“Well, Alma,” said her mother, when the door had closed upon him.
“Well, mother.” Then, after a moment, she said, with a rush: “Did you think I was going to let him suppose we were piqued at his not coming? Did you suppose I was going to let him patronize us, or think that we were in the least dependent on his favor or friendship?”
Her mother did not attempt to answer her. She merely said, “I shouldn’t think he would come any more.”
“Well, we have got on so far without him; perhaps we can live through the rest of the winter.”
“I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. He was quite stupefied. I could see that he didn’t know what to make of you.”
“He’s not required to make anything of me,” said Alma.
“Do you think he really believed you had forgotten all those things?”
“Impossible to say, mamma.”
“Well, I don’t think it was quite right, Alma.”
“I’ll leave him to you the next time. Miss Woodburn said you were freezing him to death when I came down.”
“That was quite different. But, there won’t be any next time, I’m afraid,” sighed Mrs. Leighton.
Beaton went home feeling sure there would not. He tried to read when he got to his room; but Alma’s looks, tones, gestures, whirred through and through the woof of the story like shuttles; he could not keep them out, and he fell asleep at last, not because he forgot them, but because he forgave them. He was able to say to himself that he had been justly cut off from kindness which he knew how to value in losing it. He did not expect ever to right himself in Alma’s esteem, but he hoped some day to let her know that he had understood. It seemed to him that it would be a good thing if she should find it out after his death. He imagined her being touched by it under those circumstances.
In the morning it seemed to Beaton that he had done himself injustice. When he uncovered his Judas and looked at it, he could not believe that the man who was capable of such work deserved the punishment Miss Leighton had inflicted upon him. He still forgave her, but in the presence of a thing like that he could not help respecting himself; he believed that if she could see it she would be sorry that she had cut herself off from his acquaintance. He carried this strain of conviction all through his syndicate letter, which he now took out of his desk and finished, with an increasing security of his opinions and a mounting severity in his judgments. He retaliated upon the general condition of art among us the pangs of wounded vanity, which Alma had made him feel, and he folded up his manuscript and put it in his pocket, almost healed of his humiliation. He had been able to escape from its sting so entirely while he was writing that the notion of making his life more and more literary commended itself to him. As it was now evident that the future was to be one