Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle: Ch. 1

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"You know you told me something I've never forgotten and that again and again has made me think of you since; it was that tremendously hot day when we went to Sorrento, across the bay, for the breeze.  What I allude to was what you said to me, on the way back, as we sat under the awning of the boat enjoying the cool.  Have you forgotten?"

He had forgotten, and was even more surprised than ashamed.  But the great thing was that he saw in this no vulgar reminder of any "sweet" speech.  The vanity of women had long memories, but she was making no claim on him of a compliment or a mistake.  With another woman, a totally different one, he might have feared the recall possibly even some imbecile "offer."  So, in having to say that he had indeed forgotten, he was conscious rather of a loss than of a gain; he already saw an interest in the matter of her mention.  "I try to think-but I give it up.  Yet I remember the Sorrento day."

"I'm not very sure you do," May Bartram after a moment said; "and I'm not very sure I ought to want you to.  It's dreadful to bring a person back at any time to what he was ten years before.  If you've lived away from it," she smiled, "so much the better."

"Ah if you haven't why should I?" he asked.

"Lived away, you mean, from what I myself was?"

"From what I was.  I was of course an ass," Marcher went on; "but I would rather know from you just the sort of ass I was than-from the moment you have something in your mind-not know anything."

Still, however, she hesitated.  "But if you've completely ceased to be that sort-?"

"Why I can then all the more bear to know.  Besides, perhaps I haven't."

"Perhaps.  Yet if you haven't," she added, "I should suppose you'd remember.  Not indeed that I in the least connect with my impression the invidious name you use.  If I had only thought you foolish," she explained, "the thing I speak of wouldn't so have remained with me.  It was about yourself."  She waited as if it might come to him; but as, only meeting her eyes in wonder, he gave no sign, she burnt her ships.  "Has it ever happened?"

Then it was that, while he continued to stare, a light broke for him and the blood slowly came to his face, which began to burn with recognition.

"Do you mean I told you-?"  But he faltered, lest what came to him shouldn't be right, lest he should only give himself away.

"It was something about yourself that it was natural one shouldn't forget-that is if one remembered you at all.  That's why I ask you," she smiled, "if the thing you then spoke of has ever come to pass?"

Oh then he saw, but he was lost in wonder and found himself embarrassed.  This, he also saw, made her sorry for him, as if her allusion had been a mistake.  It took him but a moment, however, to feel it hadn't been, much as it had been a surprise.  After the first little shock of it her knowledge on the contrary began, even if rather strangely, to taste sweet to him.  She was the only other person in the world then who would have it, and she had had it all these years, while the fact of his having so breathed his secret had unaccountably faded from him.  No wonder they couldn't have met as if nothing had happened.  "I judge," he finally said, "that I know what you mean.  Only I had strangely enough lost any sense of having taken you so far into my confidence."

"Is it because you've taken so many others as well?"

"I've taken nobody.  Not a creature since then."

"So that I'm the only person who knows?"

"The only person in the world."

"Well," she quickly replied, "I myself have never spoken.  I've never, never repeated of you what you told me."  She looked at him so that he perfectly believed her.  Their eyes met over it in such a way that he was without a doubt.  "And I never will."