He would be talking now if I had not stamped my foot and stopped his rambling. His insinuations sounded as if I were a feeble-minded creature and couldn’t tell truth from untruth, or know when a man meant or didn’t mean what he said, and had never heard things of the same sort before. I’ve heard them before, and in several different places. I am a good many things I ought not to be, but I am not feeble-minded. I told him— It does not matter what I told him, but I made him understand I could take care of myself without the help of the town, and, while I appreciated his effort to keep me from thinking the men in Twickenham did not mean what they said, and were not to be relied on, and not to be trusted, and that honor was not held very high by them where young girls were concerned, it was difficult to believe it, for I had been made to understand by others that certain old-fashioned things were still held sacred there, and the dangers and temptations of the city were absent. When I saw how red his fat, round face got and how squirmy his legs and how hard he fanned I knew I had better go in. I went, but I didn’t say good night.
Mad! Was I mad? I was. For a long time I sat by the window and talked to Billy in my mind and told him what I thought of men old-maids and prissy places and gossipy spinsters and flirtatious widows, and of people who didn’t have anything to talk of but one another; and then, as the moon came out clearer, I seemed to see myself clearer also, and after a while it came over me that maybe I had been a little nicer to Whythe than was necessary just to see if a man couldn’t get comforted sooner than he thought. I had been doing a little scientific experimenting along a different way from Jess’s way; and then my eyes got open wide and I saw what Mr. Willie had been trying to tell me, which was that Whythe was probably taking practical consolation and was not ignorant of the fact that my Father was not a poor man.
At the thought something got into my backbone and I sat up. I had been fooling myself and didn’t know it. I don’t mean I had believed all the thrilly love things Whythe had been saying. They came natural to him and he might have said them to some other girl if not to me, but I had not dreamed he had any thought of an advantageous alliance, as Billy calls the thing his mother is hoping his sister will make, or that any one could associate such a thought with me. It didn’t seem possible, and I don’t believe Whythe is that sort. Still, men are queer ducks, Jess says, and one never can tell what is in the back of their brain from the words of their mouth, and if Whythe was imagining I had any value outside of my own self I would like to find it out. How I was going to find out I did not know, and when I said my prayers I started to pray that a rattling good way would turn up, but I remembered it wasn’t exactly a thing to pray about and that watching might be better.