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The Collapse Of The Penitent H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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Table Of Contents: Ann Veronica

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"In that laboratory one gets to disregard these passions," began Capes. "Men are curious animals, with a trick of falling in love readily with girls about your age. One has to train one's self not to. I've accustomed myself to think of you--as if you were like every other girl who works at the schools--as something quite outside these possibilities. If only out of loyalty to coeducation one has to do that. Apart from everything else, this meeting of ours is a breach of a good rule."

"Rules are for every day," said Ann Veronica. "This is not every day. This is something above all rules."

"For you."

"Not for you?"

"No. No; I'm going to stick to the rules. . . . It's odd, but nothing but cliche seems to meet this case. You've placed me in a very exceptional position, Miss Stanley." The note of his own voice exasperated him. "Oh, damn!" he said.

She made no answer, and for a time he debated some problems with himself.

"No!" he said aloud at last.

"The plain common-sense of the case," he said, "is that we can't possibly be lovers in the ordinary sense. That, I think, is manifest. You know, I've done no work at all this afternoon. I've been smoking cigarettes in the preparation-room and thinking this out. We can't be lovers in the ordinary sense, but we can be great and intimate friends."

"We are," said Ann Veronica.

"You've interested me enormously. . . ."

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He paused with a sense of ineptitude. "I want to be your friend," he said. "I said that at the Zoo, and I mean it. Let us be friends--as near and close as friends can be."

Ann Veronica gave him a pallid profile.

"What is the good of pretending?" she said.

"We don't pretend."

"We do. Love is one thing and friendship quite another. Because I'm younger than you. . . . I've got imagination. . . . I know what I am talking about. Mr. Capes, do you think . . . do you think I don't know the meaning of love?"

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Ann Veronica
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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