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The Beast in the Jungle Henry James

Chapter I

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"Oh!" he exclaimed helplessly. There was too much to say.

"Whatever it's to be," she clearly made out, "it hasn't yet come."

He shook his head in complete surrender now. "It hasn't yet come. Only, you know, it isn't anything I'm to do, to achieve in the world, to be distinguished or admired for. I'm not such an ass as THAT. It would be much better, no doubt, if I were."

"It's to be something you're merely to suffer?"

"Well, say to wait for--to have to meet, to face, to see suddenly break out in my life; possibly destroying all further consciousness, possibly annihilating me; possibly, on the other hand, only altering everything, striking at the root of all my world and leaving me to the consequences, however they shape themselves."

She took this in, but the light in her eyes continued for him not to be that of mockery. "Isn't what you describe perhaps but the expectation--or at any rate the sense of danger, familiar to so many people--of falling in love?"

John Marcher thought. "Did you ask me that before?"

"No--I wasn't so free-and-easy then. But it's what strikes me now."

"Of course," he said after a moment, "it strikes you. Of course it strikes ME. Of course what's in store for me may be no more than that. The only thing is," he went on, "that I think if it had been that I should by this time know."

"Do you mean because you've BEEN in love?" And then as he but looked at her in silence: "You've been in love, and it hasn't meant such a cataclysm, hasn't proved the great affair?"

"Here I am, you see. It hasn't been overwhelming."

"Then it hasn't been love," said May Bartram.

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"Well, I at least thought it was. I took it for that--I've taken it till now. It was agreeable, it was delightful, it was miserable," he explained. "But it wasn't strange. It wasn't what my affair's to be."

"You want something all to yourself--something that nobody else knows or HAS known?"

"It isn't a question of what I 'want'--God knows I don't want anything. It's only a question of the apprehension that haunts me- -that I live with day by day."

He said this so lucidly and consistently that he could see it further impose itself. If she hadn't been interested before she'd have been interested now.

"Is it a sense of coming violence?"

Evidently now too again he liked to talk of it. "I don't think of it as--when it does come--necessarily violent. I only think of it as natural and as of course above all unmistakeable. I think of it simply as THE thing. THE thing will of itself appear natural."

"Then how will it appear strange?"

Marcher bethought himself. "It won't--to ME."

"To whom then?"

"Well," he replied, smiling at last, "say to you."

"Oh then I'm to be present?"

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The Beast in the Jungle
Henry James

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