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|The Collapse Of The Penitent||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 1 of 2||
The next morning she waited in the laboratory at the lunch-hour in the reasonable certainty that he would come to her.
"Well, you have thought it over?" he said, sitting down beside her.
"I've been thinking of you all night," she answered.
"I don't care a rap for all these things."
He said nothing for a space.
"I don't see there's any getting away from the fact that you and I love each other," he said, slowly. "So far you've got me and I you. . . . You've got me. I'm like a creature just wakened up. My eyes are open to you. I keep on thinking of you. I keep on thinking of little details and aspects of your voice, your eyes, the way you walk, the way your hair goes back from the side of your forehead. I believe I have always been in love with you. Always. Before ever I knew you."
She sat motionless, with her hand tightening over the edge of the table, and he, too, said no more. She began to tremble violently.
He stood up abruptly and went to the window.
"We have," he said, "to be the utmost friends."
She stood up and held her arms toward him. "I want you to kiss me," she said.
He gripped the window-sill behind him.
"If I do," he said. . . . "No! I want to do without that. I want to do without that for a time. I want to give you time to think. I am a man--of a sort of experience. You are a girl with very little. Just sit down on that stool again and let's talk of this in cold blood. People of your sort-- I don't want the instincts to--to rush our situation. Are you sure what it is you want of me?"
"I want you. I want you to be my lover. I want to give myself to you. I want to be whatever I can to you." She paused for a moment. "Is that plain?" she asked.
"If I didn't love you better than myself," said Capes, "I wouldn't fence like this with you.
"I am convinced you haven't thought this out," he went on. "You do not know what such a relation means. We are in love. Our heads swim with the thought of being together. But what can we do? Here am I, fixed to respectability and this laboratory; you're living at home. It means . . . just furtive meetings."
"I don't care how we meet," she said.
"It will spoil your life."
"It will make it. I want you. I am clear I want you. You are different from all the world for me. You can think all round me. You are the one person I can understand and feel--feel right with. I don't idealize you. Don't imagine that. It isn't because you're good, but because I may be rotten bad; and there's something--something living and understanding in you. Something that is born anew each time we meet, and pines when we are separated. You see, I'm selfish. I'm rather scornful. I think too much about myself. You're the only person I've really given good, straight, unselfish thought to. I'm making a mess of my life--unless you come in and take it. I am. In you--if you can love me--there is salvation. Salvation. I know what I am doing better than you do. Think--think of that engagement!"
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H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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