their eyelids, and at the end of a long silence he
dozed—a pale, transparent sleep, through
which the realities of life appeared almost as plainly
as before. Suddenly he awoke, and he shivered
in the chill room. The fire was sinking; dawn
divided the window-curtains. He looked at his
wife. She seemed to him very beautiful as she
slept, her face turned a little on one side, and again
he asked himself if he loved her. Then, going
to the window, he drew the curtains softly, so as not
to awaken her; and as he stood watching a thin discoloured
day breaking over the roofs, it again seemed to him
that Emily’s suicide was the better part.
‘Those who do not perform their task in life
are never happy.’ The words drilled themselves
into his brain with relentless insistency. He
felt a terrible emptiness within him which he could
not fill. He looked at his wife and quailed a
little at the thought that had suddenly come upon him.
She was something like himself—that was
why he had married her. We are attracted by what
is like ourselves. Emily’s passion might
have stirred him. Now he would have to settle
down to live with Julia, and their similar natures
would grow more and more like one another. Then,
turning on his thoughts, he dismissed them. They
were the morbid feverish fancies of an exceptional,
of a terrible night. He opened the window quietly
so as not to awaken his wife. And in the melancholy
greyness of the dawn he looked down into the street
and wondered what the end would be.
He did not think that he would live long. Disappointed
men—those who have failed in their ambition—do
not live to make old bones. There were men like
him in every profession—the arts are crowded
with them. He had met barristers and soldiers
and clergy-men, just like himself. One hears of
their deaths—failure of the heart’s
action, paralysis of the brain, a hundred other medical
causes—but the real cause is, lack of appreciation.
He would hang on for another few years, no doubt;
during that time he must try to make his wife happy.
His duty was now to be a good husband, at all events,
there was that.
His wife lay asleep in the arm-chair, and fearing
she might catch cold, he came into the room closing
the window very gently behind him.
Printed by T. and A. Constable, printers to Her Majesty
at the Edinburgh University Press.