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Chapter 16 (continued)
Bill walked on. He felt as if he could walk for ever. Automobiles whirred past, hooting peevishly, but he heeded them not. Dogs trotted out to exchange civilities, but he ignored them. The poison in his blood drove him on.
And then quite suddenly and unexpectedly the fever passed. Almost in mid-stride he became another man, a healed, sane man, keenly aware of a very vivid thirst and a desire to sit down and rest before attempting the ten miles of cement road that lay between him and home. Half an hour at a wayside inn completed the cure. It was a weary but clear-headed Bill who trudged back through the gathering dusk.
He found himself thinking of Claire as of someone he had known long ago, someone who had never touched his life. She seemed so far away that he wondered how she could ever have affected him for pain or pleasure. He looked at her across a chasm. This is the real difference between love and infatuation, that infatuation can be slain cleanly with a single blow. In the hour of clear vision which had come to him, Bill saw that he had never loved Claire. It was her beauty that had held him, that and the appeal which her circumstances had made to his pity. Their minds had not run smoothly together. Always there had been something that jarred, a subtle antagonism. And she was crooked.
Almost unconsciously his mind began to build up an image of the ideal girl, the girl he would have liked Claire to be, the girl who would conform to all that he demanded of woman. She would be brave. He realized now that, even though it had moved his pity, Claire's querulousness had offended something in him.
He had made allowances for her, but the ideal girl would have had no need of allowances. The ideal girl would be plucky, cheerfully valiant, a fighter. She would not admit the existence of hard luck.
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