Some Ways of Love

Les âmes sont presque impénétrables les unes aux autres, et c’est ce qui vous montre le néant cruel de l’amour. (Souls are almost impenetrable to each other, and it is this which demonstrates to you the cruel nothingness of love.)

‘And so you send me away unanswered?’ said the young man, rising reluctantly, taking his gloves from the table and glancing meanwhile at the obdurate little lady on the sofa, who witnessed his distress with that quizzical kindness, which distracted him, in her clear, rather humorous blue eyes.

‘I will give you an answer if you wish it.’

‘I would rather hope,—you do give me a ray of hope?’

‘Just a ray’, she admitted, laughing, with the same disturbing air of indulgence. ‘But don’t magnify it—one has a habit, I know, of magnifying “rays”—and I don’t want you to come back—if you do come back—with a whole blazing sun.’

‘You are very frank, and a little cruel.’

‘I am afraid I mean to be—both. It is so much better for you.’ She was twisting the rings round her small fingers while she spoke, as if the interview were becoming slightly weari-some.

‘You treat me like a boy’, he broke out, with youthful bitterness.

‘Ah! the cruellest treatment one can give to boys’, she answered, looking up at him with her hovering brilliant, vexatious smile. But meeting his clouded glance she paused, and abandoned temporarily the lighter line of argument.

‘Forgive me, Captain Henley—’

He scanned the treacherous face to see if the appellation so sedately uttered were not designedly malicious, but her next words reassured him.

‘I will be more serious. See,—frankly, cruelly perhaps,—I do not know my heart.’ She did not falter over the studied phrase. ‘You are not the first’, observing his troubled features ruefully, as she dealt the innocent blow. ‘You may not be—the last.’

It left her lips a little labouredly, despite its apparent levity, but he was too much absorbed to notice fine shades of accent, and she went on,—‘I am not so charming as you think me, but that’s a foregone conclusion. Shall I say, not so charming as I seem? At eighteen I made—I will not suggest I was led into—a loveless marriage. It was a failure, of course. I do not want to make another. I shrink from helping, shall we say, you? to a similar mistake. You must pardon me if I admit I do look upon you as—young; for years, you know, are deceptive things,—even with women.’

His boyish face expressed annoyance.

‘Ah! I meant you to smile, and you are frowning. I should not be outraged if any one offered me the indignity you resent so foolishly; but then I am not—fortunately or unfortunately—so young as you. Come, be reasonable’, she urged, with a singular sweetness of persuasion: ‘if I do not know my mind, is it so strange in me to suppose that yours may change? Again forgive me if I anticipate you. I have been glib enough with “nevers” and “for evers” in my day; but I shun them. I listen to them with more caution now. “Never”, “for ever”,’ she repeated, and mused for a moment over the words. ‘I sometimes imagine one is only safe in speaking them on the threshold of another life than this. It is a fancy of mine we should not use them now. Please humour it.’

‘I am not so diffident, doubtful, nor possibly so cynical’, he began; but she interposed with the wave of a little glittering hand.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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