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|Discords||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 3 of 4||
"You won't!" said Ann Veronica; with the clearest note of determination.
He seemed to be about to move toward her. She stepped back quickly, and her hand knocked a wine-glass from the table to smash noisily on the floor. She caught at the idea. "If you come a step nearer to me," she said, "I will smash every glass on this table."
"Then, by God!" he said, "you'll be locked up!"
Ann Veronica was disconcerted for a moment. She had a vision of policemen, reproving magistrates, a crowded court, public disgrace. She saw her aunt in tears, her father white-faced and hard hit. "Don't come nearer!" she said.
There was a discreet knocking at the door, and Ramage's face changed.
"No," she said, under her breath, "you can't face it." And she knew that she was safe.
He went to the door. "It's all right," he said, reassuringly to the inquirer without.
Ann Veronica glanced at the mirror to discover a flushed and dishevelled disorder. She began at once a hasty readjustment of her hair, while Ramage parleyed with inaudible interrogations. "A glass slipped from the table," he explained. . . . "Non. Fas du tout. Non. . . . Niente. . . . Bitte! . . . Oui, dans la note. . . . Presently. Presently." That conversation ended and he turned to her again.
"I am going," she said grimly, with three hairpins in her mouth.
She took her hat from the peg in the corner and began to put it on. He regarded that perennial miracle of pinning with wrathful eyes.
"Look here, Ann Veronica," he began. "I want a plain word with you about all this. Do you mean to tell me you didn't understand why I wanted you to come here?"
"Not a bit of it," said Ann Veronica stoutly.
"You didn't expect that I should kiss you?"
"How was I to know that a man would--would think it was possible--when there was nothing--no love?"
"How did I know there wasn't love?"
That silenced her for a moment. "And what on earth," he said, "do you think the world is made of? Why do you think I have been doing things for you? The abstract pleasure of goodness? Are you one of the members of that great white sisterhood that takes and does not give? The good accepting woman! Do you really suppose a girl is entitled to live at free quarters on any man she meets without giving any return?"
"I thought," said Ann Veronica, "you were my friend."
"Friend! What have a man and a girl in common to make them friends? Ask that lover of yours! And even with friends, would you have it all Give on one side and all Take on the other? . . . Does HE know I keep you? . . . You won't have a man's lips near you, but you'll eat out of his hand fast enough."
Ann Veronica was stung to helpless anger.
"Mr. Ramage," she cried, "you are outrageous! You understand nothing. You are--horrible. Will you let me go out of this room?"
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H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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