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|The Collapse Of The Penitent||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 1 of 2||
For a time they walked in silence through the back streets that lead southward from the College. Capes bore a face of infinite perplexity.
"The thing I feel most disposed to say, Miss Stanley," he began at last, "is that this is very sudden."
"It's been coming on since first I came into the laboratory."
"What do you want?" he asked, bluntly.
"You!" said Ann Veronica.
The sense of publicity, of people coming and going about them, kept them both unemotional. And neither had any of that theatricality which demands gestures and facial expression.
"I suppose you know I like you tremendously?" he pursued.
"You told me that in the Zoological Gardens."
She found her muscles a-tremble. But there was nothing in her bearing that a passer-by would have noted, to tell of the excitement that possessed her.
"I"--he seemed to have a difficulty with the word--"I love you. I've told you that practically already. But I can give it its name now. You needn't be in any doubt about it. I tell you that because it puts us on a footing. . . ."
They went on for a time without another word.
"But don't you know about me?" he said at last.
"Something. Not much."
"I'm a married man. And my wife won't live with me for reasons that I think most women would consider sound. . . . Or I should have made love to you long ago."
There came a silence again.
"I don't care," said Ann Veronica.
"But if you knew anything of that--"
"I did. It doesn't matter."
"Why did you tell me? I thought--I thought we were going to be friends."
He was suddenly resentful. He seemed to charge her with the ruin of their situation. "Why on earth did you TELL me?" he cried.
"I couldn't help it. It was an impulse. I HAD to."
"But it changes things. I thought you understood."
"I had to," she repeated. "I was sick of the make-believe. I don't care! I'm glad I did. I'm glad I did."
"Look here!" said Capes, "what on earth do you want? What do you think we can do? Don't you know what men are, and what life is?--to come to me and talk to me like this!"
"I know--something, anyhow. But I don't care; I haven't a spark of shame. I don't see any good in life if it hasn't got you in it. I wanted you to know. And now you know. And the fences are down for good. You can't look me in the eyes and say you don't care for me."
"I've told you," he said.
"Very well," said Ann Veronica, with an air of concluding the discussion.
They walked side by side for a time.
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H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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