A lesson in love tested

[italics added for emphasis]

    "Why do you sigh, Phillip? What are you thinking of?" asked Rosamond as he sat with his head looking down at the golden-green lizards playing on the warm stones below.

    "I was thinking what a curious thing love is; only a sentiment, and yet it has power to make fools of men and slaves of women."

    "It never will have power to make a slave of me." Rosamond lifted her handsome head with the defiant air of some wild, free thing, indignant at the thought of bonds.

    "I think it would, Rose. If you love me as you say you do, would you not prove it by doing anything for me, making any sacrifice at my bidding, and defending me against the world if there was need of it?"

    "I would do anything that was right, make any sacrifice except of principle, and defend you against anyone who wrongfully accused you."

    "Where did you get your ideas of right and principle and all the rest of it? I never taught you that, nor did the old man. Perhaps it's instinct; women are often kept safe and made wise by that 'wonderful thing,' as Shakespeare calls it. Suppose I had committed some terrible crime? Would you stand by me? I merely ask to see how far your principle will carry you."

    "Yes, if you repented of it I'd cling to you and bear the disgrace for your sake."

    "Suppose it was a crime of a peculiarly black and damnable nature, the consequences of which would fall upon you, making it wrong for you to cling to me. Would you hate me and desert me?"

    "No, I would love you and leave you."

    "I doubt it. Take another case. Suppose you discovered that I did not love you and wished to be free. How then?"

    "I'd try to win your heart back and be faithful to the end, and I promised when I married you."

    "Suppose I broke away and left you, or made it impossible for you to stay. That I was base and false; in every way unworthy of your love, and it was clearly right for you to go, what would you do then?"

    "Go away and--"

    He inturrupted with a triumphant laugh, "Die as heroines always do, tender slaves as they are."

    "No, live and forget you," was the unexpected reply.

    "Do you think that possible if you still loved me?"

    "Everything is possible to a strong will. If it was the right to cease loving you, I'd do it if I spent my whole life in the task." She clenched her hand with a resolute gesture.

Taken from A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott