I HAD BEEN married a year or more and had returned to London and
taken up my ordinary life when one day I got a letter from Laura,
asking if she might call on me in my bachelor house in Kensington Gore.
I never was so rejoiced in my whole life. My six months' honeymoon had
wearied me and the life in Park Lane was simply tiresome, to a degree.
I begged her to come at once, and a day or two later Laura came to me
in the room where we had met so often. She was as lovely as ever, but
at first withdrawn and strangely quiet.
«I wanted to see if you had forgotten me,» she said.
«I could as soon forget my own soul,» I answered; and our eyes met—
hers were inscrutable but slowly turned into a question.
«Then why did you marry?» she exclaimed.
«Why did you lie and go abroad?» I countered.
«My mother's health,» she replied.
«Why didn't you tell me?» I attacked.
«I hoped to be back before it would matter to you,» she answered.
«Always your mother between us,» I said.
«Nothing is altered, then,» she went on, «you care for me as much as
«More, I am afraid,» I replied, and it was indeed less than the
truth. She was as beautiful to me as ever—more beautiful; in fact,
infinitely attractive. Her very faults were dear to me. The worst of it
was I could never quite believe in her affection, I don't know why: I
never did, either earlier, or then, or later: that was the tragic
background of our intimacy.
She assured me that no young man had gone abroad with them and that
she cared for no one but me; and I told her how I had seen her with her
mother at the station in Bologna, and how terribly it had affected me,
making me realize my awful blunder. She put her arms round me at this,
and our lips met, and at once hers grew hot.
«Will you come to our room, dear?» I asked.
She nodded her head: «Our room, indeed!» And we went upstairs
together. In a few minutes she had undressed, and I lifted her into the
bed, taking her chemise off as she lay: her superb form brought heat
into my eyes. She was braver than she had been in the past; she made no
resistance now, as she often used to make before, and as I began to
kiss her, I couldn't but admire the exquisite beauty of her form and
sex. Never surely was any one more perfect. For some time I kissed her
before she gave any sign of emotion. Then suddenly she called me,
«Frank»; and when I lifted myself to answer, she drew me into her arms.
«How could you, how could you? You dear, naughty boy! How could you
leave me? When I love you more than all the world,» and she broke into
a flood of tears.
«Why didn't you say so?» I replied. «If you had, I should have been
«I never felt you cared,» she answered, drying her tears, «I even
feared you loved your wife till I saw her the other day, then I laughed
and wrote to you; I was sure you couldn't love her as you had loved me.
Oh, Frank, what hours we have had!»
«The Gods hate human happiness,» I said, «that is why I have lost
you. But now let us begin again. Come to me on our three holy
days—Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday; tell me what you want frankly
and I shall try to meet all your desires.»
«They have been pressing me to marry some one,» she said; «father has
lost money again, but I have refused. If you could help me, it would
make it easier.»
«I am glad to do it, so glad! I shall give you more than before. Life
is going to change and we shall come together yet.»
«I love you,» she replied, «and only you. I ought to have made that
clear, but when we give ourselves, we women, we are apt to think that
the man must know we are his and belong to him absolutely, and we are a
little ashamed of it.»
«You dear,» I answered. «I ought to have guessed it; but let us begin
again and bring love to a higher perfection.»
I had never felt such passionate admiration for any other woman: the
beauty of her figure appealed to me intensely, and the mere touch of
her firm flesh thrilled me as no one else had ever done. I cannot
explain the magnetism, the intensity of the attraction and the passion
she inspired in me. Life would have reached its highest through my
connection with her if it hadn't been for one thing.
I don't know why, but I was never sure of Laura's love; and that
caused in me a curious reflex action: I never tried to give her the
greatest sum of pleasure that I possibly could. I often stopped
embracing just when she was most passionate, out of a sort of revenge
that sprang from hurt vanity. This passion of vanity is the most cruel
master of mankind—a very God. Who that has read them can ever forget
Nought loves another as itself
Nor venerates another so
Nor is it given unto thought
A greater than itself to know.
Why did I doubt Laura's love? I remember once an article appearing in
a London paper, putting me among the first writers of the time and
declaring that I was a better talker even than Oscar Wilde. It was by
Francis Adams, I think. I paid no attention to it, but Laura brought it
to me one day in huge excitement wanting to know: «Had I seen it? Who
was the writer? Was it true? Had I written a story called Mantes the
Matador— 'one of the great stories of the world,' this critic