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The Greater Inclination by Edith Wharton

Part 4 out of 4

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I shook my head.

She looked down on her clasped hands and up at the picture; not once at

"You--you're going to finish it?"

"Of course," I cried, throwing the revived purpose into my voice. By God,
I would finish it!

The merest tinge of relief stole over her face, faint as the first thin
chirp before daylight.

"Is it so very difficult?" she asked tentatively.

"Not insuperably, I hope."

She sat silent, her eyes on the picture. At length, with an effort, she
brought out: "Shall you want more sittings?"

For a second I blundered between two conflicting conjectures; then the
truth came to me with a leap, and I cried out, "No, no more sittings!"

She looked up at me then for the first time; looked too soon, poor child;
for in the spreading light of reassurance that made her eyes like a rainy
dawn, I saw, with terrible distinctness, the rout of her disbanded hopes.
I knew that she knew ...

I finished the picture and sent it home within a week. I tried to make it
--what you see.--Too late, you say? Yes--for her; but not for me or for
the public. If she could be made to feel, for a day longer, for an hour
even, that her miserable secret _was_ a secret--why, she'd made it seem
worth while to me to chuck my own ambitions for that ...

* * * * *

Lillo rose, and taking down the sketch stood looking at it in silence.

After a while I ventured, "And Miss Vard--?"

He opened the portfolio and put the sketch back, tying the strings with
deliberation. Then, turning to relight his cigar at the lamp, he said:
"She died last year, thank God."

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