Away from her the skies were dark again, great heavy weights rested on my heart, and my life seemed clogged. Still her love had nerved me to do what I otherwise could never have done. It had nerved me to try; and so, with her warm kiss burning on my lips, I hurried off to the great metropolis without any definite idea why I was going.
For the next three months I was an atheist! These are easy words to write, but terrible to realize. No one but those who know can tell the terror of a man who has given up belief in an Eternal Goodness, in a living God that cares for man.
I left Yorkshire with some little hope in my heart—the memory of Gertrude’s words was with me, cheering me during the long ride; but when once alone in my rooms, nothing but a feeling of utter desolation possessed my heart. The terrible night on the Yorkshire moors came back again, the dark forbidding waters, the ghastly red hand, the gleaming knife, the struggle—all were real. Did I kill him? I did not know. Possibly I was a murderer in act, if not in thought. I could not bear to think of it. Who can bear to think of having taken away a fellow-creature’s life? And he might be lying in Drearwater Pond even then!
Then there was the terrible spell that this man had cast upon me. I felt it clinging to every fibre of my being. I was not living a true life; I was living a dual life. A power extraneous to myself, and yet possessing me, made me a mere machine. As the days and weeks passed away things became worse. I promised Gertrude to exert myself to find Kaffar, to set her free from her promise to Voltaire; but I could not do it. His command was upon me. I felt that it was ever in his mind that I should not make any efforts, and I had to obey. And his power was evil, his motives were fiendish, his nature was depraved. Still preachers talked of a loving God, of the good being stronger than the evil. It could not be.
“Try! Try! Resist! Resist! Struggle! Struggle!” said hope and duty and love; and I tried, I resisted, I struggled. And still I was bound in chains; still I was held by a mysterious occult power.
Then it ceased to feel to be a duty to rid Gertrude of Voltaire. Why should I struggle and resist? Supposing I succeeded, was I any more fit to be her husband than he? What was I? At best a poor weak creature, the plaything of a villain. At any time he could exert his power and make me his slave. But I might be worse than that. I might, with my own hand, have sent a man into eternity. How did I know it was Voltaire’s power that made me do the deed? Might not my blind passion have swept me on to this dark deed? But that could not be. No, no; I could not believe that. Besides, Voltaire had told me it was because of him. Still, I was not fit to be her husband.
Then her words came back to me, and her pure influence gave me strength. She, so pure, so true, had seemed to understand my position, had bid me hope and be brave. She had told me she loved me—she, whom hundreds of brave men would love to call their own. I would try again. I would brake the chains Voltaire had forged; I WOULD hurl from me the incubus that would otherwise crush me.