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"That is my dream of you," said Manning, warming. "I want my life to be
beaten gold just in order to make it a fitting setting for yours. There
you will be, in an inner temple. I want to enrich it with hangings and
gladden it with verses. I want to fill it with fine and precious things.
And by degrees, perhaps, that maiden distrust of yours that makes you
shrink from my kisses, will vanish.... Forgive me if a certain
warmth creeps into my words! The Park is green and gray to-day, but I am
glowing pink and gold.... It is difficult to express these things."
They sat with tea and strawberries and cream before them at a little
table in front of the pavilion in Regent's Park. Her confession was
still unmade. Manning leaned forward on the table, talking discursively
on the probable brilliance of their married life. Ann Veronica sat back
in an attitude of inattention, her eyes on a distant game of cricket,
her mind perplexed and busy. She was recalling the circumstances under
which she had engaged herself to Manning, and trying to understand a
curious development of the quality of this relationship.
The particulars of her engagement were very clear in her memory. She had
taken care he should have this momentous talk with her on a garden-seat
commanded by the windows of the house. They had been playing tennis,
with his manifest intention looming over her.
"Let us sit down for a moment," he had said. He made his speech a little
elaborately. She plucked at the knots of her racket and heard him to the
end, then spoke in a restrained undertone.
"You ask me to be engaged to you, Mr. Manning," she began.
"I want to lay all my life at your feet."
"Mr. Manning, I do not think I love you.... I want to be very plain
with you. I have nothing, nothing that can possibly be passion for you.
I am sure. Nothing at all."
He was silent for some moments.
"Perhaps that is only sleeping," he said. "How can you know?"
"I think--perhaps I am rather a cold-blooded person."
She stopped. He remained listening attentively.
"You have been very kind to me," she said.
"I would give my life for you."
Her heart had warmed toward him. It had seemed to her that life might
be very good indeed with his kindliness and sacrifice about her. She
thought of him as always courteous and helpful, as realizing, indeed,
his ideal of protection and service, as chivalrously leaving her free to
live her own life, rejoicing with an infinite generosity in every detail
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