A Mental Struggle. 225
believe It. Why should the fact that I have been
fortunate enough to be able to do you a service compel
you to offer me so great a return? I refuse to accept
it. Theie Is still some happiness left to me In the
thought that I have served you. I know that all you
have said has been uttered through a mistaken sense of
gratitude; and I—I decline to listen to it."
" No! Have you no mercy ?" cries he, roughly.
" Can't you understand how strong Is my temptation ?
I Implore you to save yourself and me, and desist from
further words—and------" (his voice sinks, and he turns
aside)—" and leave me desolate, as I was before."
" Ah ! hear me ! " entreats she, determined to advocate
honestly her own doom, and holding out to him her hands.
" If I tell you that I do not love you with that passionate
love with which some women can bless the men they
marry, but that above all living men I respect you, will
that suffice ? Will it content you ? Will you then take
me as I am ? "
" No," returns he indistinctly.
He has taken her hands, however, and the tightness of
his grasp amounts almost to pain.
" No ; I love you too well to permit you so to sacrifice
yourself. My affection Is not so poor a thing as that. I
will wait until your heart and lips can join to tsll me the
one thing I care to hear."
" It may be too late then," urges she passionately. And
then all at once the knowledge of how earnestly she is
pleading against herself smites upon her, and her trembling
lips part, and a strange, sad little laugh breaks from her.
" See what a poor frail thing I am ! " she says, pushing up
her sleeves to show her arm beneath, that indeed has
grown very slight and fragile during these past months;
" scarcely worth your acceptance." Then all suddenly she
bursts into a wild storm of tears, " I ask you to take me
now," she cries. " How will it be, If later on I am not
here to take ? "
" Imogen ? Imogen !" cries the young man In a frenzied
tone. Standing there. In the flickering fire-light, with the