"You are incorrigible!"

With a sudden businesslike air of determination Miss Maggie faced him.

"Just what is the matter with that doctrine, please, and what do you mean?" she smiled.

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"I mean that things DO matter, and that we merely shut our eyes to the real facts in the case when we say that they don't. War, death, sin, evil—the world is full of them, and they do matter."

"They do matter, indeed." Miss Maggie was speaking very gravely now. "They matter—woefully. I never say 'It doesn't matter' to war, or death, or sin, or evil. But there are other things—"

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"But the other things matter, too," interrupted the man irritably. "Right here and now it matters that you don't share in the money; it matters that you slave half your time for a father who doesn't anywhere near appreciate you; it matters that you slave the rest of the time for every Tom and Dick and Harry and Jane and Mehitable in Hillerton that has run a sliver under a thumb, either literally or metaphorically. It matters that—"

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But Miss Maggie was laughing merrily. "Oh, Mr. Smith, Mr. Smith, you don't know what you are saying!"

"I do, too. It's YOU who don't know what you are saying!"

"But, pray, what would you have me say?" she smiled.

"I'd have you say it DOES matter, and I'd have you insist on having your rights, every time."

"And what if I had?" she retaliated sharply. "My rights, indeed!"

The man fell back, so sudden and so astounding was the change that had come to the woman opposite him. She was leaning forward in her chair, her lips trembling, her eyes a smouldering flame.

"What if I had insisted on my rights, all the way up?" she quivered. "Would I have come home that first time from college? Would I have stepped into Mother Blaisdell's shoes and kept the house? Would I have swept and baked and washed and ironed, day in and day out, to make a home for father and for Jim and Frank and Flora? Would I have come back again and again, when my beloved books were calling, calling, always calling? Would I have seen other girls love and marry and go to homes of their own, while I—Oh, what am I saying, what am I saying?" she choked, covering her eyes with the back of her hand, and turning her face away. "Please, if you can, forget what I said. Indeed, I NEVER—broke out like that—before. I am so—ashamed!"

"Ashamed! Well, you needn't be." Mr. Smith, on his feet, was trying to work off his agitation by tramping up and down the small room.

"But I am ashamed," moaned Miss Maggie, her face still averted. "And I can't think why I should have been so—so wild. It was just something that you said—about my rights, I think. You see—all my life I've just HAD to learn to say 'It doesn't matter,' when there were so many things I wanted to do, and couldn't. And—don't you see?—I found out, after a while, that it didn't really matter, half so much—college and my own little wants and wishes as that I should do—what I had to do, willingly and pleasantly at home."

"But, good Heavens, how could you keep from tearing 'round and throwing things?"