"It is very hard on you," she said.
"I feel sure it was that," she went on; and now her figure was erect, and again it broke, and sometimes there was a noble scorn in her voice, but more often there was only pitiful humility. "I feel sure it was that, for I have often wondered how everybody did not know. I have broken my promise. I used always to be able to keep a promise. I had every other fault,--I was hard and proud and intolerant,--but I was true. I think I was vain of that, though I see now it was only something I could not help; from the moment when I had a difficulty in keeping a promise, I ceased to keep it. I love you so much that I carry my love in my face for all to read. They cannot see me meet you without knowing the truth; they cannot hear me say your name but I betray myself; I show how I love you in every movement; I am full of you. How can anyone look at me and not see you? I should have been more careful--oh, I could have been so much more careful had I loved you a little less! It is very hard on you."
The note of satire had died out of her voice; her every look and gesture carried in it nothing but love for him; but all the unhappy dog could say was something about self-respect.
Her mouth opened as if for bitterness; but no sound came. "How much self-respect do you think is left for me after to-day?" she said mournfully at last; and then she quickly took a step nearer her dear one, as if to caress the spot where these words had struck him. But she stopped, and for a moment she was the Grizel of old. "Have no fear," she said, with a trembling, crooked smile; "there is only one thing to be done now, and I shall do it. All the blame is mine. You shall not be deprived of your self-respect."
He had not been asking for his freedom; but he heard it running to him now, and he knew that if he answered nothing he would be whistling it back for ever. A madness to be free at any cost swept over him. He let go his hold on self-respect, and clapped his hand on freedom.
He answered nothing, and the one thing for her to do was to go; and she did it. But it was only for a moment that she could be altogether the Grizel of old. She turned to take a long, last look at him; but the wofulness of herself was what she saw. She cried, with infinite pathos, "Oh, how could you hurt your Grizel so!"
He controlled himself and let her go. His freedom was fawning on him, licking his hands and face, and in that madness he actually let Grizel go. It was not until she was out of sight that he gave utterance to a harsh laugh. He knew what he was at that moment, as you and I shall never be able to know him, eavesdrop how we may.
He flung himself down in a blaeberry-bed, and lay there doggedly, his weak mouth tightly closed. A great silence reigned; no, not a great silence, for he continued to hear the cry: "Oh, how could you hurt your Grizel so!" She scarcely knew that she had said it; but to him who knew what she had been, and what he had changed her into, and for what alone she was to blame, there was an unconscious pathos in it that was terrible. It was the epitome of all that was Grizel, all that was adorable and all that was pitiful in her. It rang in his mind like a bell of doom. He believed its echo would not be quite gone from his ears when he died. If all the wise men in the world had met to consider how Grizel could most effectively say farewell to Tommy, they could not have thought out a better sentence. However completely he had put himself emotionally in her place with this same object, he would have been inspired by nothing quite so good.
But they were love's dying words. He knew he could never again, though he tried, be to Grizel what he had been. The water was spilled on the ground. She had thought him all that was glorious in man--that was what her love had meant; and it was spilled. There was only one way in which he could wound her more cruelly than she was already hurt, and that was by daring to ask her to love him still. To imply that he thought her pride so broken, her independence, her maidenly modesty, all that make up the loveliness of a girl, so lost that by entreaties he could persuade her to forgive him, would destroy her altogether.