myself panting near the crest of the ridge where there
was a pasture, which some ancient glacier had strewn
with great boulders. Beside one of these I sank.
Heralded by the deep tones of bells, two steers appeared
above the shoulder of a hill and stood staring at me
with bovine curiosity, and fell to grazing again.
A fleet of white clouds, like ships pressed with sail,
hurried across the sky as though racing for some determined
port; and the shadows they cast along the hillsides
accentuated the high brightness of the day, emphasized
the vivid and hateful beauty of the landscape.
My numbness began to be penetrated by shooting pains,
and I grasped little by little the fulness of my calamity,
until I was in the state of wild rebellion of one whom
life for the first time has foiled in a supreme desire.
There was no fate about this thing, it was just an
absurd accident. The operation of the laws of
nature had sent a man to the ground: another combination
of circumstances would have killed him, still another,
and he would have arisen unhurt. But because
of this particular combination my happiness was ruined,
and Nancy’s! She had not expected me to
understand. Well, I didn’t understand,
I had no pity, in that hour I felt a resentment almost
amounting to hate; I could see only unreasoning superstition
in the woman I wanted above everything in the world.
Women of other days had indeed renounced great loves:
the thing was not unheard of. But that this should
happen in these times—and to me! It
was unthinkable that Nancy of all women shouldn’t
be emancipated from the thralls of religious inhibition!
And if it wasn’t “conscience,” what
Was it, as she said, weakness, lack of courage to
take life when it was offered her?.... I was
suddenly filled with the fever of composing arguments
to change a decision that appeared to me to be the
result of a monstrous caprice and delusion; writing
them out, as they occurred to me, in snatches on the
backs of envelopes—her envelopes. Then
I proceeded to make the draft of a letter, the effort
required for composition easing me until the draft
was finished; when I started for the hotel, climbing
fences, leaping streams, making my way across rock
faces and through woods; halting now and then as some
reenforcing argument occurred to me to write it into
my draft at the proper place until the sheets were
interlined and blurred and almost illegible. It
was already three o’clock when I reached my
room, and the mail left at four. I began to copy
and revise my scrawl, glancing from time to time at
my watch, which I had laid on the table. Hurriedly
washing my face and brushing my hair, I arrived downstairs
just as the stage was leaving....