Did it ever occur to you

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Do you mean to Mortimore? Poor wretch! That's what Mother harps on from morning to night. What duty have I to Mortimore? I'm not responsible for him. I didn't bring him here. Mother has a duty to him, I grant you. She owes him—good Lord! how much she owes him! Apologies, to begin with. What right had she and 'old Andy Payton' to bring him into the world?[Pg 30] I should think they would have been ashamed of themselves. Father was old and dissipated; and there was an uncle of his, you know, like Mortimore. His 'intellect was there,' too, but it was very decidedly 'veiled' polar! I suppose Mother worked the 'veiled intellect' off on you?

They had reached the Payton house by this time, and Frederica, her hand on the gate, paused in the rainy dusk and looked into Arthur Weston's face, with angry, unabashed eyes. Don't talk to me about a duty to Mortimore!

I meant a duty to your mother. Think of what you owe your mother.

What do I owe her? Life! Did I ask for life? Was I consulted? Before I am grateful for life, you've got to prove that I've liked living. So far, I haven't. Who would, with Mortimore in the house? When I was a child I couldn't have girls come and see me for fear he would come shuffling about. He saw her shoulders twitch with the horror of that shuffling. It makes me tired, this rot about a child's gratitude and duty to a parent! It's the other way round, as I look at it; the parent owes the child a lot more than the child owes the parent. Did 'old Andy' and Mama bring me into this world for my pleasure? You know they didn't. 'Duty to parents'—that talk won't go down, she said, harshly, and snapped the gate shut between them reenex facial.

He looked at her helplessly. She was wrong, but much of what she had said was right,—or, rather, accurate. But when, in all the history of parenthood, had there been a time when children accused their fathers and mothers[Pg 31] of selfishness, and cited their own existence as a proof of that selfishness! Your mother will be very lonely, he said.

She shook her head. Mother doesn't need me in the least. A puzzle of a thousand pieces is a darned sight more interesting than I am.

You are a puzzle in one piece, he said.

I'm not as much use to Mother as Father's old silk hat down in the hall; I never scared a burglar yet. I tell you what, Mother and I have about as much in common as—as Zip and that awful iron dog! Mother thinks she is terribly noble because she devotes herself to Mortimore. Mr. Weston, she enjoys devoting herself! She says she's doing her duty. I suppose she is, though I would call it instinct, not duty. Anyhow, there's nothing noble about it. It's just nature. Mother is like a cat or a cow; they adore their offspring. And they have a perfect right to lick 'em all over, or anything else that expresses cat-love. But you don't say they are 'noble' when they lick 'em! And cows don't insist that other cows shall lick calves that are not theirs. Mortimore isn't mine. Yes; that's where Mother isn't as sensible as a cow. She can give herself up all she wants to, but she sha'n't give me up. I won't lick Mortimore! She was quivering, and her eyes were tragic. Why, Flora has more in common with me than Mother, for Flora is at least dissatisfied—poor old Flora! Whereas Mother is as satisfied as a vegetable. That's why she's an anti. No; she isn't even a vegetable; vegetables grow! Mother's mind stopped growing when her first baby was born. Mother[Pg 32] and I don't speak the same language. I don't suppose she means to be cruel, she ended, but she is.

Did it ever occur to you that you are cruel Wedding planner?

She winced at that; he saw her bite her lip, and for a moment she did not speak. Then she burst out: That's the worst of it. I am cruel. I say things—and then, afterward, I could kick myself. Yet they are true. What can I do? I tell the truth, and then I feel as if I had—had kicked Zip in the stomach!

Stop kicking Zip anywhere, he admonished her; it's bad taste.

But if I don't speak out, I'll bust!

Well, bust, he said, dryly; that's better than kicking Zip.

Her face broke into a grin, and she leaned over the gate to give his arm a squeeze. I don't know how I'd get along without you, she told him. Darn that pup! she said, and dashed after Zip's trailing leash.






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