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6. The Encounter At Stonehenge H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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The sudden prospect which now opened out before Sir Richmond of talking about history and suchlike topics with a charming companion for perhaps two whole days instead of going on with this tiresome, shamefaced, egotistical business of self-examination was so attractive to him that it took immediate possession of his mind, to the entire exclusion and disregard of Dr. Martineau's possible objections to any such modification of their original programme. When they arrived in Salisbury, the doctor did make some slight effort to suggest a different hotel from that in which the two ladies had engaged their rooms, but on the spur of the moment and in their presence he could produce no sufficient reason for refusing the accommodation the Old George had ready for him. He was reduced to a vague: "We don't want to inflict ourselves--" He could not get Sir Richmond aside for any adequate expression of his feelings about Miss Seyffert, before the four of them were seated together at tea amidst the mediaeval modernity of the Old George smoking-room. And only then did he begin to realize the depth and extent of the engagements to which Sir Richmond had committed himself.

"I was suggesting that we run back to Avebury to-morrow," said Sir Richmond. "These ladies were nearly missing it."

The thing took the doctor's breath away. For the moment he could say nothing. He stared over his tea-cup dour-faced. An objection formulated itself very slowly. "But that dicky," he whispered.

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His whisper went unnoted. Sir Richmond was talking of the completeness of Salisbury. From the very beginning it had been a cathedral city; it was essentially and purely that. The church at its best, in the full tide of its mediaeval ascendancy, had called it into being. He was making some extremely loose and inaccurate generalizations about the buildings and ruins each age had left for posterity, and Miss Grammont was countering with equally unsatisfactory qualifications. "Our age will leave the ruins of hotels," said Sir Richmond. "Railway arches and hotels."

"Baths and aqueducts," Miss Grammont compared. "Rome of the Empire comes nearest to it . . . . "

As soon as tea was over, Dr. Martineau realized, they meant to walk round and about Salisbury. He foresaw that walk with the utmost clearness. In front and keeping just a little beyond the range of his intervention, Sir Richmond would go with Miss Grammont; he himself and Miss Seyffert would bring up the rear. "If I do," he muttered, "I'll be damned!" an unusually strong expression for him.

"You said--?" asked Miss Seyffert.

"That I have some writing to do--before the post goes," said the doctor brightly.

"Oh! come and see the cathedral!" cried Sir Richmond with ill-concealed dismay. He was, if one may put it in such a fashion, not looking at Miss Seyffert in the directest fashion when he said this.

"I'm afraid," said the doctor mulishly. "Impossible."

(With the unspoken addition of, "You try her for a bit.")

Miss Grammont stood up. Everybody stood up. "We can go first to look for shops," she said. "There's those things you want to buy, Belinda; a fountain pen and the little books. We can all go together as far as that. And while you are shopping, if you wouldn't mind getting one or two things for me. . . ."

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The Secret Places of the Heart
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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