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CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH
THE COLLAPSE OF THE PENITENT
Spring had held back that year until the dawn of May, and then spring
and summer came with a rush together. Two days after this conversation
between Manning and Ann Veronica, Capes came into the laboratory at
lunch-time and found her alone there standing by the open window, and
not even pretending to be doing anything.
He came in with his hands in his trousers pockets and a general air
of depression in his bearing. He was engaged in detesting Manning and
himself in almost equal measure. His face brightened at the sight of
her, and he came toward her.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Nothing," said Ann Veronica, and stared over her shoulder out of the
"So am I.... Lassitude?"
"I suppose so."
"_I_ can't work."
"Nor I," said Ann Veronica.
"It's the spring," he said. "It's the warming up of the year, the coming
of the light mornings, the way in which everything begins to run about
and begin new things. Work becomes distasteful; one thinks of holidays.
This year--I've got it badly. I want to get away. I've never wanted to
get away so much."
"Where do you go?"
"That's rather a fine sort of holiday!"
He made no answer for three or four seconds.
"Yes," he said, "I want to get away. I feel at moments as though I could
bolt for it.... Silly, isn't it? Undisciplined."
He went to the window and fidgeted with the blind, looking out to where
the tree-tops of Regent's Park showed distantly over the houses. He
turned round toward her and found her looking at him and standing very
"It's the stir of spring," he said.
"I believe it is."
She glanced out of the window, and the distant trees were a froth of
hard spring green and almond blossom. She formed a wild resolution,
and, lest she should waver from it, she set about at once to realize it.
"I've broken off my engagement," she said, in a matter-of-fact tone, and
found her heart thumping in her neck. He moved slightly, and she
went on, with a slight catching of her breath: "It's a bother and
disturbance, but you see--" She had to go through with it now, because
she could think of nothing but her preconceived words. Her voice was
weak and flat.
"I've fallen in love."
He never helped her by a sound.
"I--I didn't love the man I was engaged to," she said. She met his eyes
for a moment, and could not interpret their expression. They struck her
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