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The Touchstone


pleasedÑyet barred from all conceivable achievement by his own imper-
vious dulness; while, a few feet off, Glennard, who wanted only enough
to keep a decent coat on his back and a roof over the head of the woman
he loved, Glennard, who had sweated, toiled, denied himself for the
scant measure of opportunity that his zeal would have converted into a
kingdomÑsat wretchedly calculating that, even when he had resigned
from the club, and knocked off his cigars, and given up his Sundays out
of town, he would still be no nearer attainment.
The Spectator had slipped to his feet and as he picked it up his eye fell
again on the paragraph addressed to the friends of Mrs. Aubyn. He had
read it for the first time with a scarcely perceptible quickening of atten-
tion: her name had so long been public property that his eye passed it
unseeingly, as the crowd in the street hurries without a glance by some
familiar monument.
"Information concerning the period previous to her coming to Eng-
landÉ ." The words were an evocation. He saw her again as she had
looked at their first meeting, the poor woman of genius with her long
pale face and short-sighted eyes, softened a little by the grace of youth
and inexperience, but so incapable even then of any hold upon the
pulses. When she spoke, indeed, she was wonderful, more wonderful,
perhaps, than when later, to Glennard's fancy at least, the conscious of
memorable things uttered seemed to take from even her most intimate
speech the perfect bloom of privacy. It was in those earliest days, if ever,
that he had come near loving her; though even then his sentiment had
lived only in the intervals of its expression. Later, when to be loved by
her had been a state to touch any man's imagination, the physical reluct-
ance had, inexplicably, so overborne the intellectual attraction, that the
last years had been, to both of them, an agony of conflicting impulses.
Even now, if, in turning over old papers, his hand lit on her letters, the
touch filled him with inarticulate miseryÉ .
"She had so few intimate friendsÉ that letters will be of special value."
So few intimate friends! For years she had had but one; one who in the
last years had requited her wonderful pages, her tragic outpourings of
love, humility, and pardon, with the scant phrases by which a man
evades the vulgarest of sentimental importunities. He had been a brute
in spite of himself, and sometimes, now that the remembrance of her face
had faded, and only her voice and words remained with him, he chafed
at his own inadequacy, his stupid inability to rise to the height of her
passion. His egoism was not of a kind to mirror its complacency in the
adventure. To have been loved by the most brilliant woman of her day,
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