A great grief and resentment against the whole world and life itself swelled high within him. It was as if he lost sight of individual antagonists, and burned to dash life itself in the face because he existed. The state of happiness so exalted that it became almost holiness, in which he had been that very night, flung him to lower depths when it was retroverted. He had gone back to first causes in the one and he did the same in the other; his joy had reached out into eternity, and so did his misery. His natural religious bent, inherited from generations of Puritans, and kept in its channel by his training from infancy, made it impossible for him to conceive of sympathy or antagonism in its fullest sense apart from God.
Sitting on a pile of shavings in a corner of the north room, he fairly hugged himself with fierce partisanship. “What have I done to be treated in this way?” he demanded, setting his face ahead in the darkness; and he did not see Cephas Barnard’s threatening countenance, but another, gigantic with its vague outlines, which his fancy could not limit, confronting him with terrible negative power like a stone image. He struck out against it, and the blows fell back on his own heart.
“What have I done?” he demanded over and over of this great immovable and silent consciousness which he realized before him. “Have I not kept all thy commandments from childhood? Have I ever failed to praise thee as the giver of my happiness, and ask thy blessing upon it? What have I done that it should be taken away? It was given to me only to be taken away. Why was it given to me, then?—that I might be mocked? Oh, I am mocked, I am mocked!” he cried out, in a great rage, and he struck out in the darkness, and his heart leaped with futile pain. The possibility that his misery might not be final never occurred to him. It never occurred to him that he could enter Cephas Barnard’s house again, ask his pardon, and marry Charlotte. It seemed to him settled and inevitable; he could not grasp any choice in the matter.
Barnabas finally threw himself back on the pile of shavings, and lay there sullenly. Great gusts of cold wind came in at the windows at intervals, a loose board somewhere in the house rattled, the trees outside murmured heavily.
“There won’t be a frost,” Barnabas thought, his mind going apace on its old routine in spite of its turmoil. Then he thought with the force of an oath that he did not care if there was a frost. All the trees this spring had blossomed only for him and Charlotte; now there was no longer any use in that; let the blossoms blast and fall!
Sylvia Crane’s house was the one in which her grandmother had been born, and was the oldest house in the village. It was known as the “old Crane place.” It had never been painted, it was shedding its flapping gray shingles like gray scales, the roof sagged in a mossy hollow before the chimney, the windows and doors were awry, and the whole house was full of undulations and wavering lines, which gave it a curiously unreal look in broad daylight. In the moonlight it was the shadowy edifice built of a dream.