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desecrating; she liked to examine--to 'let her hand stray,' were
her words. Even her beauty seemed impaired some nights and I
caught a gleam in her eye and a curve of her lip I thought
vulgar. But perhaps the next night I met her she would be as
bright as ever.
"I introduced her to my friends, who knew our relations, for I
blabbed everything. But she did not mind their knowing and if we
met would give them all a kiss, so that I felt I had been rather
too profuse in my hospitality, though I still would say: 'Have
another one, Bert; I don't mind.' But whatever ass I made of
myself she forgave me anything, and was fonder of me every time
we met, while I, although I did not know it for a long time, was
less fond of her. She knew how to revive my love, however. Some
nights she would not meet me, and I would be like a madman. Other
nights she would meet me, but not let me raise her dress. She
would lie on me, on a moonlit night, and her young face in shadow
like a siren's in its frame of hair, merely to kiss me. But what
kisses! Slow, cold kisses changing to clinging, passionate ones.
She would leave my mouth to look around, as if frightened, and
come back, open-mouthed, with a side-contact of lips that brought
out unexpected felicities.
"One night her _fiance_ saw us together, and followed me after I
left her, but on turning a corner I ran. I ridiculed him to her
and despised him. I should have found it difficult to say why.
Another night her brother attacked me, and it would have gone
hard with me, but Annie pulled me in and banged the door. We were
in a friend's house, but her father came around soon and laid a
stick about her shoulders, in my presence. I tried to talk big,
and said something idiotic about being as good a man as her
betrothed, as though my intentions were honorable, which for one
brief moment made Anne look at me, paler faced and changed, such
a strange glance. But he beat her home, enjoying my rage, and she
went away, crying in her hands. I was allowed to go unmolested.
"I soon received a letter from her asking me not to mind and
making an appointment, at which she turned up cheerful and
unconcerned. She went to confession, and would meet me
afterwards; and her faith in that, and the difference of our
religions (if I had any religion) would make her seem strange and
alien to me at times, even banal. At last our meetings became a
mere habit of sensuality, with all charm, and suggestion of
better things eliminated....
"I went with my friend George (who shared my room) one afternoon
and called at Annie's school; she kept an infants' school of her
own. She came to the door herself. It was the first time I had
seen her in daylight, and I thought her cheek-bones bigger; she
certainly was not so pretty as on the first evening I met her.
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