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

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Capes made no answer for a time.

"My mind is full of confused stuff," he said at length. "I've been thinking--all the afternoon. Oh, and weeks and months of thought and feeling there are bottled up too. . . . I feel a mixture of beast and uncle. I feel like a fraudulent trustee. Every rule is against me-- Why did I let you begin this? I might have told--"

"I don't see that you could help--"

"I might have helped--"

"You couldn't."

"I ought to have--all the same.

"I wonder," he said, and went off at a tangent. "You know about my scandalous past?"

"Very little. It doesn't seem to matter. Does it?"

"I think it does. Profoundly."


"It prevents our marrying. It forbids--all sorts of things."

"It can't prevent our loving."

"I'm afraid it can't. But, by Jove! it's going to make our loving a fiercely abstract thing."

"You are separated from your wife?"

"Yes, but do you know how?"

"Not exactly."

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"Why on earth--? A man ought to be labelled. You see, I'm separated from my wife. But she doesn't and won't divorce me. You don't understand the fix I am in. And you don't know what led to our separation. And, in fact, all round the problem you don't know and I don't see how I could possibly have told you before. I wanted to, that day in the Zoo. But I trusted to that ring of yours."

"Poor old ring!" said Ann Veronica.

"I ought never have gone to the Zoo, I suppose. I asked you to go. But a man is a mixed creature. . . . I wanted the time with you. I wanted it badly."

"Tell me about yourself," said Ann Veronica.

"To begin with, I was--I was in the divorce court. I was--I was a co-respondent. You understand that term?"

Ann Veronica smiled faintly. "A modern girl does understand these terms. She reads novels--and history --and all sorts of things. Did you really doubt if I knew?"

"No. But I don't suppose you can understand."

"I don't see why I shouldn't."

"To know things by name is one thing; to know them by seeing them and feeling them and being them quite another. That is where life takes advantage of youth. You don't understand."

"Perhaps I don't."

"You don't. That's the difficulty. If I told you the facts, I expect, since you are in love with me, you'd explain the whole business as being very fine and honorable for me--the Higher Morality, or something of that sort. . . . It wasn't."

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Ann Veronica
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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