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Love does steal upon both of the central characters rather swiftly in this excellent short story. We first see the indications of love when the doctor brings Mabel around after her abortive suicide attempt and explains to her what had happened and how he had rescued her. When he tells her that it was him who undressed her to revive her, she responds with a question: "Do you love me, then?" As he stands and looks at her, we are told that "his soul seemed to melt." Then we are given a touching and moving description of her love for him and how it manifests itself:
She shuffled forward on her knees, and put her arms round him, round his legs, as he stood there, pressing her breasts against his knees and thighs, clutching him with strange, convulsive certainty, pressing his thighs against her, drawing him to her face, her throat, as she looked up at him with flaring, humble eyes of transfiguration, triumphant in first possession.
Note how love is described in Mabel's character. She clutches Ferguson with "strange, convulsive certainty," and her eyes are "flaring" and "humble." Above all though the change is indicated in her eyes, which are transfigured and "triumphant in first possession."
In response, Ferguson is "amazed, bewildered, and afraid." This event is sudden, unexpected and not wished for. And yet, even though he says that he had never wished to love her, he finds himself unable to break away from the compulsive element of love:
He revolted from it violently. And yet--and yet--he had not the power to break away.
Thus it appears that love is described as a transfiguring force in the case of Mabel, but then also as an irresistible force in the case of Ferguson. He appears to be controlled by this exterior force that overpowers his reason and intellect. Again and again the text refers to his unwillingness to go along with what is happening, but then also his complete inability to do anything about it. It is as if love has swept him away and taking him places that he did not wish to go to.
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