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TONO-BUNGAY

"No. My mind is confused. I want to know if you will marry me."

She whitened and said nothing. I suddenly felt I must plead with her. "Damn these bandages!" I said, breaking into ineffectual febrile rage.

She roused herself to her duties as nurse. "What are you doing? Why are you trying to sit up? Lie down! Don't touch your bandages. I told you not to talk."

She stood helpless for a moment, then took me firmly by the shoulders and pushed me back upon the pillow. She gripped the wrist of the hand I had raised to my face. "I told you not to talk," she whispered close to my face. "I asked you not to talk. Why couldn't you do as I asked you?"

"You've been avoiding me for a month," I said.

"I know. You might have known. Put your hand back—down by your side."

I obeyed. She sat on the edge of the bed. A flush had come to her cheeks, and her eyes were very bright. "I asked you," she repeated, "not to talk."

My eyes questioned her mutely.

She put her hand on my chest. Her eyes were tormented. "How can I answer you now?" she said. "How can I say anything now?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

She made no answer.

"Do you mean it must be No?"

She nodded.

"But——," I said, and my whole soul was full of accusations.

"I know," she said. "I can't explain. I can't. But it has to be No! It can't be. It's utterly, finally, for ever impossible. . . . Keep your hands still!"