Page:The Wheel of Time, Collaboration, Owen Wingrave (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1893).djvu/89

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was flashed back to him from the irreverent lips of a lady who knew and admired Mrs. Tregent, and who professed amusement at his surprise, at his artless declaration that he had no idea he had made himself conspicuous. She assured him that every one was talking about him—though people after all had a tenderness for elderly romance; and she left him divided between the acute sense that he was comical (he had a horror of that) and the pale perception of something that he could "help" still less. At the end of a few hours of reflection he had sacrificed the penalty to the privilege, he was about to be fifty, and he knew Fanny Knocker's age—no one better, but he cared no straw for vulgar judgments, and moreover could think of plenty of examples of unions admired even after longer delays. For three days he enjoyed the luxury of admitting to himself without reserve how indispensable she had become to him; as the third drew to a close he was more nervous than really he had ever been in his life, for this was the evening on which, after many hinderances, Mrs. Tregent had agreed to