She rose and stood before him, holding his hands and gazing earnestly at his anxious face.
“It has come to this with me,” she said, below her voice, “that there are times when there is but one good thing in all the world that I know any longer how to desire. God has so ordered my life that there is no road open for me that does not lead to sin or to misery. Surely, if He were merciful, He would take back the valueless gift.”
“Vera! what do you mean?”
“I mean,” she exclaimed, wearily, “that if I could die, I should be at peace.”
She had walked slowly on; her voice, that had trembled at first with a passionate wildness, had sunk into the spiritless apathy of despair; her head was bent, her hands clasped before her; her dress trailed with a soft rustle across the grass, sweeping over a whole wilderness of white daisies, that bent their heads beneath its folds as she walked. A gleam of sunshine fell upon her hair, and a bird sang loud and shrill in the lime trees overhead.
Often and often, in the after days, Eustace Daintree thought of her thus, and remembered with a pang the sole sad gift that she had craved at Heaven’s hands. Often and often the scene came back to him; the sunny garden, the scarlet geraniums flaring in the borders, the smooth green lawn, speckled with shadows from the trees, the wide open windows of his pleasant vicarage beyond, and the beautiful figure of the girl at his side, with her bent head, and her low broken voice—the girl who, at twenty-three, sighed to be rid of the life that had become too hard for her; that precious gift of life which, too often, at three-score years and ten, is but hardly resigned!
“If I could die, I should be at peace,” she had said. And she was only twenty-three!
Eustace Daintree never forgot it.
AN EVENTFUL DRIVE.
Ill blows the wind that profits nobody.
Shakespeare, “Henry IV.”
I imagine that the most fretting and wearing of all the pains and penalties which it is the lot of humanity to undergo in this troublesome and naughty world are those which, by our own folly, our own shortsightedness, and our own imprudence, we have brought upon ourselves.
There is a degree of irritation in such troubles which adds a whole armoury of small knife-cuts to intensify the agony of the evil from which we suffer. It is more dreadful to be moaning over our own mistakes than over the inscrutable perversity of an unpropitious fate.
Somebody once has said that most men grieve over the smallest mistake more bitterly than over the greatest sin. This is decidedly a perversion of the moral nature; nevertheless, there is a good deal of truth in it.
“If only I had not been such a fool! If I could only have foreseen such and such results?”
These are more generally the burden of our bitterest self-reproaches.