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The Man

22. Fixing The Bounds
Leonard came towards Normanstand next forenoon in considerable mental disturbance.
In the first place he was seriously in love with Stephen, and love is in itself a disturbing
influence.
Leonard's love was all of the flesh; and as such had power at present to disturb him, as it
would later have power to torture him. Again, he was disturbed by the fear of losing
Stephen, or rather of not being able to gain her. At first, ever since she had left him on the
path from the hilltop till his interview the next day, he had looked on her possession as an
'option,' to the acceptance of which circumstances seemed to be compelling him. But ever
since, that asset seemed to have been dwindling; and now he was almost beginning to
despair. He was altogether cold at heart, and yet highly strung with apprehension, as he
was shown into the blue drawing-room.
Stephen came in alone, closing the door behind her. She shook hands with him, and sat
down by a writing-table near the window, pointing to him to sit on an ottoman a little
distance away. The moment he sat down he realised that he was at a disadvantage; he was
not close to her, and he could not get closer without manifesting his intention of so doing.
He wanted to be closer, both for the purpose of his suit and for his own pleasure; the
proximity of Stephen began to multiply his love for her. He thought that to-day she
looked better than ever, of a warm radiant beauty which touched his senses with
unattainable desire. She could not but notice the passion in his eyes, and instinctively her
eyes wandered to a silver gong placed on the table well within reach. The more he
glowed, the more icily calm she sat, till the silence between them began to grow
oppressive. She waited, determined that he should be the first to speak. Recognising the
helplessness of silence, he began huskily:
'I came here to-day in the hope that you would listen to me.' Her answer, given with a
conventional smile, was not helpful:
'I am listening.'
'I cannot tell you how sorry I am that I did not accept your offer. If I had know when I
was coming that day that you loved me . . . ' She interrupted him, calm of voice, and with
uplifted hand:
'I never said so, did I? Surely I could not have said such a thing! I certainly don't
remember it?' Leonard was puzzled.
'You certainly made me think so. You asked me to marry you, didn't you?' Her answer
came calmly, though in a low voice:
'I did.'
 
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