My brain is a black chaos of whirling agonies, now together, now parting; so that each may make their separate sting felt, and, in turn, each will have to be faced. Preeminent among the dark host, towering above even the thought of Barbara, is the sense of my own degradation. There must have been something in my conduct to justify his taking me so confidently for the bad, light woman he did. One does not get such a character for nothing. I have always heard that, when such things happen to people, they have invariably brought them on themselves. In incoherent misery, I run over in my head, as well as the confusion of it will let me, our past meetings and dialogues. In almost all, to my distorted view, there now seems to have been an unseemly levity. Things I have said to him; easy, familiar jokes that I have had with him; not that he ever had much sense of a jest—(even at this moment I think this incidentally)—course through my mind.
Our many tete-a-tetes to which, at the time, I attached less than no importance: through many of which I unfeignedly, irresistibly gaped; our meetings in the park—accidental, as I thought—our dawdling saunters through the meadows, as often as not at twilight; all, all recur to me, and, recurring, make my face burn with a hot and stabbing shame.
And Roger! This is the way in which I have kept things straight for him! This is the way in which I have rewarded his boundless trust! he, whose only fear was lest I should be dull! lest I should not amuse myself! Well, I have amused myself to some purpose now. I have made myself common talk for the neighborhood! He said so. I have brought discredit on Roger’s honored name! Not even the consciousness of the utter cleanness of my heart is of the least avail to console me. What matter how clean the heart is, if the conduct be light? None but God can see the former; the latter lies open to every carelessly spiteful, surface-judging eye. And Barbara! Goaded by the thought of her, I rise up quickly, and walk hastily along the road, till I reach a gate into the park. Arrived there, and now free from all fear of interruption from passers-by, I again sit down on an old dry log that lies beneath a great oak, and again cover my face with my hands.
What care I for the growing dark? the darker the better! Ah! if it were dark enough to hide me from myself! How shall I break it to her—I, who, confident in my superior discernment, have always scouted her misgivings and turned into derision her doubts? If I thought that she would rave and storm, and that her grief would vent itself in anger, it would not be of half so much consequence. But I know her better. The evening has closed in colder. The birds have all ceased their singing, and I still sit on, in the absolute silence, unconscious—unaware of any thing round me; living only in my thoughts, and with a resolution growing ever stronger and stronger within me. I will not tell her! I will never tell any one. I, that have hitherto bungled and blundered over the whitest fib, will wade knee-deep in falsehoods, before I will ever let any one guess the disgrace that has happened to me. Oh that, by long silence, I could wipe it out of my own heart—out of the book of unerasable past deeds!