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

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They spent the next Sunday in Richmond Park, and mingled the happy sensation of being together uninterruptedly through the long sunshine of a summer's day with the ample discussion of their position. "This has all the clean freshness of spring and youth," said Capes; "it is love with the down on; it is like the glitter of dew in the sunlight to be lovers such as we are, with no more than one warm kiss between us. I love everything to-day, and all of you, but I love this, this--this innocence upon us most of all.

"You can't imagine," he said, "what a beastly thing a furtive love affair can be.

"This isn't furtive," said Ann Veronica.

"Not a bit of it. And we won't make it so. . . . We mustn't make it so."

They loitered under trees, they sat on mossy banks they gossiped on friendly benches, they came back to lunch at the "Star and Garter," and talked their afternoon away in the garden that looks out upon the crescent of the river. They had a universe to talk about--two universes.

"What are we going to do?" said Capes, with his eyes on the broad distances beyond the ribbon of the river.

"I will do whatever you want," said Ann Veronica.

"My first love was all blundering," said Capes.

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He thought for a moment, and went on: "Love is something that has to be taken care of. One has to be so careful. . . . It's a beautiful plant, but a tender one. . . . I didn't know. I've a dread of love dropping its petals, becoming mean and ugly. How can I tell you all I feel? I love you beyond measure. And I'm afraid. . . . I'm anxious, joyfully anxious, like a man when he has found a treasure."

"YOU know," said Ann Veronica. "I just came to you and put myself in your hands."

"That's why, in a way, I'm prudish. I've--dreads. I don't want to tear at you with hot, rough hands."

"As you will, dear lover. But for me it doesn't matter. Nothing is wrong that you do. Nothing. I am quite clear about this. I know exactly what I am doing. I give myself to you."

"God send you may never repent it!" cried Capes.

She put her hand in his to be squeezed.

"You see," he said, "it is doubtful if we can ever marry. Very doubtful. I have been thinking-- I will go to my wife again. I will do my utmost. But for a long time, anyhow, we lovers have to be as if we were no more than friends."

He paused. She answered slowly. "That is as you will," she said.

"Why should it matter?" he said.

And then, as she answered nothing, "Seeing that we are lovers."

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Ann Veronica
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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