He felt heavy and inelastic,—averse to himself, but still more to society. He wished to see men and women, yet not to be seen of them. He had used to be ready in speech, and willing to listen; now, no subject interested him save one,—on which his lips must be forever closed. When the sun had made himself thoroughly at home on earth and in heaven, Helwyse went to his state-room, feeling unclean from the soul outwards. While making his toilet, he took care to leave the window-blind up, that he might at any time see the blue sky and water, and the bright shore, with its foliage and occasional houses. He shrank from severing, even for an instant, his communication with the beneficent spirit of nature. And yet Nature could not comfort him,—in his extremest need he found her most barren. He had been wont to rejoice in her as the creature of his own senses; but when he asked her to sympathize with his pain, she laughed at him,—the magnificent coquette!—and bade him, since she was only the reflection of himself, be content with his own sympathy. Truly, if man and Nature be thus allied, and God be but man developed, then is self-sufficiency the only virtue worth cultivating, and idolatry must begin at home!
His efforts to improve his appearance were not satisfactory; the loss of his toilet articles embarrassed him not a little; and he, moreover, lacked zest to enter into the business with his customary care. And what he did was done not merely for his own satisfaction, as heretofore, but with an eye to the criticisms of other people. His naively unconscious independence had got a blow. After doing his best he went out, pale and heavy-eyed, the diamond ring on his finger.
The passengers had begun to assemble in the cabin. It seemed to Helwyse, as he entered, that one and all turned and stared at him with suspicious curiosity. He half expected to see an accuser rise up and point a dreadful finger at him. But in truth the sensation he created was no more than common; it was his morbid sensitiveness, which for the first time took note of it. He had been accustomed to look at himself as at a third person, in whose faults or successes he was alike interested; but although his present mental attitude might have moved him to smile, he, in fact, felt no such impulse. The hue of his deed had permeated all possible forms of himself, thus barring him from any standpoint whence to see its humorous aspect. The sun would not shine on it!
As time passed on, however, and no one offered to denounce him, Helwyse began to be more at ease. Seeing the steward with whom he had spoken the night before, he asked him whereabouts he supposed the schooner was.
“O, she’ll be in by night, sir, safe enough. Wind’s freshened up a good bit since; wouldn’t take her long to rig a new bowsprit. Beg pardon, sir, did you happen to know the party next door to you?”
“I know no one. What about him?”