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|The Wheels of Chance||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
XXI. At Bognor
|Page 2 of 3||
"I will go to the station," she said. "I will go back--"
"The last train for anywhere leaves at 7.42."
"I will appeal to the police--"
"You don't know them."
"I will tell these hotel people."
"They will turn you out of doors. You're in such a thoroughly false position now. They don't understand unconventionality, down here."
She stamped her foot. "If I wander about the streets all night--" she said.
"You who have never been out alone after dusk? Do you know what the streets of a charming little holiday resort are like--"
"I don't care," she said. "I can go to the clergyman here."
"He's a charming man. Unmarried. And men are really more alike than you think. And anyhow--"
"How CAN you explain the last two nights to anyone now? The mischief is done, Jessie."
"You CUR," she said, and suddenly put her hand to her breast. He thought she meant to faint, but she stood, with the colour gone from her face.
"No," he said. "I love you."
"Love!" said she.
"There are ways yet," she said, after a pause.
"Not for you. You are too full of life and hope yet for, what is it?--not the dark arch nor the black flowing river. Don't you think of it. You'll only shirk it when the moment comes, and turn it all into comedy."
She turned round abruptly from him and stood looking out across the parade at the shining sea over which the afterglow of day fled before the rising moon. He maintained his attitude. The blinds were still up, for she had told the waiter not to draw them. There was silence for some moments.
At last he spoke in as persuasive a voice as he could summon. "Take it sensibly, Jessie. Why should we, who have so much in common, quarrel into melodrama? I swear I love you. You are all that is bright and desirable to me. I am stronger than you, older; man to your woman. To find YOU too--conventional!"
She looked at him over her shoulder, and he noticed with a twinge of delight how her little chin came out beneath the curve of her cheek.
"MAN!" she said. "Man to MY woman! Do MEN lie? Would a MAN use his five and thirty years' experience to outwit a girl of seventeen? Man to my woman indeed! That surely is the last insult!"
"Your repartee is admirable, Jessie. I should say they do, though--all that and more also when their hearts were set on such a girl as yourself. For God's sake drop this shrewishness! Why should you be so--difficult to me? Here am I with MY reputation, MY career, at your feet. Look here, Jessie--on my honour, I will marry you--"
"God forbid," she said, so promptly that she never learnt he had a wife, even then. It occurred to him then for the first time, in the flash of her retort, that she did not know he was married.
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|The Wheels of Chance
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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