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was wildly exultant at the resolution she had taken, the end she had
made to her blunder. She had only to get through this, to solace Manning
as much as she could, to put such clumsy plasterings on his wounds as
were possible, and then, anyhow, she would be free--free to put her fate
to the test. She made a few protests, a few excuses for her action in
accepting him, a few lame explanations, but he did not heed them or care
for them. Then she realized that it was her business to let Manning talk
and impose his own interpretations upon the situation so far as he was
concerned. She did her best to do this. But about his unknown rival he
was acutely curious.
He made her tell him the core of the difficulty.
"I cannot say who he is," said Ann Veronica, "but he is a married
man.... No! I do not even know that he cares for me. It is no good going
into that. Only I just want him. I just want him, and no one else will
do. It is no good arguing about a thing like that."
"But you thought you could forget him."
"I suppose I must have thought so. I didn't understand. Now I do."
"By God!" said Manning, making the most of the word, "I suppose it's
fate. Fate! You are so frank so splendid!
"I'm taking this calmly now," he said, almost as if he apologized,
"because I'm a little stunned."
Then he asked, "Tell me! has this man, has he DARED to make love to
Ann Veronica had a vicious moment. "I wish he had," she said.
The long inconsecutive conversation by that time was getting on her
nerves. "When one wants a thing more than anything else in the world,"
she said with outrageous frankness, "one naturally wishes one had it."
She shocked him by that. She shattered the edifice he was building up
of himself as a devoted lover, waiting only his chance to win her from a
hopeless and consuming passion.
"Mr. Manning," she said, "I warned you not to idealize me. Men ought not
to idealize any woman. We aren't worth it. We've done nothing to deserve
it. And it hampers us. You don't know the thoughts we have; the things
we can do and say. You are a sisterless man; you have never heard the
ordinary talk that goes on at a girls' boarding-school."
"Oh! but you ARE splendid and open and fearless! As if I couldn't allow!
What are all these little things? Nothing! Nothing! You can't sully
yourself. You can't! I tell you frankly you may break off your
engagement to me--I shall hold myself still engaged to you, yours just
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