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|The Wheels of Chance||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 2 of 3||
"And you haven't any diamond shares, and you are not going into Parliament, and you're not--"
"All Lies," said Hoopdriver, in a sepulchral voice. "Lies from beginning to end. 'Ow I came to tell 'em I DON'T know."
She stared at him blankly.
"I never set eyes on Africa in my life," said Mr. Hoopdriver, completing the confession. Then he pulled his right hand from his pocket, and with the nonchalance of one to whom the bitterness of death is passed, began to drink his coffee.
"It's a little surprising," began Jessie, vaguely.
"Think it over," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart."
And then breakfast proceeded in silence. Jessie ate very little, and seemed lost in thought. Mr. Hoopdriver was so overcome by contrition and anxiety that he consumed an extraordinarily large breakfast out of pure nervousness, and ate his scrambled eggs for the most part with the spoon that belonged properly to the marmalade. His eyes were gloomily downcast. She glanced at him through her eyelashes. Once or twice she struggled with laughter, once or twice she seemed to be indignant.
"I don't know what to think," she said at last. "I don't know what to make of you--brother Chris. I thought, do you know? that you were perfectly honest. And somehow--"
"I think so still."
"Honest--with all those lies!"
"I don't," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "I'm fair ashamed of myself. But anyhow--I've stopped deceiving you."
"I THOUGHT," said the Young Lady in Grey, "that story of the lion--"
"Lord!" said Mr. Hoopdriver. "Don't remind me of THAT."
"I thought, somehow, I FELT, that the things you said didn't ring quite true." She suddenly broke out in laughter, at the expression of his face. "Of COURSE you are honest," she said. "How could I ever doubt it? As if _I_ had never pretended! I see it all now."
Abruptly she rose, and extended her hand across the breakfast things. He looked at her doubtfully, and saw the dancing friendliness in her eyes. He scarcely understood at first. He rose, holding the marmalade spoon, and took her proffered hand with abject humility. "Lord," he broke out, "if you aren't enough--but there!"
"I see it all now." A brilliant inspiration had suddenly obscured her humour. She sat down suddenly, and he sat down too. "You did it," she said, "because you wanted to help me. And you thought I was too Conventional to take help from one I might think my social inferior."
"That was partly it," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
"How you misunderstood me!" she said.
"You don't mind?"
"It was noble of you. But I am sorry," she said, "you should think me likely to be ashamed of you because you follow a decent trade."
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|The Wheels of Chance
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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