'You mean that you wish it. You are weary of me, and care for nothing but how to make yourself free.'
'I shall argue no more. I am tired to death of it.'
'Then say nothing, but listen for the last time to my view of the position we have come to. When I consented to leave you for a time, to go away and try to work in solitude, I was foolish and even insincere, both to you and to myself. I knew that I was undertaking the impossible. It was just putting off the evil day, that was all--putting off the time when I should have to say plainly: "I can't live by literature, so I must look out for some other employment." I shouldn't have been so weak but that I knew how you would regard such a decision as that. I was afraid to tell the truth--afraid. Now, when Carter of a sudden put this opportunity before me, I saw all the absurdity of the arrangements we had made. It didn't take me a moment to make up my mind. Anything was to be chosen rather than a parting from you on false pretences, a ridiculous affectation of hope where there was no hope.'
He paused, and saw that his words had no effect upon her.
'And a grievous share of the fault lies with you, Amy. You remember very well when I first saw how dark the future was. I was driven even to say that we ought to change our mode of living; I asked you if you would be willing to leave this place and go into cheaper rooms. And you know what your answer was. Not a sign in you that you would stand by me if the worst came. I knew then what I had to look forward to, but I durst not believe it. I kept saying to myself: "She loves me, and as soon as she really understands--" That was all self-deception. If I had been a wise man, I should have spoken to you in a way you couldn't mistake. I should have told you that we were living recklessly, and that I had determined to alter it. I have no delicacy? No regard for your feelings? Oh, if I had had less! I doubt whether you can even understand some of the considerations that weighed with me, and made me cowardly--though I once thought there was no refinement of sensibility that you couldn't enter into. Yes, I was absurd enough to say to myself: "It will look as if I had consciously deceived her; she may suffer from the thought that I won her at all hazards, knowing that I should soon expose her to poverty and all sorts of humiliation." Impossible to speak of that again; I had to struggle desperately on, trying to hope. Oh! if you knew--'
His voice gave way for an instant.
'I don't understand how you could be so thoughtless and heartless. You knew that I was almost mad with anxiety at times. Surely, any woman must have had the impulse to give what help was in her power. How could you hesitate? Had you no suspicion of what a relief and encouragement it would be to me, if you said: "Yes, we must go and live in a simpler way?" If only as a proof that you loved me, how I should have welcomed that! You helped me in nothing. You threw all the responsibility upon me--always bearing in mind, I suppose, that there was a refuge for you. Even now, I despise myself for saying such things of you, though I know so bitterly that they are true. It takes a long time to see you as such a different woman from the one I worshipped. In passion, I can fling out violent words, but they don't yet answer to my actual feeling. It will be long enough yet before I think contemptuously of you. You know that when a light is suddenly extinguished, the image of it still shows before your eyes. But at last comes the darkness.'
Amy turned towards him once more.
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