Oh, better ones than myself: the great writers mainlythe great philosophers and poets of the past; those who are dead and gone and cant speak for themselves.
And what do you say about them?
I say they sometimes attached themselves to very clever women! I answered, laughing. I spoke with great deliberation, but as my words fell upon the air they struck me as imprudent. However, I risked them and I was not sorry, for perhaps after all the old woman would be willing to treat. It seemed to be tolerably obvious that she knew my secret: why therefore drag the matter out? But she did not take what I had said as a confession; she only asked:
Do you think its right to rake up the past?
I dont know that I know what you mean by raking it up; but how can we get at it unless we dig a little? The present has such a rough way of treading it down.
Oh, I like the past, but I dont like critics, the old woman declared with her fine tranquility.
Neither do I, but I like their discoveries.
Arent they mostly lies?
The lies are what they sometimes discover, I said, smiling at the quiet impertinence of this. They often lay bare the truth.
The truth is Gods, it isnt mans; we had better leave it alone. Who can judge of itwho can say?
We are terribly in the dark, I know, I admitted; but if we give up trying what becomes of all the fine things? What becomes of the work I just mentioned, that of the great philosophers and poets? It is all vain words if there is nothing to measure it by.
You talk as if you were a tailor, said Miss Bordereau whimsically; and then she added quickly, in a different manner, This house is very fine; the proportions are magnificent. Today I wanted to look at this place again. I made them bring me out here. When your man came, just now, to learn if I would see you, I was on the point of sending for you, to ask if you didnt mean to go on. I wanted to judge what Im letting you have. This sala is very grand, she pursued, like an auctioneer, moving a little, as I guessed, her invisible eyes. I dont believe you often have lived in such a house, eh?
I cant often afford to! I said.
Well then, how much will you give for six months?
I was on the point of exclaimingand the air of excruciation in my face would have denoted a moral faceDont, Juliana; for his sake, dont! But I controlled myself and asked less passionately: Why should I remain so long as that?
I thought you liked it, said Miss Bordereau with her shriveled dignity.
So I thought I should.
For a moment she said nothing more, and I left my own words to suggest to her what they might. I half- expected her to say, coldly enough, that if I had been disappointed we need not continue the discussion, and this in spite of the fact that I believed her now to have in her mind (however it had come there) what would have told her that my disappointment was natural. But to my extreme surprise she ended by observing: If you dont think we have treated you well enough perhaps we can discover some way of treating you better. This speech was somehow so incongruous that it made me laugh again, and I excused
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