Why, indeed? If he were to send this letter she would show it to Mr. Poole, and they would laugh over it together. ‘Poor priesty!’ they would say, and the paper was crumpled and thrown into the fire. ’My life is unendurable, and it will grow worse,’ he said, and fell to thinking how he would grow old, getting every day more like an old stereotyped plate, the Mass and the rosary at the end of his tongue, and nothing in his heart. He had seen many priests like this. Could he fall into such miserable decadence? Could such obedience to rule be any man’s duty? But where should he go? It mattered little whither he went, for he would never see her any more, and she was, after all, the only real thing in the world for him.
So did he continue to suffer like an animal, mutely, instinctively, mourning his life away, forgetful of everything but his grief; unmindful of his food, and unable to sleep when he lay down, or to distinguish between familiar things—the birds about his house, the boys and girls he had baptized. Very often he had to think a moment before he knew which was Mary and which was Bridget, which was Patsy and which was Mike, and very often Catherine was in the parlour many minutes before he noticed her presence. She stood watching him, wondering of what he was thinking, for he sat in his chair, getting weaker and thinner; and soon he began to look haggard as an old man or one about to die. He seemed to grow feebler in mind; his attention wandered away every few minutes from the book he was reading. Catherine noticed the change, and, thinking that a little chat would be of help, she often came up from her kitchen to tell him the gossip of the parish; but he could not listen to her, her garrulousness seemed to him more than ever tiresome, and he kept a book by him, an old copy of ‘Ivanhoe,’ which he pretended he was reading when he heard her step.
Father Moran came to discuss the business of the parish with him and insisted on relieving Father Oliver of a great deal of it, saying that he wanted a rest, and he often urged Father Oliver to go away for a holiday. He was kind, but his talk was wearisome, and Father Oliver thought he would prefer to read about the fabulous Rowena than to hear any more about the Archbishop. But when Father Moran left Rowena bored him, and so completely that he could not remember at what point he had left off reading, and his thoughts wandered from the tournament to some phrase he had made use of in writing to Nora, or, it might be, some phrase of hers that would suddenly spring into his mind. He sought no longer to discover her character from her letters, nor did he criticize the many contradictions which had perplexed him: it seemed to him that he accepted her now, as the phrase goes, ‘as she was,’ thinking of her as he might of some supernatural being whom he had offended, and who had revenged herself. Her wickedness became in his eyes an added grace, and from the rack on which he