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Chapter 16 (continued)
It was not immediately that he had arrived at even this sketchy outline of his feelings. For perhaps a mile he walked as the scorpion-stung natives run--blindly, wildly, with nothing in his mind but a desire to walk faster and faster, to walk as no man had ever walked before. And then--one does not wish to be unduly realistic, but the fact is too important to be ignored--he began to perspire. And hard upon that unrefined but wonder-working flow came a certain healing of spirit. Dimly at first but every moment more clearly, he found it possible to think.
In a man of Bill's temperament there are so many qualities wounded by a blow such as he had received, that it is hardly surprising that his emotions, when he began to examine them, were mixed. Now one, now another, of his wounds presented itself to his notice. And then individual wounds would become difficult to distinguish in the mass of injuries. Spiritually, he was in the position of a man who has been hit simultaneously in a number of sensitive spots by a variety of hard and hurtful things. He was as little able, during the early stages of his meditations, to say where he was hurt most as a man who had been stabbed in the back, bitten in the ankle, hit in the eye, smitten with a blackjack, and kicked on the shin in the same moment of time. All that such a man would be able to say with certainty would be that unpleasant things had happened to him; and that was all that Bill was able to say.
Little by little, walking swiftly the while, he began to make a rough inventory. He sorted out his injuries, catalogued them. It was perhaps his self-esteem that had suffered least of all, for he was by nature modest. He had a savage humility, valuable in a crisis of this sort.
But he looked up to Claire. He had thought her straight. And all the time that she had been saying those things to him that night of their last meeting she had been engaged to another man, a fat, bald, doddering, senile fool, whose only merit was his money. Scarcely a fair description of Mr Pickering, but in a man in Bill's position a little bias is excusable.
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