She had gained her own room to be alone. “Heaven help me,” she cried (her ejaculation had perhaps no meaning except that she had need of expletive), “what a fool I have been!”
She rehearsed each meeting she had had with Alec Trenholme. How she had dallied with him in fields and on the road, seeing now clearly, as never before, how she had smiled upon him, how she had bewitched him. What mischance had led her on? She sprang up again from the seat into which she had sunk. “Mercy!” she cried in an agony of shame, “was ever woman so foolish as I? I have treated him as a friend, and he is—!”
Then for some reason, she ceased to think of herself and thought of him. She considered: had he made no effort? had he felt no pain? She saw how he had waveringly tried to avoid her at first, and how, at last, he had tried to warn her. She thought upon the epithet he had applied to himself when trying to explain himself to her: she lifted her head again, and, in a glow of generous thought, she felt that this was a friend of whom no one need be ashamed.
The bell for the evening meal rang. There are hours in which we transcend ourselves, but a little thing brings us back to the level on which we live. As Sophia hastily brushed her dark hair, mortified pride stabbed her again, and scorn again came to the rescue. “What does it matter? It would have been better, truly, if I had had less to do with him, but what has passed is of no importance to anyone, least of all to me!”
As she had begun at first to rule her heart, so did she rule it all that evening. But when she was again within her room alone she lingered, looking out of her small casement at the fields where she had met Alec Trenholme, at the road where she walked with him: all was white and cold now in the moonlight. And soon she leaned her head against the pane and wept.
Those are often the bitterest tears for which we can furnish no definite cause; when courage fails, we see earth only through our tears, and all form is out of proportion, all colour crude, all music discord, and every heart a well of evil, and we bewail, not our own woes only, but the woe of the world. So this proud woman wept, and prayed God wildly to save the world out of its evil into His good—and did not, could not, tell herself what was the exciting cause of her tears.
Just as that day had turned rosy at the close and then white with the lesser light of night, so did the summer now fade away in a blaze of colour, giving one last display of what life could do before leaving the land to the shroud of the winter’s snow. Cool bracing winds, of which there had already been foretaste, now swept the land. The sun seemed brighter because the air was clearer. The college boys had returned, and were heard daily shouting at their games. A few days made all this outward difference. No other difference had as yet come about.