Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/283

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281
THE VOYAGE OUT

ought never to have asked you to marry me, I expect. I'm a bit of a snob; I'm ambitious——"

"Oh, our faults!" she cried. "What do they matter?" Then she demanded, "Am I in love—is this being in love—are we to marry each other?"

Overcome by the charm of her voice and her presence, he exclaimed, "Oh, you're free, Rachel. To you, time will make no difference, or marriage or——"

The voices of the others behind them kept floating, now farther, now nearer, and Mrs. Flushing's laugh rose clearly by itself.

"Marriage?" Rachel repeated.

The shouts were renewed behind, warning them that they were bearing too far to the left. Improving their course, he continued, "Yes, marriage." The feeling that they could not be united until she knew all about him made him again endeavour to explain.

"All that's been bad in me, the things I've put up with—the second best——"

She murmured, considered her own life, but could not describe how it looked to her now.

"And the loneliness!" he continued. A vision of walking with her through the streets of London came before his eyes. "We will go for walks together," he said. The simplicity of the idea relieved them, and for the first time they laughed. They would have liked had they dared to take each other by the hand, but the consciousness of eyes fixed on them from behind had not yet deserted them.

"Books, people, sights—Mrs. Nutt, Greeley, Hutchinson," Hewet murmured.

With every word the mist which had enveloped them, making them seem unreal to each other, since the previous afternoon melted a little further, and their contact became more and more natural. Up through the sultry southern landscape they saw the world they knew appear clearer and more vividly than it had ever appeared before. As upon that occasion at the hotel when she had sat in the window, the world once more arranged itself beneath her gaze very vividly and in its true proportions. She glanced curiously at Terence from time