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When a Man Marries

The Harbison Man
She talked for an hour, having got between me and the door, and she scolded Jim and
Bella thoroughly. But they did not hear it, being occupied with each other, sitting side by
side meekly on the divan with Jim holding Bella's hand under a cushion. She said they
would have to be very good to make up for all the deception, but it was perfectly clear
that it was a relief to her to find that I didn't belong to her permanently, and as I have said
before, she was crazy about Bella.
I sat back in a chair and grew comfortably drowsy in the monotony of her voice. It was a
name that brought me to myself with a jerk.
"Mr. Harbison!" Aunt Selina was saying. "Then bring him down at once, James. I want
no more deception. There is no use cleaning a house and leaving a dirty corner."
"It will not be necessary for me to stay and see it swept," I said, mustering the rags she
had left of my self-respect, and trying to pass her. But she planted herself squarely before
me.
"You can not stir up a dust like this, young woman, and leave other people to sneeze in
it," she said grimly. And I stayed.
I sat, very small, on a chair in a corner. I felt like Jezebel, or whatever her name was, and
now the Harbison man was coming, and he was going to see me stripped of my
pretensions to domesticity and of a husband who neglected me. He was going to see me
branded a living lie, and he would hate me because I had put him in a ridiculous position.
He was just the sort to resent being ridiculous.
Jim brought him down in a dressing gown and a state of bewilderment. It was plain that
the memory of the afternoon still rankled, for he was very short with Jim and inclined to
resent the whole thing. The clock in the hall chimed half after three as they came down
the stairs, and I heard Mr. Harbison stumble over something in the darkness and say that
if it was a joke, he wasn't in the humor for it. To which Jim retorted that it wasn't
anything resembling a joke, and for heaven's sake not to walk on his feet; he couldn't get
around the furniture any faster.
At the door of the den Mr. Harbison stopped, blinking in the light. Then, when he saw us,
he tried to back himself and his dishabille out into the obscurity of the library. But Aunt
Selina was too quick for him.
"Come in," she called, "I want you, young man. It seems that there are only two fools in
the house, and you are one."
He straightened at that and looked bewildered, but he tried to smile.
"I thought I was the only one," he said. "Is it possible that there is another?"
"I am the other," she announced. I think she expected him to say "Impossible," but,
whatever he was, he was never banal.
 
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