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|The Sapphire Ring||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 2 of 2||
"You like me?"
"Yes. And I am grateful to you. . . ."
Manning tapped with his racket on the turf through some moments of silence. "You are the most perfect, the most glorious of created things--tender, frank intellectual, brave, beautiful. I am your servitor. I am ready to wait for you, to wait your pleasure, to give all my life to winning it. Let me only wear your livery. Give me but leave to try. You want to think for a time, to be free for a time. That is so like you, Diana--Pallas Athene! (Pallas Athene is better.) You are all the slender goddesses. I understand. Let me engage myself. That is all I ask."
She looked at him; his face, downcast and in profile, was handsome and strong. Her gratitude swelled within her.
"You are too good for me," she said in a low voice.
"Then you--you will?"
A long pause.
"It isn't fair. . . ."
"But will you?"
For some seconds he had remained quite still.
"If I sit here," he said, standing up before her abruptly, "I shall have to shout. Let us walk about. Tum, tum, tirray, tum, tum, tum, te-tum--that thing of Mendelssohn's! If making one human being absolutely happy is any satisfaction to you--"
He held out his hands, and she also stood up.
He drew her close up to him with a strong, steady pull. Then suddenly, in front of all those windows, he folded her in his arms and pressed her to him, and kissed her unresisting face.
"Don't!" cried Ann Veronica, struggling faintly, and he released her.
"Forgive me," he said. "But I am at singing-pitch."
She had a moment of sheer panic at the thing she had done. "Mr. Manning," she said, "for a time--Will you tell no one? Will you keep this--our secret? I'm doubtful-- Will you please not even tell my aunt?"
"As you will," he said. "But if my manner tells! I cannot help it if that shows. You only mean a secret for a little time?"
"Just for a little time," she said; "yes. . . ."
But the ring, and her aunt's triumphant eye, and a note of approval in her father's manner, and a novel disposition in him to praise Manning in a just, impartial voice had soon placed very definite qualifications upon that covenanted secrecy.
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