How different it might have been! Yes, many things might have been different in his life, when he came to review it fairly. His thoughts then fell upon Jacob Worse, who had lately quite given him up. It had often happened to Delphin that people did not remain friends with him long. It was only Fanny who did not give him up. He made one more effort to bring up her image in his thoughts, in all its most enchanting beauty, but he failed in the effort. Madeleine seemed to overshadow everything. Then his thoughts reverted to Martens, and his agony returned. He seemed no longer to have any aim in life, which had been so utterly wasted, useless and desolate, and he began to regard himself with loathing, friendless as he was, and thus entangled in an intrigue with one for whom he had no affection, and despised by her whose love he really longed for.
All this time the mist was stealing in light wreaths over the shore; it came gliding beyond the line of the waves, and on over the sand. It paused for an instant at the man who was thus lying in despair, then stole on further, and finally settled behind the sand-hills. The grey wall of mist had now attained such a height that it obscured the evening sun, so that the landscape became all at once cold and grey, whilst the fog went scudding along, denser and denser every moment.
Delphin stretched himself on the sand, wearied with his long ride and his bitter thoughts. The long white breakers came curling ever nearer and nearer, as they broke on the beach with their subdued and monotonous roar.
He could not but think how easy it would be to have done with the life altogether, which now seemed to him of so little worth. He had but to roll himself down the sandy slope, and the waves would take his body into their embrace, and, after rocking him on their bosom, perhaps bear him far away and leave him on a distant shore. But he felt full well that he had not the courage; and as he lay there, thus pondering over his past life, he fell into a reverie, while the breakers murmured their monotonous song, and the mist, which was borne up on the light evening breeze, breathed over him cold and chill.
The landscape assumed a general tone of grey. The mist stole on, still more close and compact, and the form of him who lay by the waves became more and more indistinct. At last he was gone; the sea raised her mantle and wiped him out, while the fog drifted inland thick as a wall, and, reaching the first dwellings, swept round the corners of the houses, and sent cold gusts in at the open doors and windows.
But swifter than the mist, closer and ever more penetrating, swept the report of the chaplain’s engagement through the town. It crept in through cracks and keyholes, filled houses from cellar to garret, and stood so thick in the street that it stopped the traffic.
“Have you heard the news? They are engaged? Guess! where? who? Miss Garman; I heard it an hour ago! Have you heard the news? It’s the chaplain who is engaged! Well, I am surprised! They might have waited till after the funeral. Are you sure? He has been at the jeweller’s! Have you heard the news?”