Understanding

He came back the next day, but she was then unable to see him, and as it was literally the first time this had occurred in the long stretch of their acquaintance he turned away, defeated and sore, almost angry – or feeling at least that such a break in their custom was really the beginning of the end – and wandered alone with his thoughts, especially with one of them that he was unable to keep down. She was dying, and he would lose her ; she was dying, and his life would end. He stopped in the park, into which he had passed, and stared before him at his recurrent doubt. Away from her the doubt pressed again ; in her presence he had believed her, but as he felt his forlornness he threw himself into the explanation that, nearest at hand, had  most of a miserable warmth for him and least of a cold torment. She had deceived him to save him – to put him off with something in which he should be able to rest. What could the thing that was to happen to him be, after all, but just this thing that had begun to happen ? Her dying, her death, his consequent solitude – that was what he had figured as the beast in the jungle, that was what had been in the lap of the gods.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”, in Major Stories & Essays, Library of America College Editions, 1999), p477

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