“You will have to do this ultimately, if you are to continue to live. Of that there is no doubt. So why not now?”
“I must think; it is impossible to make up my mind to such a thing at once. I know you advise what is best; I have thought of it myself. But I shall never have the courage! I am so miserably weak. If only I could get my health back! Good God, how I suffer!”
Waymark did his best to familiarise Julian with the thought, and to foster in him something of resoluteness, but he had small hope of succeeding. The poor fellow was so incapable of anything which at all resembled selfishness, and so dreaded the results of any such severity on his part as that proposed. There were moments when indignation almost nerved him to independence, but there returned so soon the souse of pity, and, oftener still, the thought of that promise made to Harriet’s father, long ago, in the dark little parlour which smelt of drugs. The poor chemist, whose own life was full of misery, had been everything to him; but for Mr. Smales, he might now have been an ignorant, coarse-handed working man, if not worse. Was Harriet past all rescue? Was there not even yet a chance of saving her from herself and those hateful friends of hers?
This was the natural reaction after listening to Waymark’s remorseless counsel. Going home, Julian fought once more the battle with himself, till the usual troubled sleep severed his thoughts into fragments of horrible dreams. The next day he felt differently; Waymark’s advice seemed more practical. In the afternoon he should have visited Harriet in the ward, but an insuperable repulsion kept him away, and for the first time. It was a bleak, cheerless day; the air was cold with the breath of the nearing winter; At night he found it impossible to sit in his own room, and dreaded to talk with any one. His thoughts were fixed upon one place; a great longing drew him forth, into the darkness and the rain of the streets, onwards in a fixed direction. It brought him to Westminster, and to the gate of Tothill Fields Prison. The fetters upon the great doors were hideous in the light of the lamps above them; the mean houses around the gaol seemed to be rotting in its accursed shadow. A deadly stillness possessed the air; there was blight in the dropping of the rain.
He leaned against the great, gloomy wall, and thought of Ida. At this hour she was most likely asleep, unless sorrow kept her waking. What unimagined horrors did she suffer day after day in that accursed prison-house? How did she bear her torments? Was she well or ill? What brutality might she not be subjected to? He pictured her face wasted with secret tears, those eyes which were the light of his soul fixed on the walls of the cell, hour after hour, in changeless despair, the fire of passionate resentment feeding at her life’s core.
The night became calmer. The rained ceased, and a sudden gleam made him look up, to behold the moon breaking her way through billows of darkness.