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Jena, Dec. 4th.
Your letter has come. You must do what you know is best. I agree to everything. You must do what your father has set his heart on, since quite clearly your heart is set on the same thing. All the careful words in the world cannot hide that from me. And they shall not. Do you think I dare not look death in the face? I am just a girl you kissed once behind a door, giving way before a passing gust of temptation. You cannot, shall not marry me as the price of that slight episode. You say you will if I insist. Insist? My dear Roger, with both hands I give you back any part of your freedom I may have had in my keeping. Reason, expediency, all the prudences are on your side. You depend entirely on your father; you cannot marry against his wishes; he has told you to marry Miss Cheriton; she is the daughter of his oldest friend; she is extremely rich; every good gift is hers; and I cannot compete. Compete? Do you suppose I would put out a finger to compete? I give it up. I bow myself out.
But let us be honest. Apart from anything to do with your father's commands, you have fallen into her toils as completely as you did into mine. My step-mother was right about your softness. Any woman who chose and had enough opportunity could make you think you loved her, make you kiss her. Luckily this one is absolutely suitable. You say, in the course of the longest letter you have written me—it must have been a tiresome letter to have to write—that father or no father you will not be hurried, you will not marry for a long time, that the wound is too fresh, &c., &c. What is this talk of wounds? Nobody knows about me. I shall not be in your way. You need observe no period of mourning for a corpse people don't know is there. True, Miss Cheriton herself knows. Well, she will not tell; and if she does not mind, why should you? I am so sorry I have written you so many letters full of so many follies. Will you burn them? I would rather not have them back. But I enclose yours, as you may prefer to burn them yourself. I am so very sorry about everything. At least it has been short, and not dragged on growing thinner and thinner till it died of starvation. Once I wrote and begged you to tell me if you thought you had made a mistake about me, because I felt I could bear to know better then than later. And you wrote back and swore all sorts of things by heaven and earth, all sorts of convictions and unshakable things. Well, now you have another set of convictions, that's all. I am not going to beat the big drum of sentiment and make a wailful noise. Nothing is so dead as a dead infatuation. The more a person was infatuated the more he resents an attempt to galvanize the dull dead thing into life. I am wise, you see, to the end. And reasonable too, I hope. And brave. And brave, I tell you. Do you think I will be a coward, and cry out? I make you a present of everything; of the love and happy thoughts, of the pleasant dreams and plans, of the little prayers sent up, and the blessings called down—there were a great many every day—of the kisses, and all the dear sweetness. Take it all. I want nothing from you in return. Remember it as a pleasant interlude, or fling it into a corner of your mind where used-up things grow dim with cobwebs. But do you suppose that having given you all this I am going to give you my soul as well? To moan my life away, my beautiful life? You are not worth it. You are not worth anything, hardly. You are quite invertebrate. My life shall be splendid in spite of you. You shall not cheat me of one single chance of heaven. Now good-by. Please burn this last one, too. I suppose no one who heard it would quite believe this story, would quite believe it possible for a man to go such lengths of—shall we call it unkindness? to a girl in a single month; but you and I know it is true.
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