Ashurst thought: 'Now I shall really hurt her!'
"I believe in the Sermon on the Mount, because it's beautiful and good for all time."
"But don't you believe Christ was divine?"
She turned her face quickly to the window, and there sprang into his mind Megan's prayer, repeated by little Nick: "God bless us all, and Mr. Ashes!" Who else would ever say a prayer for him, like her who at this moment must be waiting--waiting to see him come down the lane? And he thought suddenly: 'What a scoundrel I am!'
All that evening this thought kept coming back; but, as is not unusual, each time with less poignancy, till it seemed almost a matter of course to be a scoundrel. And--strange!--he did not know whether he was a scoundrel if he meant to go back to Megan, or if he did not mean to go back to her.
They played cards till the children were sent off to bed; then Stella went to the piano. From over on the window seat, where it was nearly dark, Ashurst watched her between the candles--that fair head on the long, white neck bending to the movement of her hands. She played fluently, without much expression; but what a Picture she made, the faint golden radiance, a sort of angelic atmosphere hovering about her! Who could have passionate thoughts or wild desires in the presence of that swaying, white-clothed girl with the seraphic head? She played a thing of Schumann's called "Warum?" Then Halliday brought out a flute, and the spell was broken. After this they made Ashurst sing, Stella playing him accompaniments from a book of Schumann songs, till, in the middle of "Ich grolle nicht," two small figures clad in blue dressing-gowns crept in and tried to conceal themselves beneath the piano. The evening broke up in confusion, and what Sabina called "a splendid rag."
That night Ashurst hardly slept at all. He was thinking, tossing and turning. The intense domestic intimacy of these last two days, the strength of this Halliday atmosphere, seemed to ring him round, and make the farm and Megan--even Megan--seem unreal. Had he really made love to her--really promised to take her away to live with him? He must have been bewitched by the spring, the night, the apple blossom! This May madness could but destroy them both! The notion that he was going to make her his mistress--that simple child not yet eighteen-- now filled him with a sort of horror, even while it still stung and whipped his blood. He muttered to himself: "It's awful, what I've done--awful!" And the sound of Schumann's music throbbed and mingled with his fevered thoughts, and he saw again Stella's cool, white, fair-haired figure and bending neck, the queer, angelic radiance about her. 'I must have been--I must be-mad!' he thought. 'What came into me? Poor little Megan!' "God bless us all, and Mr. Ashes!" "I want to be with you--only to be with you!" And burying his face in his pillow, he smothered down a fit of sobbing. Not to go back was awful! To go back--more awful still!
Emotion, when you are young, and give real vent to it, loses its power of torture. And he fell asleep, thinking: 'What was it--a few kisses--all forgotten in a month!'