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Chapter 76

Jan. 25th.

Must there be so much explaining? It was because I thought I was making amends that way for having, though unconsciously, led you to fancy you cared for me last year. I wanted to be of some use to you, and I saw how much you liked to get them. By gradual degrees, as we both grew wiser, I meant my letters to be a help to you who have no sister, no mother, and a father you don't speak to. I was going to be the person to whom you could tell everything, on whose devotion and sincerity you could always count. It was to have been a thing so honest, so frank, so clear, so affectionate. And I've not even had time really to begin, for at first there was my own struggling to get out of the deep waters where I was drowning, and afterward it seemed to be nothing but a staving off, a writing about other things, a determined telling of little anecdotes, of talk about our neighbors, about people you don't know, about anything rather than your soul and my soul. Each time I talked of those, in moments of greater stress when the longing for a real friend to whom I could write openly was stronger than I could resist, there came a letter back that made my heart stand still. I had lost my lover, and it seemed as if I must lose my friend. At first I believed that you would settle down. I thought it could only be a question of patience. But you could not wait, you could not believe you were not going to be given what you wanted in exactly the way you wanted it, and you have killed the poor goose after all, the goose I have watched so anxiously, who was going to lay us such beautiful golden eggs. I am very sorry for you. I know the horrors of loving somebody who doesn't love you. And it is terrible for us both that you should not understand me to the point, as you say, of not being able to believe me. I have not always understood myself, but here everything seems so plain. Love is not a thing you can pick up and throw into the gutter and pick up again as the fancy takes you. I am a person, very unfortunately for you, with a quite peculiar dread of thrusting myself or my affections on any one, of in any way outstaying my welcome. The man I would love would be the man I could trust to love me for ever. I do not trust you. I did outstay my welcome once. I did get thrown into the gutter, and came near drowning in that sordid place. Oh, call me hard, wickedly revengeful, unbelievably cruel if it makes you feel less miserable—but will you listen to a last prophecy? You will get over this as surely as you have got over your other similar vexations, and you will live to say, 'Thank God that German girl—what was her name? wasn't it Schmidt? good heavens, yes—thank God she was so foolish as not to take advantage of an unaccountable but strictly temporary madness.'

And if I am bitter, forgive me.




Elizabeth von Arnim