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CHAPTER I
A CLASH OF WILLS AND HEARTS
"For the last time, will you marry me?"
"No."
"But you don't love him."
"No."
"And you do love me?"
"Yes."
"I don't believe it."
"Would I be here if I did not?"
Now that adverb was rather indefinite. "Here" might have meant the private office, which was bad enough, or his arms, which was worse or better, depending upon the view-point. She could think of nothing better to dispel the reasonable incredulity of the man than to nestle closer to him, if that were possible, and kiss him. It was not a perfunctory kiss, either. It meant something to the woman, and she made it mean something to the man. Indeed, there was fire and passion enough in it to have quickened a pulse in a stone image. It answered its purpose in one way. There could be no real doubt in the man's mind as to the genuineness of that love he had just called in question in his pique at her refusal. The kiss thrilled him with its fervor, but it left him more miserable than ever. It did not plunge him immediately into that condition, however, for he drew her closer to his breast again, and as the struck flint flashes fire he gave her back all that she had given him, and more.
Ordinarily in moments like that it is the woman who first breaks away, but the solution of touch was brought about by the man. He set the girl down somewhat roughly in the chair behind the big desk before which they were standing and turned away. She suffered him thus to dispose of her without explanation. Indeed, she divined the reason which presently came to his lips as he walked up and down the big room, hands in pockets, his brows knitted, a dark frown on his face.
"I can't stand any more of that just now," he said, referring to her caress; "if ever in my life I wanted to think clearly it is now and with you in my arms--Say, for the very last time, will you marry me?"
"I cannot."
"You mean you will not."
"Put it that way if you must. It amounts to the same thing."
"Why can't you, or won't you, then?"
"I've told you a thousand times."
"Assume that I don't know and tell me again."
"What's the use?"
"Well, it gives me another chance to show you how foolish you are, to overrule every absurd argument that you can put forth--"
"Except two."
"What are they?"
"My father and myself."
"Exactly. You have inherited a full measure, excuse me, of his infernal obstinacy."
"Most people call it invincible determination."
"It doesn't make any difference what it's called, it amounts to the same thing."
"I suppose I have."
"Now look at the thing plainly from a practical point of view."
"Is there anything practical in romance, in love, in passions like ours?"
"There is something practical in everything I do and especially in this. I've gone over the thing a thousand times. I'll go over it again once more. You don't love the man you have promised to marry; you do love me. Furthermore, he doesn't love you and I do--Oh, he has a certain affection for you, I'll admit. Nobody could help that, and it's probably growing, too. I suppose in time he will--"
"Love me as you do?"
"Never; no one could do that, but as much as he could love any one. But that isn't the point. For a quixotic scruple, a mistaken idea of honor, an utterly unwarranted conception of a daughter's duty, you are going to marry a man you don't and can't love and--"
"You are very positive. How do you know I can't?"
"I know you love me and I know that a girl like you can't change any more than I can."
"That's the truth," answered the girl with a finality which bespoke extreme youth, and shut off any further discussion of that phase.
"Well, then, you'll be unhappy, I'll be unhappy, and he'll be unhappy."
"I can make him happy."
"No, you can't. If he learns to love you he will miss what I would enjoy. He'll find out the truth and be miserable."

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  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Lending: Disabled
  • Print Length: 139 Pages
  • File Size: 486 KB

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