"The Escape" by Somerset Maugham_
I have always believed that if a woman made up her mind to marry a man nothing could save him. I have only once known a man who in such circumstances managed to save himself. His name was Roger Charing. He was no longer young when he fell in love with Ruth Barlow and he had had enough experience to make him careful; but Ruth Barlow had a gift that makes most men defenceless. This was the gift of pathos. Mrs. Barlow was twice a widow. She had splendid dark eyes and they were the most moving I ever saw. They seemed to be always on the point of filling with tears and you felt that her sufferings had been impossible to bear. If you were a strong fellow with plenty of money, like Roger Charing, you should say to yourself: I must stand between the troubles of life and this helpless little thing. Mrs. Barlow was one of those unfortunate persons with whom nothing goes right. If she married the husband beat her; if she employed a broker he cheated her; if she took a cook she drank.
When Roger told me that he was going to marry her, I wished him joy. As for me I thought she was stupid and as hard as nails.
Roger introduced her to his friends. He gave her lovely jewels. He took her everywhere. Their marriage was announced for the nearest future. Roger was very pleased with himself, he was committing a good action.
Then suddenly he fell out of love. I don't know why. Perhaps that pathetic look of hers ceased to touch his heart-strings. He realized that Ruth Barlow had made up her mind to marry him and he swore that nothing would make him marry her. Roger knew it wouldn't be easy.
Roger didn't show that his feelings to Ruth Barlol had changed. He remained attentive to all her wishes, he took her to dine at restaurants, he sent her flowers, he was charming.
They were to get married as soon as they found a house that suited them; and they started looking for residences. The agents sent Roger orders to view and he took Ruth to see some houses. It was very difficult to find anything satisfactory. They visited house after house. Sometimes they were too large and sometimes they were too small; sometimes they were too far from the centre and sometimes they were too close; sometimes they were too expensive and sometimes they wanted too many repairs; sometimes they were too stuffy and sometimes they were too airy. Roger always found a fault that made the house unsuitable. He couldn't let his dear Ruth to live in a bad house.
Ruth began to grow peevish. Roger asked her to have patience. They looked at hundreds of houses; they climbed thousands of stairs. Ruth was exhausted and often lost her temper. For two years they looked for houses. Ruth grew silent, her eyes no longer looked beautiful and pathetic. There are limits to human patience.
"Do you want to marry me or do you not?" she asked him one day.
"Of course I do. We'll be married the very moment we find a house.
"I don't feel well enough to look at any more houses."
Ruth Barlow took to her bed. Roger remained gallant as ever. Every day he wrote her and told her that he had heard of another house for them to look at. A week later he received the following letter:
I do not think you really love me. I've found someone who really wants to take care of me and I am going to be married to him today.
He sent back his reply:
I'll never get over this blow. But your happiness must be my first concern. I send you seven addresses. I am sure you'll find among them a house that will exactly suit you.