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A Pair of Patient Lovers
written by "Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920"
... said the girl across the table who was not less sweetly a girl because she would never see thirty-nine again, "I should simply drop everything and follow that piano to Phyllis Desmond's door." "It's quite what I should like to do," Gaites responded, with a well-affected air of passionate regret. "But I'm promised at Kent Harbor—" She did not wait for him to say more, but submitted, "Oh, well, if you're going to Kent Harbor, of course!" as if that would excuse and explain any sort of dereliction; and then the talk went on about Kent Harbor till Mrs. Birkwall asked, generally, as if it were part of the Kent Harbor inquiry, "Didn't I hear that the Ashwoods were going to their place at Upper Merritt, this year?" Then there arose a dispute, which divided the company into nearly equal parties; as to whether the Ashwoods had got home from Europe yet. But it all ended in bringing the talk back to Phyllis Desmond's piano again, and in urging its pursuit upon Gaites, as something he owed to romance; at least he ought to do it for their sake, for now they should all be upon pins and needles till they knew who she was, and what she could be doing at Lower Merritt, N. H. At one time he had it on his tongue to say that there seemed to be something like infection in his interest in that piano, and he was going to speak of the young girl who seemed to share it, simply because she saw him staring at it, and who faltered so long with him before the freight-depot that she came near getting no seat in the train for Burymouth. But just at that moment the dispute about the Ashwoods renewed itself upon some fresh evidence which one of the ladies recollected and offered; and Gaites's chance passed. When it came again he had no longer the wish to seize it. A lingering soreness from his experience with that young girl made itself felt in his nether consciousness. He forbore the more easily because, mixed with this pain, was a certain insecurity as...

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