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The Touchstone Edith Wharton

Chapter XIII

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"Ah, I didn't ask THAT," he penitently murmured.

"Well, then--"

To this adjuration he made no response beyond that of gazing at her with an eye which seemed now to view her as a mere factor in an immense redistribution of meanings.

"I insulted Flamel to-day. I let him see that I suspected him of having told you. I hated him because he knew about the letters."

He caught the spreading horror of her eyes, and for an instant he had to grapple with the new temptation they lit up. Then he said, with an effort--"Don't blame him--he's impeccable. He helped me to get them published; but I lied to him too; I pretended they were written to another man . . . a man who was dead. . . ."

She raised her arms in a gesture that seemed to ward off his blows.

"You DO despise me!" he insisted.

"Ah, that poor woman--that poor woman--" he heard her murmur.

"I spare no one, you see!" he triumphed over her. She kept her face hidden.

"You do hate me, you do despise me!" he strangely exulted.

"Be silent!" she commanded him; but he seemed no longer conscious of any check on his gathering purpose.

"He cared for you--he cared for you," he repeated, "and he never told you of the letters--"

She sprang to her feet. "How can you?" she flamed. "How dare you? THAT--!"

Glennard was ashy pale. "It's a weapon . . . like another. . . ."

"A scoundrel's!"

He smiled wretchedly. "I should have used it in his place."

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"Stephen! Stephen!" she cried, as though to drown the blasphemy on his lips. She swept to him with a rescuing gesture. "Don't say such things. I forbid you! It degrades us both."

He put her back with trembling hands. "Nothing that I say of myself can degrade you. We're on different levels."

"I'm on yours, whatever it is!"

He lifted his head and their gaze flowed together.

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The Touchstone
Edith Wharton

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