“Lizzie was on hand at the hour appointed. We sat down here all by ourselves.
“‘Lizzie,’ I says, ’why in the world did you go to Europe for a husband? It’s a slight to Pointview—a discouragement of home industry.’
“‘There was nobody here that seemed to want me,’ she says, blushin’ very sweet.
“She had dropped her princess manner an’ seemed to be ready for straight talk.
“‘If that’s so, Lizzie, it’s your fault,’ I says.
“‘I don’t understand you,’ says she.
“‘Why, my dear child, it’s this way,’ I says. ‘Your mother an’ father have meant well, but they’ve been foolish. They’ve educated you for a millionairess, an’ all that’s lackin’ is the millions. You overawed the boys here in Pointview. They thought that you felt above ’em, whether you did or not; an’ the boys on Fifth Avenue were glad to play with you, but they didn’t care to marry you. I say it kindly, Lizzie, an’ I’m a friend o’ yer father’s, an’ you can afford to let me say what I mean. Those young fellows wanted the millions as well as the millionairess. One of our boys fell in love with ye an’ tried to keep up, but your pace was too hot for him. His father got in trouble, an’ the boy had to drop out. Every well-born girl in the village entered the race with ye. An era of extravagance set in that threatened the solvency, the honor, o’ this sober old community. Their fathers had to borrow money to keep agoin’. They worked overtime, they importuned their creditors, they wallowed in low finance while their daughters revelled in the higher walks o’ life an’ sang in different languages. Even your father—I tell you in confidence, for I suppose he wouldn’t have the courage to do it—is in financial difficulties. Now, Lizzie, I want to be kind to you, for I believe you’re a good girl at heart, but you ought to know that all this is what your accomplishments have accomplished.’
“She rose an’ walked across the room, with trembling lips. She had seized her parachute an’ jumped from her balloon and was slowly approachin’ the earth. I kept her comin’, ‘These clothes an’ jewels that you wear, Lizzie—these silks an’ laces, these sunbursts an’ solitaires—don’t seem to harmonize with your father’s desire to borrow money. Pardon me, but I can’t make ’em look honest. They are not paid for—or if they are they are paid for with other men’s money. They seem to accuse you. They’d accuse me if I didn’t speak out plain to ye.’
“All of a sudden Lizzie dropped into a chair an’ began to cry. She had lit safely on the ground.
[Illustration: Lizzie dropped into a chair an’ began to cry.]
“It made me feel like a murderer, but it had to be. Poor girl! I wanted to pick her up like a baby an’ kiss her. It wasn’t that I loved Lizzie less but Rome more. She wasn’t to blame. Every spoilt woman stands for a fool-man. Most o’ them need—not a master—but a frank counsellor. I locked the door. She grew calm an’ leaned on my table, her face covered with her hands. My clock shouted the seconds in the silence. Not a word was said for two or three minutes.