She shook her head. “No,” she said, “I have thought as well. What you say—doesn’t convince me.”
She looked at his face resolutely. “I hate it,” she said, and caught at her breath. “You do not understand, you do not think. There was a time when you said things and I believed them. I am growing wiser. You are a man, you can fight, force your way. You do not mind bruises. You can be coarse and ugly, and still a man. Yes—it makes you. It makes you. You are right. Only a woman is not like that. We are different. We have let ourselves get civilised too soon. This underworld is not for us.”
She paused and began again.
“I hate it! I hate this horrible canvas! I hate it more than—more than the worst that can happen. It hurts my fingers to touch it. It is horrible to the skin. And the women I work with day after day! I lie awake at nights and think how I may be growing like them… .”
She stopped. “I am growing like them,” she cried passionately.
Denton stared at her distress. “But—” he said and stopped.
“You don’t understand. What have I? What have I to save me? You can fight. Fighting is man’s work. But women—women are different… . I have thought it all out, I have done nothing but think night and day. Look at the colour of my face! I cannot go on. I cannot endure this life… . I cannot endure it.”
She stopped. She hesitated.
“You do not know all,” she said abruptly, and for an instant her lips had a bitter smile. “I have been asked to leave you.”
She made no answer save an affirmative movement of the head.
Denton stood up sharply. They stared at one another through a long silence.
Suddenly she turned herself about, and flung face downward upon their canvas bed. She did not sob, she made no sound. She lay still upon her face. After a vast, distressful void her shoulders heaved and she began to weep silently.
“Elizabeth!” he whispered—”Elizabeth!”
Very softly he sat down beside her, bent down, put his arm across her in a doubtful caress, seeking vainly for some clue to this intolerable situation.
“Elizabeth,” he whispered in her ear.
She thrust him from her with her hand. “I cannot bear a child to be a slave!” and broke out into loud and bitter weeping.