‘Like you, Julia, I am overwhelmed; but we can do nothing.’
‘Do nothing!’ she cried; ’do nothing! We can do nothing but pray for her—we who sacrificed her.’ And she slipped on her knees and burst into a passionate fit of weeping.
‘The best thing that could have happened,’ thought Hubert; and his thought said, clearly and precisely, ’Yes; it is awful, shocking, cruel beyond measure!’
The fire was sinking, and he built it up quietly, ashamed of this proof of his regard for physical comfort, and hoping it would pass unnoticed. His pain expressed itself less vehemently than Julia’s; but for all that his mind ached. He remembered how he had taken everything from her—fortune, happiness, and now life itself. It was an appalling tragedy—one of those senseless cruelties which we find nature constantly inventing. A thought revealed an unexpected analogy between him and his victim. In both lives there had been a supreme desire, and both had failed. ’Hers was the better part,’ he said bitterly. ’Those whose souls are burdened with desire that may not be gratified had better fling the load aside. They are fools who carry it on to the end.... If it were not for Julia——’
Then he sought to determine what were his exact feelings. He knew he was infinitely sorry for poor Emily; but he could not stir himself into a paroxysm of grief, and, ashamed of his inability to express his feelings, he looked at Julia, who still wept.
‘No doubt,’ he thought, ‘women have keener feelings than we have.’
At that moment Julia got up from her knees. She had brushed away her tears. Her face was shaken with grief.
‘My heart is breaking,’ she said. ’This is too cruel—too cruel! And on my wedding night.’
Their eyes met; and, divining each other’s thought, each felt ashamed, and Julia said—
’Oh, what am I saying? This dreadful selfishness, from which we cannot escape, that is with us even in such a moment as this! That poor child gone to her death, and yet amid it all we must think of ourselves.’
’My dear Julia, we cannot escape from our human nature; but, for all that, our grief is sincere. We can do nothing. Do not grieve like that.’
’And why not? She was my best friend. How have I repaid her? Alas! as woman always repays woman for kindness done. The old story. I cannot forgive myself. No, no! do not kiss me! I cannot bear it. Leave me. I can see nothing but Emily’s reproachful face.’ She covered her face in her hands and sobbed again.
The same scenes repeated themselves over and over again. The same fits of passionate grief; the same moment of calm, when words impregnated with self dropped from their lips. The same nervous sense that something of the dead girl stood between them. And still they sat by the fire, weary with sorrow, recrimination, long regret, and pain. They could grieve no more; and before dawn sleep pressed upon