would have been blind, unscrupulous. Married to you, I should have aimed only at success. It would not have been your fault. You would not have known. About mere birth I should never have troubled myself. I've met daughters of a hundred earls--more or less: clever, jolly little women I could have chucked under the chin and have been chummy with. Nature creates her own ranks, and puts her ban upon misalliances. Every time I took you in my arms I should have felt that you had stepped down from your proper order to mate yourself with me and that it was up to me to make the sacrifice good to you by giving you power--position. Already within the last few weeks, when it looked as if this thing was going to be possible, I have been thinking against my will of a compromise with Carleton that would give me his support. This coming election was beginning to have terrors for me that I have never before felt. The thought of defeat--having to go back to comparative poverty, to comparative obscurity, with you as my wife, was growing into a nightmare. I should have wanted wealth, fame, victory, for your sake--to see you honoured, courted, envied, finely dressed and finely housed-- grateful to me for having won for you these things. It wasn't honest, healthy love--the love that unites, that makes a man willing to take as well as to give, that I felt for you; it was worship that separates a man from a woman, that puts fear between them. It isn't good that man should worship a woman. He can't serve God and woman. Their interests are liable to clash. Nan's my helpmate--just a loving woman that the Lord brought to me and gave me when I was alone--that I still love. I didn't know it till last night. She will never stand in my way. I haven't to put her against my duty. She will leave me free to obey the voice that calls to me. And no man can hear that voice but himself."
He had been speaking in a clear, self-confident tone, as if at last he saw his road before him to the end; and felt that nothing else mattered but that he should go forward hopefully, unfalteringly. Now he paused, and his eyes wandered. But the lines about his strong mouth deepened.
"Perhaps, I am not of the stuff that conquerors are made," he went on. "Perhaps, if I were, I should be thinking differently. It comes to me sometimes that I may be one of those intended only to prepare the way--that for me there may be only the endless struggle. I may have to face unpopularity, abuse, failure. She won't mind."
"Nor would you," he added, turning to her suddenly for the first time, "I know that. But I should be afraid--for you."
She had listened to him without interrupting, and even now she did not speak for a while.