“If it were not for the misery of it,” he goes on, that dark flush that colored his bronzed face the other night again spreading over it, “I could laugh at the gross absurdity of the idea! To begin such fooleries at my age! Nancy, Nancy!” his tone changing to one of reproachful, heart-rending appeal—“has it never struck you that it is a little hard, considering all things, that you should suspect me?”
Still I am silent.
“Tell me what you wish me to do!” he cries, with passionate emphasis. “Tell me what you wish me to leave undone! I will do it! I will leave it undone! You are a little hard upon me, dear: indeed you are—some day I think that you will see it—but it was not your own thought! I know that as well as if you had told me! It was suggested to you—by whom you best know, and whether his words or mine are most worthy of credit!”
He is looking at me with a fixed, pathetic mournfulness. There is in his eyes a sort of hopelessness and yet patience.
“We are miserable, are not we?” he goes on, in a low voice—“most miserable! and it seems to me that every day we grow more so, that every day there is a greater dissonance between us! For my part, I have given up the hope that we can ever be happier! I have wondered that I should have entertained it. But, at least, we might have peace!”
There is such a depth of depression, such a burden of fatigue in his voice, that the tears rise in my throat and choke the coming speech.
“At least you are undeceived about me, are not you?” he says, looking at me with an eager and yet almost confident expectation. “At least, you believe me!”
But I answer nothing. It is the tears that keep me dumb, but I think that he thinks me still unconvinced, for he turns away with a groan.
“I made a posy while the day ran
Here will I smell my remnant out, and tie
My life within this band;
But Time did beckon to the flowers, and they
By noon most cunningly did steal away,
And withered in my hand!”
We are home again now; we have been away only three days after all, but they seem to me like three years—three disastrous years—so greatly during them has the gulf between Roger and me widened and deepened. Looking back on what it was before that, it seems to me now to have been but a shallow and trifling ditch, compared to the abyss that it is now. We left Mr. Parker standing at the hall-door, his red hair flaming bravely in the morning sun, loudly expressing his regret at our departure, and trying to extract an unlikely promise from us that we will come back next week.