I tried to take refuge in religion. Every day and all day I humbly besought the pardon of heaven for the sin of loving Martin Conrad.
The little religious duties which I had neglected since my marriage (such as crossing myself at rising from the table) I began to observe afresh, and being reminded by Martin’s story that I had promised my mother to say a De Profundis for her occasionally I now said one every day. I thought these exercises would bring me a certain relief, but they did not.
I searched my Missal for words that applied to my sinful state, and every night on going to bed I prayed to God to take from me all unholy thoughts, all earthly affections. But what was the use of my prayers when in the first dream of the first sleep I was rushing into Martin’s arms?
It was true that my love for Martin was what the world would call a pure love; it had no alloy of any kind; but all the same I thought I was living in a condition of adultery—adultery of the heart.
Early every morning I went to mass, but the sense I used to have of returning from the divine sacrifice to the ordinary occupations of life with a new spirit and a clean heart I could feel no longer.
I went oftener to confession than I had done before—twice a week to begin with, then every other day, then every day. But the old joy, the sense of purity and cleansing, did not come. I thought at first the fault might be with my Confessor, for though I knew I was in the presence of God, the whispering voice behind the grating, which used to thrill me with a feeling of the supernatural, was that of a young man, and I asked myself what a young priest could know by experience of the deep temptations of human love.
This was at the new Cathedral at Westminster, so I changed to a little Catholic church in a kind of mews in Mayfair, and there my Confessor was an older man whose quivering voice seemed to search the very depths of my being. He was deeply alarmed at my condition and counselled me to pray to God night and day to strengthen me against temptation.
“The Evil One is besieging your soul, my child,” he said. “Fight with him, my daughter.”
I tried to follow my ghostly father’s direction, but how hard it was to do so! Martin had only to take my hand and look into my eyes and all my good resolutions were gone in a moment.
As a result of the fierce struggle between my heart and my soul my health began to fail me. From necessity now, and not from design, I had to keep my room, but even there my love for Martin was always hanging like a threatening sword over my head.
My maid Price was for ever singing his praises. He was so bright, so cheerful, so strong, so manly; in fact, he was perfect, and any woman in the world might be forgiven if she fell in love with him.
Her words were like music in my ears, and sometimes I felt as if I wanted to throw my arms about her neck and kiss her. But at other moments I reproved her, telling her it was very wicked of her to think so much of the creature instead of fixing her mind on the Creator—a piece of counsel which made Price, who was all woman, open her sparkling black eyes in bewilderment.