The question was so calm and mild, so simple and bare and dispassionate that Ursula was somewhat taken aback, rather attracted. It pleased her almost like a wickedness. There was some delightful naked irony in Hermione.
`Well,' replied Ursula, `He wants to, awfully, but I'm not so sure.'
Hermione watched her with slow calm eyes. She noted this new expression of vaunting. How she envied Ursula a certain unconscious positivity! even her vulgarity!
`Why aren't you sure?' she asked, in her easy sing song. She was perfectly at her ease, perhaps even rather happy in this conversation. `You don't really love him?'
Ursula flushed a little at the mild impertinence of this question. And yet she could not definitely take offence. Hermione seemed so calmly and sanely candid. After all, it was rather great to be able to be so sane.
`He says it isn't love he wants,' she replied.
`What is it then?' Hermione was slow and level.
`He wants me really to accept him in marriage.'
Hermione was silent for some time, watching Ursula with slow, pensive eyes.
`Does he?' she said at length, without expression. Then, rousing, `And what is it you don't want? You don't want marriage?'
`No -- I don't -- not really. I don't want to give the sort of submission he insists on. He wants me to give myself up -- and I simply don't feel that I can do it.'
Again there was a long pause, before Hermione replied:
`Not if you don't want to.' Then again there was silence. Hermione shuddered with a strange desire. Ah, if only he had asked her to subserve him, to be his slave! She shuddered with desire.
`You see I can't --'
`But exactly in what does --'
They had both begun at once, they both stopped. Then, Hermione, assuming priority of speech, resumed as if wearily:
`To what does he want you to submit?'
`He says he wants me to accept him non-emotionally, and finally -- I really don't know what he means. He says he wants the demon part of himself to be mated -- physically -- not the human being. You see he says one thing one day, and another the next -- and he always contradicts himself --'
`And always thinks about himself, and his own dissatisfaction,' said Hermione slowly.
`Yes,' cried Ursula. `As if there were no-one but himself concerned. That makes it so impossible.'
But immediately she began to retract.
`He insists on my accepting God knows what in him,' she resumed. `He wants me to accept him as -- as an absolute -- But it seems to me he doesn't want to give anything. He doesn't want real warm
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