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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

I blame no one or only myself


"Oh,

it's that? I might have known it!"

"No, it isn't that--it's something far deeper. But if it's nothing you have against me, what is it, Alma, that keeps you from caring for me now as you did then? I haven't changed."

"But I have. I shall never care for you again, Mr. Beaton; you might as well understand it once for all. Don't think it's anything in yourself, or that I think you unworthy of me. I'm not so self-satisfied as that; I know very well that I'm not a perfect character, and that I've no claim on perfection in anybody else. I think women who want that are fools; they won't get it, and they don't deserve it. But I've learned a good. deal more about myself than I knew in St. Barnaby, and a life of work, of art, and of art alone that's what I've made up my mind to."

"A woman that's made up her mind to that has no heart to hinder her!"

"Would a man have that had done so?"

"But I don't believe you, Alma. You're merely laughing at me. And, besides, with me you needn't give up art. We could work together. You know how much I admire your talent. I believe I could help it--serve it; I would be its willing slave, and yours, Heaven knows!"

"I don't want any slave--nor any slavery. I want to be free always. Now do you see? I don't care for you, and I never could in the old way;

but I should have to care for some one more than I believe I ever shall to give up my work. Shall we go on?" She looked at her sketch.

"No, we shall not go on," he said, gloomily, as he rose.

"I suppose you blame me," she said, rising too.

"Oh no! I blame no one--or only myself. I threw my chance away."

"I'm glad you see that; and I'm glad you did it. You don't believe me, of course. Why do men think life can be only the one thing to women? And if you come to the selfish view, who are the happy women? I'm sure that if work doesn't fail me, health won't, and happiness won't."

"But you could work on with me--"

"Second fiddle. Do you suppose I shouldn't be woman enough to wish my work always less and lower than yours? At least I've heart enough for that!"

"You've heart enough for anything, Alma. I was a fool to say you hadn't."

"I think the women who keep their hearts have an even chance, at least, of having heart--"

"Ah, there's where you're wrong!"

"But mine isn't mine to give you, anyhow. And now I don't want you ever to speak to me about this again."

"Oh, there's no danger!" he cried, bitterly. "I shall never willingly see you again."

"That's as you like, Mr. Beaton. We've had to be very frank, but I don't see why we shouldn't be friends. Still, we needn't, if you don't like."


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