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and again stroked his small mustache and coughed a self-conscious cough.
"That he should be in the same world with me!" said Ann Veronica,
reduced to reading the list of good things the British Tea-Table Company
had priced for its patrons.
Heaven knows what dim and tawdry conceptions of passion and desire were
in that blond cranium, what romance-begotten dreams of intrigue and
adventure! but they sufficed, when presently Ann Veronica went out
into the darkling street again, to inspire a flitting, dogged pursuit,
idiotic, exasperating, indecent.
She had no idea what she should do. If she spoke to a policeman she did
not know what would ensue. Perhaps she would have to charge this man and
appear in a police-court next day.
She became angry with herself. She would not be driven in by this
persistent, sneaking aggression. She would ignore him. Surely she could
ignore him. She stopped abruptly, and looked in a flower-shop window. He
passed, and came loitering back and stood beside her, silently looking
into her face.
The afternoon had passed now into twilight. The shops were lighting
up into gigantic lanterns of color, the street lamps were glowing
into existence, and she had lost her way. She had lost her sense of
direction, and was among unfamiliar streets. She went on from street to
street, and all the glory of London had departed. Against the sinister,
the threatening, monstrous inhumanity of the limitless city, there was
nothing now but this supreme, ugly fact of a pursuit--the pursuit of the
undesired, persistent male.
For a second time Ann Veronica wanted to swear at the universe.
There were moments when she thought of turning upon this man and
talking to him. But there was something in his face at once stupid and
invincible that told her he would go on forcing himself upon her, that
he would esteem speech with her a great point gained. In the twilight
he had ceased to be a person one could tackle and shame; he had become
something more general, a something that crawled and sneaked toward her
and would not let her alone....
Then, when the tension was getting unendurable, and she was on the verge
of speaking to some casual passer-by and demanding help, her follower
vanished. For a time she could scarcely believe he was gone. He had. The
night had swallowed him up, but his work on her was done. She had lost
her nerve, and there was no more freedom in London for her that night.
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