With all due deference to Shakespeare—and I suppose that even the one supreme genius of all time must, in his day, have made a mistake or two —I have but faint belief in the “sweet uses of adversity.” I think that they are about as mythical as the jewels in the toad’s ugly skull, to which he likened them. It is in prosperity that one looks up, with leaping heart and clear eyes, and through the clouds see God sitting throned in light. In adversity one sees nothing but one’s own dunghill and boils.
At least such has been my experience. I think I could have borne it better if I had not looked forward to his return so much—if he had been an austere and bitter tyrant, to whose coming I had looked with dread, I could have braced my nerves and pulled myself together, to face with some stoutness the hourly trials of life. But when one has counted the days, hours, and moments, till some high festival, and, when it comes, it turns out a drear, black funeral, one cannot meet the changed circumstances with any great fortitude.
It is the horrible contrast between my dreams and their realization that gives the keenest poignancy to my pangs.
To his return I had referred the smoothing of all my difficulties, the clearing up of all my doubts, the sweeping of all clouds from my sky; and now he is back! and, oh, how far, far gloomier than ever is my weather! What a sullen leaden sky overhangs me!
I never tell him about Algy after all! I do not often laugh now; but I did laugh loudly and long the other day, although I was quite alone, when I thought of my wily purpose of setting Roger on his guard against Mrs. Huntley’s little sugared unveracities.
No, I never tell him about Algy! Why should I? it would be wasted breath—spent words. He would not believe me. In the more important case has not he taken her word in preference to mine? Would not he in this too? For I know that he knows, as well as I know it myself, that in that matter I lied.
Sometimes, when I am by myself, a mighty yearning—a most constraining longing seizes me to go to him—fall at his feet, and tell him the truth even yet. After all, God knows that I have no ugly fault to confess to him—no infidelity even of thought. But as soon as I am in his presence the desire fades; or at least the power to put it in practice melts away. For he never gives me an opening. After that first evening never does he draw nigh the subject: never once is the detested name of Musgrave mentioned between us. If he had been one most dear to us both and had died untimely, we could not avoid with more sacred care any allusion to him. And, even if, by doing infinite violence to myself, I could bring myself to overcome the painful steepness of the hill of difficulty that lies between me and the subject, and tell the tardy truth, to what use, pray? Having once owned that I had lied, could I resent any statement of mine being taken with distrust? Would he believe me? Not he! He would say, “If you were as innocent as you say, why did you lie? If you were innocent, what had you to fear?” So I hold my peace. And, as the days go, and the winter wanes, it seems to me that I can plainly see, with no uncertain or doubtful eyes, Roger’s love wane too.