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The Sapphire Ring H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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Something in her voice and manner conveyed an effect of unwonted gravity to him. For the first time he seemed to wonder what it might be that she had to confess. His smile faded.

"I don't think our engagement can go on," she plunged, and felt exactly that loss of breath that comes with a dive into icy water.

"But, how," he said, sitting up astonished beyond measure, "not go on?"

"I have been thinking while you have been talking. You see--I didn't understand."

She stared hard at her finger-nails. "It is hard to express one's self, but I do want to be honest with you. When I promised to marry you I thought I could; I thought it was a possible arrangement. I did think it could be done. I admired your chivalry. I was grateful."

She paused.

"Go on," he said.

She moved her elbow nearer to him and spoke in a still lower tone. "I told you I did not love you."

"I know," said Manning, nodding gravely. "It was fine and brave of you."

"But there is something more."

She paused again.

"I--I am sorry-- I didn't explain. These things are difficult. It wasn't clear to me that I had to explain. . . . I love some one else."

They remained looking at each other for three or four seconds. Then Manning flopped back in his chair and dropped his chin like a man shot. There was a long silence between them.

"My God!" he said at last, with tremendous feeling, and then again, "My God!"

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Now that this thing was said her mind was clear and calm. She heard this standard expression of a strong soul wrung with a critical coldness that astonished herself. She realized dimly that there was no personal thing behind his cry, that countless myriads of Mannings had "My God!"-ed with an equal gusto at situations as flatly apprehended. This mitigated her remorse enormously. He rested his brow on his hand and conveyed magnificent tragedy by his pose.

"But why," he said in the gasping voice of one subduing an agony, and looked at her from under a pain-wrinkled brow, "why did you not tell me this before?"

"I didn't know-- I thought I might be able to control myself."

"And you can't?"

"I don't think I ought to control myself."

"And I have been dreaming and thinking--"

"I am frightfully sorry. . . ."

"But-- This bolt from the blue! My God! Ann Veronica, you don't understand. This--this shatters a world!"

She tried to feel sorry, but her sense of his immense egotism was strong and clear.

He went on with intense urgency.

"Why did you ever let me love you? Why did you ever let me peep through the gates of Paradise? Oh! my God! I don't begin to feel and realize this yet. It seems to me just talk; it seems to me like the fancy of a dream. Tell me I haven't heard. This is a joke of yours." He made his voice very low and full, and looked closely into her face.

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Ann Veronica
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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