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Alice drew a long breath that wheezed in her poor throat and covered her eyes with her hands, for she was dazzled with the vision that was surely turning real. To her, to his Helper, he had said that he was no use as a mere man. Surely the purport of that was clear.

‘Do you mean me?’ she said.

Mr Silverdale got up off the hearthrug where he had been sitting nursing his knees with miraculous celerity. She behind her hidden eyes heard{208} him and knew, she felt she knew, that in another moment would come the touch of his hands on 佛山桑拿会所按摩全套hers as he took them, and bade her look at him. Perhaps he would say, ‘Look at me, my darling’; perhaps his delicious joking ways would even at this sublimest of moments still assert themselves and he would say ‘Peep-o!’ But whatever he did would be delicious, would be perfect. But no touch came on her hands, and there was a long, an awful moment of dead silence, while behind poor Alice’s hands the dazzle died out of her vision. Before it was broken, she perceived that beyond a shadow of doubt he did not ‘mean her,’ and both were tongue-tied, he in the shame of having provoked a passion he had no use for, she in the shame of having revealed the passion he had not invited. She had come to the wrong house: she was an unbidden 佛山桑拿按摩全套体验 guest who must be directed outside the front-door again.

She got up, the sense of being wronged for the moment drowning her shame. It was his fault; he had made her think that he wanted her. She had long been termed his Helper, and now he had made himself clear by terming himself the mere man. At least she had thought he made himself clear. But the silence made him clearer.

‘I see you don’t mean me,’ she said quietly.

There was nothing for it but to confirm the justness of this perception.{209}

‘My dear Miss Alice,’ he said, ‘I am infinitely distressed.’

From the mere habit of pawing, he laid his hand on hers.

‘Infinitely 南海盐步桑拿网 distressed,’ he repeated. ‘I had no idea that you ever looked upon me——’

He could not complete that outrageous falsity with Alice’s eyes fixed on him. She waited, she longed to withdraw her hand from under his: it itched to pluck itself away and yet some counter-compelling influence from herself kept it there, delighting in his touch. The resentment at the encouragement she had received, which had provoked this ghastly fiasco, faded from her, her shame at having precipitated it faded also, and her mind, even in this cataclysm, but sunned itself in his presence. But that lasted only for a moment, her shame toppled it off its pre-eminence again, and again her sense of the wanton flirting of which she had been the victim banished her shame. Never in all the years of her placid existence had her mother felt the poignancy of any one of those emotions which made tumult together in Alice’s heart. And as if that was not enough, another added its discordant shrillness to the Babel within her. She pulled her hand away.

‘Tell me one thing,’ she said. ‘Is there some one else? Is it Julia Fyson? Oh, Mr Silverdale, do tell me it is not Julia Fyson!{210}’

Mr Silverdale suffered at that moment a profound disappointment. He had been telling himself that his hand was exercising a calming and controlling influence over this poor lady, and that presently she would say something very sensible and proper, though he could not quite tell what this would be. Instead, it was as if a wild cat had suddenly leaped out at him.

‘Certainly it is not Miss Julia Fyson,’ he exclaimed, in great dismay. For the moment his chronic fatuous complacency in the possession of his habitual adorers quite faded from his mind. They were intended to adore him tenderly, reverentially, fervently, but not to make proposals of marriage to him. He really did not care if he never put his arm round Julia Fyson’s waist again.

‘I assure you it is not Miss Fyson,’ he reiterated, wiping his moist forehead. ‘I wonder at your suggesting it. Besides, you surely know my views about the celibacy of the clergy.’

The humorousness, as it would have struck a bystander, of this amazing anticlimax escaped Alice. She knew it was an anticlimax, for she was not giving two thoughts to his principles, but was only involved in his practices. Anger suddenly flamed in her, giving her an odd grotesque dignity.

‘I dare say I have heard you express them,’ she said, ‘but I have also heard you express intimacy and affection towards me. You always{211} encouraged me, you held my hand, you whispered to me, and once, after my confession, you——’

‘No, no,’ said Mr Silverdale hurriedly.

‘But you did: you kissed me on the forehead and called me a little child,’ said Alice, with indignation that waxed as she recalled those tokens.

Mr Silverdale clasped his hands together.

‘I am infinitely distressed,’ he began. But Alice, with her temper rising to heights uncontemplated, interrupted him.

‘You said that twice before,’ she said. ‘And I don’t believe you care a bit.’

‘Hush!’ said Mr Silverdale, holding up his hand as he did at the benediction.

‘I won’t hush. You did all those things, and what was a girl to make of them except what I made of them? I put the natural construction on them. And you know it.’

The hand of benediction did not seem to be acting well, and Mr Silverdale took it down. He used it instead to cover his eyes. He was quite genuinely sorry for Alice, but at the back of his mind he could not help considering what a wonderful person he must be to inspire this passion without ever having meant to. There was a fascination about him….

‘I am deeply grieved,’ he said, ‘but as you will not listen to anything I say, there is no use in my saying any more. Good-bye, Miss Alice.{212}’

He put back his head in a proud, misunderstood attitude, and instantly at the thought of his leaving her like this, Alice’s anger began to ooze out of her. She pictured what the room would be like when the boudoir door had closed behind him, its intolerable emptiness. But she had still enough resentment left not to stop him.

‘Good-bye,’ she said.

‘Aren’t you going to shake hands?’ he asked.

The dying flame flickered up again.

‘We’ve got nothing to shake hands about,’ she said.

He bowed his head with a marvellous proud meekness, and left her.

Alice sat down again by the fire, and picked up a piece of buttered bun with a semicircular bite out of it which had fallen on the carpet. He must have been in the middle of that mastication when the fiasco began…. Yet, he could not have been, for he had begun to smoke. Perhaps he took another bun after he had finished his cigarette…. She considered this with a detached curiosity; it seemed to occupy all her mind. Then the boy covered with buttons came in to remove the tea-tray, and she noticed he had a piece of sticking plaster in the middle of his forehead. That was interesting too and curious…. And then she had a firm, an absolute conviction that Mr Silverdale had not gone away, that he was waiting in the hall, unable to tear himself from{213} her, and yet forbidden by his pride to come back. He had only left the room a couple of minutes; and surely she would find him seated in one of the Gothic chairs in the hall, with his hand over his face. She must go to him; their eyes would meet, and somehow or other the awful misunderstanding and estrangement in which they had parted would melt away. He would say, ‘Life is too strong for me; farewell the celibacy of the clergy,’ or something like that: or he would hold her hand for a long, a very long time, and perhaps whisper, ‘Then blessings on the fallings out,’ or ‘Whatever happens, nothing must interrupt our friendship.’ Perhaps the farewell to the celibacy of the clergy was an exaggerated optimism, but she would be so content, so happy with much less than that (provided always that he did not say his farewell to celibacy with Julia Fyson). She would be enraptured to continue on the old terms, now that she understood what he meant and what he did not mean. And perhaps she had spoiled it all, so that he would never again hold her hand or whisper to her, or kiss her with that sort of tender and fraternal affection as once in the vestry when she had made her guileless confession to him. It was a brother-kiss, a priest-kiss, coming almost from realms above, and now she had thrown that in his teeth. She had altogether failed to understand him, him and his friendship, his comradeship (and his pawings). In the{214} fading of her anger she longed for all that which she had thought meant so much, but which she prized now for its own sake. Surely she would find him still lingering in the hall, sorrowful and unhappy and misunderstood, but not reproachful, for he was too sublime for that. He had said he was infinitely grieved several times, and he would be great enough to forgive her. Perhaps he would be too deeply hurt to make any of those appropriate little speeches she had devised for him, and if so, the reconciliation for which already she yearned, the re-establishment of their relations on the old maudlin lines, must come from her initiative. Already with that curious passion some women have for being beaten and ill-treated, she longed to humble herself, to entreat his forgiveness.

She did not wait to put on a shawl, but walked quickly across the drawing-room, where she had so often heard his nimble tripping approach, and across the inner hall and out into that Gothic apartment where she would surely find him. Before she got there she had only one desire left, to abase herself and be raised up again. She was short-sighted, and as she came into the outer hall, her heart for a moment leaped within her, for she thought she saw him standing in the dusky corner by the library door.佛山桑拿按摩论坛网 Then, with a sickening reaction, she saw the phantom resolve itself into a coat and hat of her father’s hanging up{215} there, and she saw that the hall was empty, and Mr Silverdale gone. Still she would not give up; he might be standing just outside, unable quite to leave her like this, and opening the front door, she looked out on to the star-sown dusk. But certainly there was no one there.

She went back to her mother’s room and deliberately proceeded to torture herself. She had been to blame throughout, and not a spark of anger or resentment came to comfort her. All these past months he had brought joy and purpose into her aimless life, and she had but bitten the hand that fed her, and even worse than that, had scolded its owner for his bounty. It was with a sense of incredulity that she recalled some of her awful phrases, her rude, snappish interruptions, and yet in the 佛山夜生活论坛 midst of her self-humiliation she knew that she felt thrills of excitement, both at what had happened and what was taking shape in her brain as to what was going to happen. She had just that pleasure in her agonies of self-reproach, as does the penitent who scourges himself. She liked it to hurt, she gloried in the castigation that was surely doing her good.

Tingling from her self-inflicted penance, she went to her mother’s writing table, for she had to complete her humiliation by writing to him without delay, and expressing fully and unreservedly all that had made this last half-hour so replete with the luxury of self-reproach. But the expression{216} of it was not so easy as the perception of it had been, and she made half a dozen beginnings without satisfying herself. One began, ‘Oh, Mr Silverdale, how could I?’ but then she despaired of how to proceed. Another began, 佛山桑拿按摩网论坛 ‘I have honestly gone over every moment of this afternoon, and I find there is not a single point in which I am not entirely to blame,’ but that was too business-like and lacked emotion. But when she was almost in despair at these futile efforts, a brilliant idea came into her head. She would write in baby-language, which would surely touch his heart when he remembered how many serious things he and she had discussed together in this pretty jesting fashion.

‘Me vewy sorry,’ she wrote. ‘Me all messy with sorrowness. O poor parson, your Helper is vewy miserable. May things be as before? Will ‘oo forget and forgive, and let everything be nicey-nicey again? Fvom your wicked little Helper who hates herself.’

She could not improve on that either for silliness or pathetic sincerity, and unable to contemplate the delay which the post would entail, she gave it to the boy covered

with buttons to carry it at once by hand to the 东莞佛山桑拿按摩网 Vicarage and wait for an answer. That would take half an hour: there were thirty delicious minutes of suspense, for though she did not doubt the purport of his answer, it was thrilling to have to wait for it.{217}

The thrillingness was slightly shorn of its vibrations by the return of her mother, who had a great deal to say about the felicitous manner in which she had opened the bazaar. She had brought back with her a small plush monkey climbing a string, and a realistic representation of a spider’s web, with a woolly spider sitting in the middle of it. The rim of the web was fitted with hooks, so that you could hang it up anywhere. She selected the base of the pink clock as the most suitable site.

‘Is it not clever and quaint?’ she said. ‘I must really tell Jane that it is not a real one, or she will be dusting

it away. And the monkey too, that is even quainter. You can bend its arms and legs into all sorts of attitudes. I made a little speech, dear, and there was Lady Inverbroom on one side of me, and Mrs Crawshaw on 广东佛山桑拿论坛 the other. It was quite a gathering of county people. Lady Inverbroom asked after you; no, I think I told her you had the influenza first, and then she asked after you. Yes, that was the way of it. She had a mantle on which I don’t think can have cost more than four guineas, but then I’m sure it’s not her fault if she has to economise. For my part, if I had all those pictures with that great 佛山桑拿按摩图 house to keep up, I should get my husband to sell one or two, and treat myself to a bit of finery and a better dinner in the evening.{218}’

‘Perhaps they are entailed,’ said Alice, thinking that by now her note would have arrived at the Vicarage.