Let us consider the thing calmly. Let us try to say good-by without too great a clamor. What is the use, after all, of being so vocal? We have each given the other many hours of pleasure, and shall we not be grateful rather than tragic? Here we are, got at last to the point where we face the inevitable, and we may as well do it decently. See, here is a woman who does not love you: would you have her marry you when she had rather not? And you mustn't be angry with me because I don't love you, for how can I help it? So far am I from the least approach to it that it makes me tired just to think of a thing so strenuous, of the bother of it, of the perpetual screwed-up condition of mind and body to a pitch above the normal. The normal is what I want. My heart is set upon it. I don't want ecstasies. I don't want excitement. I don't want alternations of bliss and terror. I want to be that peaceful individual a maiden lady,--a maiden lady looking after her aged father, tending her flowers, fondling her bees--no, I don't think she could fondle bees,--fondling a cat, then, which I haven't yet got. Oh, I know I have moods of a more tempestuous nature, such as the one I was foolish enough to write to you about the other day, stirring you up to a still more violent tempestuousness yourself, but they roll away again when they have growled themselves out, and the mood that succeeds them is like clear shining after rain. I intend this clear shining as I grow older to be more and more my surrounding atmosphere. I make the bravest resolutions; will you not make some too? Dear late friend and sometime lover, do not want me to give you what I have not got. We are both suffering just now; but what about Time, that kindest soother, softener, healer, that final tidier up of ragged edges, and sweeper away of the broken fragments of the past?
I tell you you have taken away what I held precious for the second time, and there shall be no third. You showed me once that you could not be a faithful lover, you have shown me now you cannot be a faithful friend. I am not an easy woman, who can be made much of and dropped in an unending see-saw. Even if I loved you we would be most wretched married, you with the feeling that I did not fit into your set, I with the knowledge that you felt so, besides the deadly fear of you, of your changes and fits of hot and cold. But I do not love you. This is what you seem unable to realize. Yet it is true, and it settles everything for ever.
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.
It would be useless.
I would not see you.
I do not love you.
I will never marry you.
I shall not write again.