He speaks with a deprecating humility, an almost imploring gentleness, but I am so thoroughly upset by the astounding change that has come over the tone of his talk—by the clouds that have suddenly darkened the morning sunshine of my horizon—that I cannot answer him in the same tone.
“Perhaps we shall not have to spend all our lives together!” I say, with a harsh laugh. “Cheer up! One of us may die! who knows?”
After that we neither of us say any thing till we reach the house.
“Yea, by God’s rood, I trusted you too well!”
In the hall we part without a word, and I, spiritlessly, mount the staircase alone. How I flew down it this morning, three steps at a time, and had some ado to hinder myself from sliding down the banisters, as we have all often, with dangerous joy, done at home! Now I crawl up, like some sickly old person. When I reach my bedroom, I throw myself into the first chair, and lie in it—
“... quiet as any water-sodden log
Stayed in the wandering warble of a brook.”
I do not attempt to take off my hat and jacket. Of what use is it to take them off more than to leave them on, or to leave them on more than to take them off? Of what use is any thing, pray? What a weary round life is! what a silly circle of unfortunate repetitions! eating only to be hungry again; waking only to sleep; sleeping only to wake!
At first I am too inert even to think, even to lift my hand to protect my cheek from Vick’s muddy paws, who, annoyed at my evident inattention to her presence, is sitting on my lap, making little impatient clawings at my defenseless countenance. But gradually on the river of recollection all the incidents of the morning flow through my mind. In more startling relief than ever, the astounding change in Roger, wrought by those ill-starred two hours, stands out. Is it possible that I may have been attributing it to a wrong cause? Doubtless, the first interview with the woman he had loved, and who had thrown him over (by-the-by, how forgiving men are!)—yes, the first, probably, since they had stood in the relation of betrothed people to each other—must have been full of pain. Doubtless, the contrast between the crude gawkiness of the raw girl he has drifted into marrying—for I suppose it was more accident than any thing else—with the mature and subtile grace, the fine and low-voiced sweetness of the woman whom his whole heart and soul and taste chose and approved, must have struck him with keen force. I expected that: it would not have taken me by surprise. If he had emerged from among the laurestines, depressed, and vainly struggling for a factitious cheerfulness, I think I could have understood it. I think I could have borne with it, could have tried meekly to steal back into his heart again, to win him back, in despite of ignorance, gawkiness, and all other my drawbacks, by force of sheer love.