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28. Chapter XXVIII (continued)
"My dear fellow, don't be unhappy. She'll come back. You mustn't take very seriously what women say when they're in a passion."
"You don't understand. She's in love with Strickland."
"What!" I was startled at this, but the idea had no sooner taken possession of me than I saw it was absurd. "How can you be so silly? You don't mean to say you're jealous of Strickland?" I almost laughed. "You know very well that she can't bear the sight of him."
"You don't understand," he moaned.
"You're an hysterical ass," I said a little impatiently. "Let me give you a whisky-and-soda, and you'll feel better."
I supposed that for some reason or other -- and Heaven knows what ingenuity men exercise to torment themselves -- Dirk had got it into his head that his wife cared for Strickland, and with his genius for blundering he might quite well have offended her so that, to anger him, perhaps, she had taken pains to foster his suspicion.
"Look here," I said, "let's go back to your studio. If you've made a fool of yourself you must eat humble pie. Your wife doesn't strike me as the sort of woman to bear malice."
"How can I go back to the studio?" he said wearily. "They're there. I've left it to them."
"Then it's not your wife who's left you; it's you who've left your wife."
"For God's sake don't talk to me like that."
Still I could not take him seriously. I did not for a moment believe what he had told me. But he was in very real distress.
"Well, you've come here to talk to me about it. You'd better tell me the whole story."
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