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|Crome Yellow||Aldous Huxley|
|Page 3 of 4||
"What ARE you doing, Denis?" questioned a voice from somewhere very close behind him.
Denis uttered a cry of frightened surprise, and very nearly went over the parapet in good earnest. His heart was beating terribly, and he was pale when, recovering himself, he turned round in the direction from which the voice had come.
"Are you ill?"
In the profound shadow that slept under the eastern parapet of the tower, he saw something he had not previously noticed--an oblong shape. It was a mattress, and someone was lying on it. Since that first memorable night on the tower, Mary had slept out every evening; it was a sort of manifestation of fidelity.
"It gave me a fright," she went on, "to wake up and see you waving your arms and gibbering there. What on earth were you doing?"
Denis laughed melodramatically. "What, indeed!" he said. If she hadn't woken up as she did, he would be lying in pieces at the bottom of the tower; he was certain of that, now.
"You hadn't got designs on me, I hope?" Mary inquired, jumping too rapidly to conclusions.
"I didn't know you were here," said Denis, laughing more bitterly and artificially than before.
"What IS the matter, Denis?"
He sat down on the edge of the mattress, and for all reply went on laughing in the same frightful and improbable tone.
An hour later he was reposing with his head on Mary's knees, and she, with an affectionate solicitude that was wholly maternal, was running her fingers through his tangled hair. He had told her everything, everything: his hopeless love, his jealousy, his despair, his suicide--as it were providentially averted by her interposition. He had solemnly promised never to think of self-destruction again. And now his soul was floating in a sad serenity. It was embalmed in the sympathy that Mary so generously poured. And it was not only in receiving sympathy that Denis found serenity and even a kind of happiness; it was also in giving it. For if he had told Mary everything about his miseries, Mary, reacting to these confidences, had told him in return everything, or very nearly everything, about her own.
"Poor Mary!" He was very sorry for her. Still, she might have guessed that Ivor wasn't precisely a monument of constancy.
"Well," she concluded, "one must put a good face on it." She wanted to cry, but she wouldn't allow herself to be weak. There was a silence.
"Do you think," asked Denis hesitatingly--"do you really think that she...that Gombauld..."
"I'm sure of it," Mary answered decisively. There was another long pause.
"I don't know what to do about it," he said at last, utterly dejected.
"You'd better go away," advised Mary. "It's the safest thing, and the most sensible."
"But I've arranged to stay here three weeks more."
"You must concoct an excuse."
"I suppose you're right."
"I know I am," said Mary, who was recovering all her firm self-possession. "You can't go on like this, can you?"
"No, I can't go on like this," he echoed.
Immensely practical, Mary invented a plan of action. Startlingly, in the darkness, the church clock struck three.
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