A Charmed Life

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Excerpt She loved him so, that when he went away to a little war in which his country was interested she could not understand, nor quite forgive. As the correspondent of a newspaper, Chesterton had looked on at other wars; when the yellow races met, when the infidel Turk spanked the Christian Greek; and one he had watched from inside a British square, where he was greatly alarmed lest he should be trampled upon by terrified camels. This had happened before he and she had met. After they met, she told him that what chances he had chosen to take before he came into her life fell outside of her jurisdiction. But now that his life belonged to her, this talk of his standing up to be shot at was wicked. It was worse than wicked; it was absurd. When the Maine sank in Havana harbor and the word "war" was appearing hourly in hysterical extras, Miss Armitage explained her position. "You mustn't think," she said, "that I am one of those silly girls who would beg you not to go to war." At the moment of speaking her cheek happened to be resting against his, and his arm was about her, so he humbly bent his head and kissed her, and whispered very proudly and softly, "No, dearest." At which she withdrew from him frowning. "No! I'm not a bit like those girls," she proclaimed. "I merely tell you YOU CAN'T GO! My gracious!" she cried, helplessly. She knew the words fell short of expressing her distress, but her education had not supplied her with exclamations of greater violence. "My goodness!" she cried. "How can you frighten me so? It's not like you," she reproached him. "You are so unselfish, so noble. You are always thinking of other people. How can you talk of going to war—to be killed—to me? And now, now that you have made me love you so?" The hands, that when she talked seemed to him like swallows darting and flashing in the sunlight, clutched his sleeve. The fingers, that he would rather kiss than the lips of any other woman that ever lived, clung to his arm. Their clasp reminded him of that of a drowning child he had once lifted from the surf. "If you should die," whispered Miss Armitage. "What would I do. What would I do!" "But my dearest," cried the young man. "My dearest ONE! I've GOT to go. It's our own war. Everybody else will go," he pleaded. "Every man you know, and they're going to fight, too. I'm going only to look on. That's bad enough, isn't it, without sitting at home? You should be sorry I'm not going to fight." "Sorry!" exclaimed the girl. "If you love me—" "If I love you," shouted the young man. His voice suggested that he was about to shake her. "How dare you?" She abandoned that position and attacked from one more logical. "But why punish me?" she protested. "Do I want the war? Do I want to free Cuba? No! I want YOU, and if you go, you are the one who is sure to be killed. You are so big—and so brave, and you will be rushing in wherever the fighting is, and then—then you will die." She raised her eyes and looked at him as though seeing him from a great distance. "And," she added fatefully, "I will die, too, or maybe I will have to live, to live without you for years, for many miserable years." Fearfully, with great caution, as though in his joy in her he might crush her in his hands, the young man drew her to him and held her close....
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