The Beast in the Jungle

“She spoke it in a tone so special, in spite of her weakness, that he stared an instant—stared as if some light, hitherto hidden, had shimmered across his vision. Darkness again closed over it, but the gleam had already become for him an idea. ‘Because I haven’t the right——?’
‘Don’t know—when you needn’t,’ she mercifully urged. ‘You needn’t—for we shouldn’t.’
‘Shouldn’t?’ If he could but know what she meant!
‘No—it’s too much.’
‘Too much?’ he still asked—but with a mystification that was the next moment, of a sudden, to give way. Her words, if they meant something, affected him in this light—the light also of her wasted face—as meaning all, and the sense of what knowledge had been for herself came over him with a rush which broke through into a question. ‘Is it of that, then, you’re dying?’
She but watched him, gravely at first, as if to see, with this, where he was, and she might have seen something, or feared something, that moved her sympathy. ‘I would live for you still—if I could.’ Her eyes closed for a little, as if withdrawn into herself, she were, for a last time, trying. ‘But I can’t!’ she said as she raised them again to take leave of him.”

“The Beast in the Jungle.” In The Better Sort. New York: Scribner, 1903. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/bettersort00jamegoog. 232-233

What is the function of the choppy, ambiguous dialogue preceding/during this passage, considering Marcher’s tragic realization? What is May trying to say to him here?

 

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