Capes had not quite the same power of recovery. He stood with his hands in his pockets looking at Miss Klegg’s back. His face was white. “It’s—it’s a difficult question.” He appeared to be paralyzed by abstruse acoustic calculations. Then, very awkwardly, he took a stool and placed it at the end of Ann Veronica’s table, and sat down. He glanced at Miss Klegg again, and spoke quickly and furtively, with eager eyes on Ann Veronica’s face.
“I had a faint idea once that things were as you say they are, but the affair of the ring—of the unexpected ring—puzzled me. Wish she”—he indicated Miss Klegg’s back with a nod—“was at the bottom of the sea.... I would like to talk to you about this—soon. If you don’t think it would be a social outrage, perhaps I might walk with you to your railway station.”
“I will wait,” said Ann Veronica, still not looking at him, “and we will go into Regent’s Park. No—you shall come with me to Waterloo.”
“Right!” he said, and hesitated, and then got up and went into the preparation-room.
For a time they walked in silence through the back streets that lead southward from the College. Capes bore a face of infinite perplexity.
“The thing I feel most disposed to say, Miss Stanley,” he began at last, “is that this is very sudden.”
“It’s been coming on since first I came into the laboratory.”
“What do you want?” he asked, bluntly.
“You!” said Ann Veronica.
The sense of publicity, of people coming and going about them, kept them both unemotional. And neither had any of that theatricality which demands gestures and facial expression.
“I suppose you know I like you tremendously?” he pursued.
“You told me that in the Zoological Gardens.”
She found her muscles a-tremble. But there was nothing in her bearing that a passer-by would have noted, to tell of the excitement that possessed her.
“I”—he seemed to have a difficulty with the word—“I love you. I’ve told you that practically already. But I can give it its name now. You needn’t be in any doubt about it. I tell you that because it puts us on a footing....”
They went on for a time without another word.
“But don’t you know about me?” he said at last.
“Something. Not much.”
“I’m a married man. And my wife won’t live with me for reasons that I think most women would consider sound.... Or I should have made love to you long ago.”
There came a silence again.
“I don’t care,” said Ann Veronica.
“But if you knew anything of that—”
“I did. It doesn’t matter.”
“Why did you tell me? I thought—I thought we were going to be friends.”
He was suddenly resentful. He seemed to charge her with the ruin of their situation. “Why on earth did you tell me?” he cried.