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Night and Day

CHAPTER XI
It's life that matters, nothing but life--the process of discovering, the everlasting
and perpetual process," said Katharine, as she passed under the archway, and
so into the wide space of King's Bench Walk, "not the discovery itself at all." She
spoke the last words looking up at Rodney's windows, which were a semilucent
red color, in her honor, as she knew. He had asked her to tea with him. But she
was in a mood when it is almost physically disagreeable to interrupt the stride of
one's thought, and she walked up and down two or three times under the trees
before approaching his staircase. She liked getting hold of some book which
neither her father or mother had read, and keeping it to herself, and gnawing its
contents in privacy, and pondering the meaning without sharing her thoughts with
any one, or having to decide whether the book was a good one or a bad one.
This evening she had twisted the words of Dostoevsky to suit her mood--a
fatalistic mood-- to proclaim that the process of discovery was life, and that,
presumably, the nature of one's goal mattered not at all. She sat down for a
moment upon one of the seats; felt herself carried along in the swirl of many
things; decided, in her sudden way, that it was time to heave all this thinking
overboard, and rose, leaving a fishmonger's basket on the seat behind her. Two
minutes later her rap sounded with authority upon Rodney's door.
"Well, William," she said, "I'm afraid I'm late."
It was true, but he was so glad to see her that he forgot his annoyance. He had
been occupied for over an hour in making things ready for her, and he now had
his reward in seeing her look right and left, as she slipped her cloak from her
shoulders, with evident satisfaction, although she said nothing. He had seen that
the fire burnt well; jam-pots were on the table, tin covers shone in the fender, and
the shabby comfort of the room was extreme. He was dressed in his old crimson
dressing-gown, which was faded irregularly, and had bright new patches on it,
like the paler grass which one finds on lifting a stone. He made the tea, and
Katharine drew off her gloves, and crossed her legs with a gesture that was
rather masculine in its ease. Nor did they talk much until they were smoking
cigarettes over the fire, having placed their teacups upon the floor between them.
They had not met since they had exchanged letters about their relationship.
Katharine's answer to his protestation had been short and sensible. Half a sheet
of notepaper contained the whole of it, for she merely had to say that she was
not in love with him, and so could not marry him, but their friendship would
continue, she hoped, unchanged. She had added a postscript in which she
stated, "I like your sonnet very much."
So far as William was concerned, this appearance of ease was assumed. Three
times that afternoon he had dressed himself in a tail-coat, and three times he had
discarded it for an old dressing-gown; three times he had placed his pearl tie-pin
in position, and three times he had removed it again, the little looking-glass in his
room being the witness of these changes of mind. The question was, which
would Katharine prefer on this particular afternoon in December? He read her
note once more, and the postscript about the sonnet settled the matter. Evidently
 
 
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