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When a Man Marries

On The Stairs
I was roused by someone walking across the roof, the cracking of tin under feet, and a
comfortable and companionable odor of tobacco. I moved a very little, and then I saw
that it was a man--the height and erectness told me which man. And just at that instant he
saw me.
"Good Lord!" he ejaculated, and throwing his cigar away he came across quickly. "Why,
Mrs. Wilson, what in the world are you doing here? I thought--they said--"
"That I was sulking again?" I finished disagreeably. "Perhaps I am. In fact, I'm quite sure
of it."
"You are not," he said severely. "You have been asleep in a February night, in the open
air, with less clothing on than I wear in the tropics."
I had got up by this time, refusing his help, and because my feet were numb, I sat down
on the parapet for a moment. Oh, I knew what I looked like--one of those "Valley-of-the-
Nile-After-a-Flood" pictures.
"There is one thing about you that is comforting," I sniffed. "You said precisely the same
thing to me at three o'clock this morning. You never startle me by saying anything
unexpected."
He took a step toward me, and even in the dusk I could see that he was looking down at
me oddly. All my bravado faded away and there was a queerish ringing in my ears.
"I would like to!" he said tensely. "I would like, this minute--I'm a fool, Mrs. Wilson," he
finished miserably. "I ought to be drawn and quartered, but when I see you like this I--I
get crazy. If you say the word, I'll--I'll go down and--" He clenched his fist.
It was reprehensible, of course; he saw that in an instant, for he shut his teeth over
something that sounded very fierce, and strode away from me, to stand looking out over
the river, with his hands thrust in his pockets. Of course the thing I should have done was
to ignore what he had said altogether, but he was so uncomfortable, so chastened, that,
feline, feminine, whatever the instinct is, I could not let him go. I had been so wretched
myself.
"What is it you would like to say?" I called over to him. He did not speak. "Would you
tell me that I am a silly child for pouting?" No reply; he struck a match. "Or would you
preach a nice little sermon about people--about women--loving their husbands?"
He grunted savagely under his breath.
"Be quite honest," I pursued relentlessly. "Say that we are a lot of barbarians, say that
because my--because Jimmy treats me outrageously--oh, he does; any one can see that--
and because I loathe him--and any one can tell that--why don't you say you are shocked
to the depths?" I was a little shocked myself by that time, but I couldn't stop, having
started.
 
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