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The Touchstone Edith Wharton

Chapter XIII

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"You hate me," broke from him.

She made no answer.

"Say you hate me!" he persisted.

"That would have been so simple," she answered with a strange smile. She dropped into a chair near the writing-table and rested a bowed forehead on her hand.

"Was it much--?" she began at length.

"Much--?" he returned, vaguely.

"The money."

"The money?" That part of it seemed to count so little that for a moment he did not follow her thought.

"It must be paid back," she insisted. "Can you do it?"

"Oh, yes," he returned, listlessly. "I can do it."

"I would make any sacrifice for that!" she urged.

He nodded. "Of course." He sat staring at her in dry-eyed self-contempt. "Do you count on its making much difference?"

"Much difference?"

"In the way I feel--or you feel about me?"

She shook her head.

"It's the least part of it," he groaned.

"It's the only part we can repair."

"Good heavens! If there were any reparation--" He rose quickly and crossed the space that divided them. "Why did you never speak?" he asked.

"Haven't you answered that yourself?"

"Answered it?"

"Just now--when you told me you did it for me." She paused a moment and then went on with a deepening note--"I would have spoken if I could have helped you."

"But you must have despised me."

"I've told you that would have been simpler."

"But how could you go on like this--hating the money?"

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"I knew you would speak in time. I wanted you, first, to hate it as I did."

He gazed at her with a kind of awe. "You're wonderful," he murmured. "But you don't yet know the depths I've reached."

She raised an entreating hand. "I don't want to!"

"You're afraid, then, that you'll hate me?"

"No--but that you'll hate ME. Let me understand without your telling me."

"You can't. It's too base. I thought you didn't care because you loved Flamel."

She blushed deeply. "Don't--don't--" she warned him.

"I haven't the right to, you mean?"

"I mean that you'll be sorry."

He stood imploringly before her. "I want to say something worse-- something more outrageous. If you don't understand THIS you'll be perfectly justified in ordering me out of the house."

She answered him with a glance of divination. "I shall understand--but you'll be sorry."

"I must take my chance of that." He moved away and tossed the books about the table. Then he swung round and faced her. "Does Flamel care for you?" he asked.

Her flush deepened, but she still looked at him without anger. "What would be the use?" she said with a note of sadness.

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The Touchstone
Edith Wharton

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