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|The Wheels of Chance||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
XV. An Interlude
|Page 1 of 3||
And now let us for a space leave Mr. Hoopdriver in the dusky Midhurst North Street, and return to the two folks beside the railway bridge between Milford and Haslemere. She was a girl of eighteen, dark, fine featured, with bright eyes, and a rich, swift colour under her warm-tinted skin. Her eyes were all the brighter for the tears that swam in them. The man was thirty three or four, fair, with a longish nose overhanging his sandy flaxen moustache, pale blue eyes, and a head that struck out above and behind. He stood with his feet wide apart, his hand on his hip, in an attitude that was equally suggestive of defiance and aggression. They had watched Hoopdriver out of sight. The unexpected interruption had stopped the flood of her tears. He tugged his abundant moustache and regarded her calmly. She stood with face averted, obstinately resolved not to speak first. "Your behaviour," he said at last, "makes you conspicuous."
She turned upon him, her eyes and cheeks glowing, her hands clenched. "You unspeakable CAD," she said, and choked, stamped her little foot, and stood panting.
"Unspeakable cad! My dear girl! Possible I AM an unspeakable cad. Who wouldn't be--for you?"
"'Dear girl!' How DARE you speak to me like that? YOU--"
"I would do anything--"
There was a moment's pause. She looked squarely into his face, her eyes alight with anger and contempt, and perhaps he flushed a little. He stroked his moustache, and by an effort maintained his cynical calm. "Let us be reasonable," he said.
"Reasonable! That means all that is mean and cowardly and sensual in the world."
"You have always had it so--in your generalising way. But let us look at the facts of the case--if that pleases you better."
With an impatient gesture she motioned him to go on.
"Well," he said,--"you've eloped."
"I've left my home," she corrected, with dignity. "I left my home because it was unendurable. Because that woman--"
"Yes, yes. But the point is, you have eloped with me."
"You came with me. You pretended to be my friend. Promised to help me to earn a living by writing. It was you who said, why shouldn't a man and woman be friends? And now you dare--you dare--"
"Really, Jessie, this pose of yours, this injured innocence--"
"I will go back. I forbid you--I forbid you to stand in the way--"
"One moment. I have always thought that my little pupil was at least clear-headed. You don't know everything yet, you know. Listen to me for a moment."
"Haven't I been listening? And you have only insulted me. You who dared only to talk of friendship, who scarcely dared hint at anything beyond."
"But you took the hints, nevertheless. You knew. You KNEW. And you did not mind. MIND! You liked it. It was the fun of the whole thing for you. That I loved you, and could not speak to you. You played with it--"
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|The Wheels of Chance
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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