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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 218 pages of information about The Imaginary Marriage.

“One question?”

“You do not ask me if I love you!”

“How can I ask for the impossible, the unlikely?  There is nothing in me for such a girl as you to love.”

“There is much in you for any woman to love.  There is honesty and truth and bravery, and a clean sweet mind.  I know all that, I know that you are a good man, Johnny.  I know that; but oh, I do not love you!”

“I know,” he said sadly.  “I know that.”  And his hand seemed to slip away from hers.

“And you would not—­not take me—­Johnny, without love?” she asked, and her voice trembled.

“Joan, I—­I don’t understand.  I am a foolish, dense fellow, dear, and I don’t understand!”

She turned to him, and now her eyes met his frankly, and never had he seen them so soft, so tender, so filled with a strange and wonderful light, the light that is born of tenderness and sympathy and kindliness.

“Would you make me your wife, Johnny, knowing that I—­I do not love you as a woman should love the man she takes for her husband.”

“I—­I would try to teach you, dear.  I would try to win a little of your heart.”

“And that would content you, Johnny?”

“It must.  I dare not ask too much, and I—­I—­love you so!”

("I glory in it.  I take not one word of it lack!")

Hateful words, words she could never forget, that came back to torture and fill her with a sense of shame.  Strange that they were dinning in her memory, even now.

("I glory in it.  I take not one word back!")

And then suddenly she made a gesture, as to fling off remembrance.  She turned more fully to him, and her eyes met his frankly.

“I do not love you, dear, as a woman should love the man she mates with; but I like you.  I honour you and trust you, and if—­if you will take me as I am, not asking for too much, not asking, dear, for more than I can give—­”

“Joan,” he said, “my Joan!”

She bent her head.

“If you will take me—­as I am, not asking for more than I can give, then—­then I will come to you, if you will have it so.  But oh, my dear, you are worth more than this, far more than this!”

He lifted her hand and held it to his lips, the only embrace that in his humility he dare offer her.  And even while she felt his lips upon her hand, there came back to her memory eyes that glowed with love and passion, a deep voice that shook with feeling—­

("I glory in it, and take not one word of it back!")

CHAPTER XXV

IN THE MIRE

Women, chattering over their tea in the lounge of the Empire Hotel, followed the tall restless young man with their eyes.  He was worth looking at, so big and fine, and bronzed, and so worried, so anxious-looking, poor fellow.

Four o’clock, a quarter past, half past.  She would not come.  Of course she would not come; he had offended past all forgiveness in taking so long to reply to her appeal.  Hugh Alston cursed the unlucky star that he must have been born under.

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