“It wasn’t your fault that I lifted my eyes to you, and hoped that you would lower yours to me. But now I know what a fool I have been. I forgive you for laughing at me, though at the time it made me mad like a dog, and I only wanted to hurt the woman I love. I won’t trouble you any more, ever. Indeed I am too ashamed and humbled ever to wish to see you again. Only please don’t hate me. If I had any good sides, please remember them. Some time you will hear of me again; but never again from me. I have work to do, but I have given my time to dreaming.
“When your father comes back will you ask him to let me know if he will see me? You thought he could do something for me—or hold out some hope. I would risk my life itself to be whole, even if I could never be very active. And science is so wonderful; and I know your father would like to help me if he could.
“If you don’t think I am being punished for threatening you, and going crazy, you don’t know anything about the unhappiest beast in this world. But it is terrible for a cripple when the one person he looks up to laughs at him. I have a thick skin; but that burnt through it like acid.”
The messenger who carried the letter to Barbara brought him her answer:
“I will give your message to my father. You are quite wrong about the laughing. I didn’t laugh at you or anything about you. I laughed because I was nervous and frightened. But it can’t matter much one way or the other. I am sorry that you have been hurt twice by my family. But the second hurt is not our fault. And I do not see that there is anything to be done about it. As for the first, my father would end his days in peace if he could make you whole. I shall hope to hear nothing but good of you in the future.”
The shame and remorse to which Blizzard pretended, Barbara actually felt. All her friendships with men had been pursued by disasters of some sort or other. But her most disastrous experiment in friendship had been with Blizzard. She had been bluntly told by truth-speaking persons that he was not a fit acquaintance for her. His own face had warned her. But she had persisted in meeting him without precautions, in treating him like an equal, in overcoming her natural and just repugnance to him, and in calling him her friend. It was humiliating for her to realize and acknowledge that she had made a fool of herself. It was worse to remember the look in his face, during those last awful moments in the studio. Even if the bust she had made of him was a great work of art, she had paid too high for the privilege of making it.
Dr. Ferris was delighted to learn that Barbara had left town. Her meetings with Blizzard had been horribly on his mind and conscience. He had dreaded some vague calamity—some intangible darkening of his darling’s soul.
A few days in the country had worked wonders for her. Her skin had browned a little, and her cheeks were crimson. But dearer to the paternal heart than these evidences of good health was the fact that she seemed unusually glad to see him. She seemed to him to have lost a world of independence and self-reliance, to be inclined to accept his judgments without dispute. She seemed more womanly and more daughterly, more normal and more beautiful.