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The American Senator

23. Poor Caneback
A closer intimacy will occasionally be created by some accident, some fortuitous
circumstance, than weeks of ordinary intercourse will produce. Walk down Bond
Street in a hailstorm of peculiar severity and you may make a friend of the first
person you meet, whereas you would be held to have committed an affront were
you to speak to the same person in the same place on a fine day. You shall
travel smoothly to York with a lady and she will look as though she would call the
guard at once were you so much as to suggest that it were a fine day; but if you
are lucky enough to break a wheel before you get to Darlington, she will have
told you all her history and shared your sherry by the time you have reached that
town. Arabella was very much shocked by the dreadful accident she had seen.
Her nerves had suffered, though it may be doubted whether her heart had been
affected much. But she was quite conscious when she reached her room that the
poor Major's misfortune, happening as it had done just beneath her horse's feet,
had been a godsend to her. For a moment the young lord's arm had been round
her waist and her head had been upon his shoulder. And again when she had
slipped from her saddle she had felt his embrace. His fervour to her had been
simply the uncontrolled expression of his feeling at the moment,--as one man
squeezes another tightly by the hand in any crisis of sudden impulse. She knew
this; but she knew also that he would probably revert to the intimacy which the
sudden emotion had created. The mutual galvanic shock might be continued at
the next meeting,--and so on. They had seen the tragedy together and it would
not fail to be a bond of union. As she told the tragedy to her mother, she
delicately laid aside her hat and whip and riding dress, and then asked whether it
was not possible that they might prolong their stay at Rufford. "But the Gores, my
dear! I put them off, you know, for two days only." Then Arabella declared that
she did not care a straw for the Gores. In such a matter as this what would it
signify though they should quarrel with a whole generation of Gores? For some
time she thought that she would not come down again that afternoon or even that
evening. It might well be that the sight of the accident should have made her too
ill to appear. She felt conscious that in that moment and in the subsequent half
hour she had carried herself well, and that there would be an interest about her
were she to own herself compelled to keep her room. Were she now to take to
her bed they could not turn her out on the following day. But at last her mother's
counsel put an end to that plan. Time was too precious. "I think you might lose
more than you'd gain," said her mother.
Both Lord Rufford and his sister were very much disturbed as to what they
should do on the occasion. At half-past six Lord Rufford was told that the Major
had recovered his senses, but that the case was almost hopeless. Of course he
saw his guest. "I'm all right," said the Major. The Lord sat there by the bedside,
holding the man's hand for a few moments, and then got up to leave him. "No
 
 
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