He was an acute man, but the self-confidence with which he had entered upon this dialogue, his conviction that he had but to speak when he wished to receive assurance of Marian's devotion, prevented him from understanding the tone of independence she had suddenly adopted. With more modesty he would have felt more subtly at this juncture, would have divined that the girl had an exquisite pleasure in drawing back now that she saw him approaching her with unmistakable purpose, that she wished to be wooed in less off-hand fashion before confessing what was in her heart. For the moment he was disconcerted. Those last words of hers had a slight tone of superiority, the last thing he would have expected upon her lips.
'Yet I surely haven't always appeared so--to you?' he said.
'But you are in doubt concerning the real man?'
'I'm not sure that I understand you. You say that you do really think as you speak.'
'So I do. I think that there is no choice for a man who can't bear poverty. I have never said, though, that I had pleasure in mean necessities; I accept them because I can't help it.'
It was a delight to Marian to observe the anxiety with which he turned to self-defence. Never in her life had she felt this joy of holding a position of command. It was nothing to her that Jasper valued her more because of her money; impossible for it to be otherwise. Satisfied that he did value her, to begin with, for her own sake, she was very willing to accept money as her ally in the winning of his love. He scarcely loved her yet, as she understood the feeling, but she perceived her power over him, and passion taught her how to exert it.
'But you resign yourself very cheerfully to the necessity,' she said, looking at him with merely intellectual eyes.
'You had rather I lamented my fate in not being able to devote myself to nobly unremunerative work?'