In her heart; so bitterly, indeed, that all relish for life had departed from her. She was now spiritless, hopeless, without an aim or object, or anything to sustain her, or to give interest to existence. Philosophy, which too often knows little about actual life, tells us that a consciousness of being innocent of the social slanders that are heaped upon an individual, is a principle that ought to support and console him. But the truth is, that this very consciousness of innocence is precisely the circumstance which sharpens and poisons the arrow that pierces him, and gives rancor to the wound.
On the morning in question, Mary sat by her mother who lay reclining on a sofa, each kindly attempting to conceal from the other the illness which she felt. Mary was pale, wasted, and drooping; the mother, on the contrary, was flushed and feverish.
“I wish, my dear mother,” said she, “that you would yield to me, and go to bed: you are certainly worse than you wish us to believe.”
“It won’t signify, Mary; it’s nothing but cold I got, and it will pass away. I think nothing of myself, but it grieves my heart to see you look so ill; why don’t you strive to keep up your spirits, and to be what you used to be? But God help you, my poor child,” said she, as the tears started to her eyes, “sure it’s hard for you to do so.”
“Mother,” she replied, “it is hard for me; I am every way surrounded with deep and hopeless affliction. I often wish that I could lay my head quietly in the grave; but then, I should wish to do so with my name unstained—and, on the other hand, what is there that can bind me to life? I am not afraid of death, but I fear to die now; I know not, mother, what to do, I am very much to be pitied. Oh,” she added, whilst the tears fell in torrents from her cheeks, “after all, I feel that nothing but death can still the thoughts that disturb me, and release me from the anguish that weighs me down and consumes me day by day.”
“My dear child,” replied her mother, “we must only trust to God, who, in his own good time, will set everything right. As it is, there is no respectable person in the neighborhood who believes the falsehood, with the exception of some of the diabolical Wretch’s friends.”
Mary here shuddered, and exhibited the strongest possible symptoms of aversion, even to momentary sickness.
“If,” pursued the mother, “the unfortunate impression could be removed from poor, mistaken Harman, all would be soon right.”
The mention of Harman deeply affected the poor girl; she made no reply, but for some minutes wept in great bitterness.
“Mother,” said she, after a little time, “I fear you are concealing the state of your own health; I am sure, from your flushed face and oppressive manner of speaking, that you are worse than you think yourself, or will admit.”
“Indeed, to tell the truth, Mary, I fear I am; I feel certainly very feverish—I am burning.”