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The Touchstone


and to have been incapable of loving her, seemed to him, in looking
back, the most derisive evidence of his limitations; and his remorseful
tenderness for her memory was complicated with a sense of irritation
against her for having given him once for all the measure of his emotion-
al capacity. It was not often, however, that he thus probed the past. The
public, in taking possession of Mrs. Aubyn, had eased his shoulders of
their burden. There was something fatuous in an attitude of sentimental
apology toward a memory already classic: to reproach one's self for not
having loved Margaret Aubyn was a good deal like being disturbed by
an inability to admire the Venus of Milo. From her cold niche of fame she
looked down ironically enough on his self-flagellationsÉ . It was only
when he came on something that belonged to her that he felt a sudden
renewal of the old feeling, the strange dual impulse that drew him to her
voice but drove him from her hand, so that even now, at sight of any-
thing she had touched, his heart contracted painfully. It happened sel-
dom nowadays. Her little presents, one by one, had disappeared from
his rooms, and her letters, kept from some unacknowledged puerile van-
ity in the possession of such treasures, seldom came beneath his handÉ .
"Her letters will be of special valueÑ" Her letters! Why, he must have
hundreds of themÑenough to fill a volume. Sometimes it used to seem
to him that they came with every postÑhe used to avoid looking in his
letter-box when he came home to his roomsÑbut her writing seemed to
spring out at him as he put his key in the doorÑ.
He stood up and strolled into the other room. Hollingsworth, lounging
away from the window, had joined himself to a languidly convivial
group of men to whom, in phrases as halting as though they struggled to
define an ultimate idea, he was expounding the cursed nuisance of living
in a hole with such a damned climate that one had to get out of it by
February, with the contingent difficulty of there being no place to take
one's yacht to in winter but that other played-out hole, the Riviera. From
the outskirts of this group Glennard wandered to another, where a voice
as different as possible from Hollingsworth's colorless organ dominated
another circle of languid listeners.
"Come and hear Dinslow talk about his patent: admission free," one of
the men sang out in a tone of mock resignation.
Dinslow turned to Glennard the confident pugnacity of his smile.
"Give it another six months and it'll be talking about itself," he declared.
"It's pretty nearly articulate now."
"Can it say papa?" someone else inquired.
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