“You loved him, as most females do love their young, and yet not so generously as most. It was not as his father’s child, but only as your own, that he was dear to you; he was your child, a part of yourself, and you loved him only because you loved yourself.
“When he was still a baby you left your husband’s house, and thereby, if justice were done, forfeited the recognition of good women, and pure society; but you took great credit to yourself because you left your son and your money behind you. Was it nothing in the balance, then, the scandal, worse than any poverty, which the recovery of your property would have caused? Nothing but self-sacrifice, to leave a sickly child to all the advantages that wealth could give it? Well, a month afterward, in spite of wealth, your son died.”
At this announcement, Abbie’s convulsive strength, which had thus far served to keep her erect and motionless, exhaled itself in a long groan, and left her placid and nerveless. Seeing her about to fall, Bressant put forth his hands and grasped her arms below the shoulder, holding her thus while he went on. Her eyes were closed and her head fell forward on her bosom; but, so blinded was the young man by the remorseless passion which had gradually been working up within him, he failed to perceive that the old woman’s ears were no longer sensible to his voice, nor her heart sensitive to his words.
“He died, and I was younger than he, but stronger, and more like my father. I was put in his place, and was called by his name. I grew up proud of what I thought my aristocratic birth! I resolved to become the most famous of mankind, and I found an angel and was going to marry her. But the evil began to come with the good: it began long ago, and in many ways, and I tried to overcome it, or provide against it, one way or another. You benevolent people had led me into a battle-field, unarmed, and then left me to fight my way through; and I should have done it, too, but at the last I had myself to fight against, and then I gave in. Why, I had been dead and buried more than twenty years—why don’t you laugh at that?—and had been imposed upon all that time by this miserable nameless outcast, myself! whose father’s name was Adultery and his mother’s Sin. That was a parentage to be proud of, wasn’t it? And yet, I swear before God, I’m better contented it should be so, than to be the son of an honest marriage, with such a woman as you for my mother.”
As he loosened the hold of one hand, to emphasize this oath, the senseless body, which he had been upholding, swung round, and swayed, toward the floor. He dropped the arm which remained in his grasp, and the red flush on his cheek and forehead died away into pallor, as he looked down at the dark heap of clothes lying at his feet. Finally he stooped down, and lifted her on to the sofa.
“She’s not dead,” muttered he, after scrutinizing the woman’s face for a moment; “she has her punishment, though, like the rest of us.”