May I speak quite frankly without any fear of hurting your feelings? In that case I will try to advise you; but I can only do so by making your present situation quite clear to you. Only when you have faced matters can you hope to decide upon some course of action which you will not afterwards regret. Your letter is the queerest mixture of self-deception and a desire to be quite frank. You try to throw dust in my eyes, while at the same time you are betraying all that you are most anxious to conceal. Judging from your letter, the maternal feeling is deeply ingrained in your nature. You are prepared to fight for your children and sacrifice yourself for them if necessary. You would put yourself aside in order to secure for them a healthy and comfortable existence.
The real truth is that your conscience is pricking you with a remorse that has been instigated by others. Maternal sentiment is not your strong point; far from it. In your husband’s lifetime you did not try to make two and two amount to five; and you often showed very plainly that your children were rather an encumbrance than otherwise. When at last your affection for them grew, it was not because they were your own flesh and blood, but because you were thrown into daily contact with these little creatures whom you had to care for.
Now you have lost your head because the outlook is rather bad. Your family, or rather your late husband’s people, have attempted to coerce you in a way that I consider entirely unjustifiable. And you have allowed yourself to be bullied, and therefore, all unconsciously, have given them some hold over your life and actions.
You must not forget that your husband’s family, without being asked, have been allowing you a yearly income which permitted you to live in the same style as before Professor Wellmann’s death. They placed no restrictions upon you, and made no conditions. Now, the family—annoyed by what reaches their ears—want to insist that you should conform to their wishes; otherwise they will withdraw the money, or take from you the custody of the children. This is a very arbitrary proceeding.
Reflect well what they are asking of you before you let yourself be bound hand and foot.
Are you really capable, Magna, of being an absolutely irreproachable widow?
Perhaps there ought to be a law by which penniless widows with children to bring up should be incarcerated in some kind of nunnery, or burnt alive at the obsequies of their husbands. But failing such a law, I do not think a grown-up woman is obliged to promise that she will henceforth take a vow of chastity. One must not give a promise only to break it, and, my dear Magna, I do not think you are the woman to keep a vow of that kind.
For this reason you ought never to have made yourself dependent upon strangers by accepting their money for the education of your children. At the same time I quite see how hard it would be to find yourself empty-handed with a pack of children all in need of something. If you had not courage to try to live on the small pension allowed by the State, you would have done better to find some means of earning a livelihood with the help of your own people.