So the next afternoon Mab took Jenny (cloaked and veiled like a little nun) up the stair and into the room where Mona Lisa and Brevis awaited her. Then he went out and walked in the road, cursing himself for a fool and worse…. But what could I do? he thought helplessly, and wondered if he should have consulted Oliver.
Brevis did not know how he felt toward Jenny coming quietly in, giving him her dark cloak and veil to lay aside, and sitting like a little green-and-white wavelet in his big chair. He had been annoyed and rather afraid. This was not the right thing or the wise thing for Jenny to do and Mab Comyn should have stopped her. But when she sat there with her soft clear face so serious, her red lips so faintly smiling, her slim, desirable little body so curiously tense with purpose and dignity, he realized that no one could have stopped her. She was being driven by the whole force that was in her, and this, he suspected, was greater than either he or Mab Comyn possessed.
"I came to tell you that I do not believe it, Brevis," she said gently. "People would think me unwomanly if they knew, but I do not care. It is not possible that anything could break our lives like this. It is not true."page 324
He went on his knee by the chair, holding her little rigid hands. "Dear love; I'm afraid it is."
"No. Because I would know it. All my blood, every single bit of my body … I haven't the words, Brevis, and perhaps only a woman could have the feeling: but if that woman was alive between us I would know. I came to say that I will marry you when you like. To-day … now. I am ready, Brevis, and no one need know anything of it until you choose."
"That's like you. The most reckless, generous … oh, my darling!" He had her in his arms, kissing her lips, her throat, the blue veins on her temples where the riotous hair was drawn severely back. "Why did you come?" he said brokenly.
"I told you." She was glowing with his kissing now, laughing up at him. "I never did anything by halves, did I? And so when I tell you I belong to you, I mean it. You can take me whenever you like."
"Jenny … Jenny …" How superb she was in her utter ignorant surrender! This was what Mab Comyn had dreaded, Brevis knew. Mab who knew (if any one did) how weak as water a man may be. "Jenny, I cannot marry you while I think that my wife is alive."
"I am willing to take the risk of that. I know that she isn't."
He held her close, silently. Her breath was like violets always, and there was some fresh fragrance in her hair—rosemary. Good earth she was, this Jenny Comyn, with clean strong things growing in it. And he could take her when he chose. Have his private meat and drink while the world outside praised and aided his austere climbing life. It was not good to tempt a man like that. "You don't know what you are doing, dear love—coming to me like this."
"Yes, I know," she said softly, her lips on his shut eyes. "Some day we must be dust, but let us have our years together first."
Again he was silent. He knew that he could not go through any marriage ceremony with her. His legal mind and some secret cowardice in him refused it. To live in daily fear of attaint for bigamy … No. It would break his nerve, his powers. He would never get anywhere. But to take Jenny's love and all her loveliness, her gaiety … He could not think clearly here. He knew page 325that this hot storming desire for her which was mounting so rapidly had left his crude passion for Frasquita far behind. He knew that he had her in his arms and love was pounding in him like a sea …
Mab knocked on the door, and Brevis drew a long breath as though dragging himself back from some golden yet dangerous shore. "I will come to Clent," he said to Jenny, and got up and let Mab in.