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The Maid.

They think me soured. Possibly I am. For a woman young as I cynicism is certainly an unattractive trait. None know it better than I, and the knowledge is bitter, even though at times I set to the world a smiling face. I have tried to regain my faith in my fellows and failed. I understand now that it is only the exceptional man who lives and works for others. The average one works selfishly for the self that from birth to death rules him. Women are taught to look on men as superior to all the paltry weaknesses that assail their own sex, and yet men pay to, and gain the love of a woman merely to satisfy the petty vanity of their nature. This much I have proved beyond uncertainty. There are times when doubt will come whispering to me—then, coolly and calmly, I go over that night we last met. I cannot bear sight of that muslin dress that became me so well, and I wore it that night to look my best, because he was coming. Even as he entered the room I knew the labour of dressing accomplished nothing. It was not in him to feel interested in the attire of the woman he professed to love. Directly he stepped on the verandah I saw the dark, sullen look on his face, as though duty, not pleasure, brought him to me. …. The ease with which he acquiesced in my remarks concerning the breaking-off of our engagement makes my blood boil, even after this length of time. Possibly he came to me with that intention. Perhaps—but why should I here in loneliness give a thought to the man who in going to the bad has but returned to the ways that his heart loves best. …… Years have gone since then, years darkened by


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sorrow. First, my father—one of the few men who lived uprightly for the sake of good alone—was taken from me. Then my mother—'tis because of her going that the blinds are close drawn, and the heaps of black-edged envelopes—bearing inscriptions more varied than their size, shape, and depth of conventional mourning edge—lie on the table near me, ready to be opened. I am left well off, as the world has it, yet gratitude has no place in my life. …. I am too weary even to weep those tears I kept back years ago, that their ravages should not distress those near and dear to me. I have become that most hateful thing in my own sight—a spiritless, selfish, listless, and discontented woman, knowing full well I have my life in my own hands to mould it as I will. I cannot delude myself into belief that my freedom is other than distasteful to me, or that I shall give to the world the best in me. So to the dreary end I go on.

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