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|Book II||Edith Wharton|
|Page 4 of 6||
"I'll say anything you like; or nothing. I won't open my mouth unless you tell me to. What harm can it do to anybody? All I want is to listen to you," he stammered.
She drew out a little gold-faced watch on an enamelled chain. "Oh, don't calculate," he broke out; "give me the day! I want to get you away from that man. At what time was he coming?"
Her colour rose again. "At eleven."
"Then you must come at once."
"You needn't be afraid--if I don't come."
"Nor you either--if you do. I swear I only want to hear about you, to know what you've been doing. It's a hundred years since we've met--it may be another hundred before we meet again."
She still wavered, her anxious eyes on his face. "Why didn't you come down to the beach to fetch me, the day I was at Granny's?" she asked.
"Because you didn't look round--because you didn't know I was there. I swore I wouldn't unless you looked round." He laughed as the childishness of the confession struck him.
"But I didn't look round on purpose."
"I knew you were there; when you drove in I recognised the ponies. So I went down to the beach."
"To get away from me as far as you could?"
She repeated in a low voice: "To get away from you as far as I could."
He laughed out again, this time in boyish satisfaction. "Well, you see it's no use. I may as well tell you," he added, "that the business I came here for was just to find you. But, look here, we must start or we shall miss our boat."
"Our boat?" She frowned perplexedly, and then smiled. "Oh, but I must go back to the hotel first: I must leave a note--"
"As many notes as you please. You can write here." He drew out a note-case and one of the new stylographic pens. "I've even got an envelope--you see how everything's predestined! There--steady the thing on your knee, and I'll get the pen going in a second. They have to be humoured; wait--" He banged the hand that held the pen against the back of the bench. "It's like jerking down the mercury in a thermometer: just a trick. Now try--"
She laughed, and bending over the sheet of paper which he had laid on his note-case, began to write. Archer walked away a few steps, staring with radiant unseeing eyes at the passersby, who, in their turn, paused to stare at the unwonted sight of a fashionably-dressed lady writing a note on her knee on a bench in the Common.
Madame Olenska slipped the sheet into the envelope, wrote a name on it, and put it into her pocket. Then she too stood up.
They walked back toward Beacon Street, and near the club Archer caught sight of the plush-lined "herdic" which had carried his note to the Parker House, and whose driver was reposing from this effort by bathing his brow at the corner hydrant.
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