“Aunt, is madness hereditary?”
Miss Bygrave, who had thought her asleep, bent over her and tried to turn her mind to other thoughts. But the sick girl would speak only of this subject.
“I am quite myself,” she said, “and I feel better. Yes, I remember reading somewhere that it was hereditary.”
She was quiet for a little.
“Aunt,” she then said, “I shall never be married. It would be wrong to him. I am afraid of myself.”
She did not recur to the subject till she had risen, two or three weeks after, and was strong enough to move about the room. Waymark had called every day during her illness. As soon as he heard that she was up, he desired to see her, but Maud begged him, through her aunt, to wait yet a day or two. In the night which followed she wrote to him, and the letter was this:
“If I had seen you when you called yesterday, I should have had to face a task beyond my strength. Yet it would be wrong to keep from you any longer what I have to say. I must write it, and hope your knowledge of me will help you to understand what I can only imperfectly express.
“I ask you to let me break my promise to you. I have not ceased to love you; to me you are still all that is best and dearest in the world. You would have made my life very happy. But happiness is now what I dare not wish for. I am too weak to make that use of it which, I do not doubt, is permitted us; it would enslave my soul. With a nature such as mine, there is only one path of safety: I must renounce all. You know me to be no hypocrite, and to you, in this moment, I need not fear to speak my whole thought, The sacrifice has cost me much To break my faith to you, and to put aside for ever all the world’s joys—the strength for this has only come after hours of bitterest striving. Try to be glad that I have won; it is all behind me, and I stand upon the threshold of peace.
“You know how from a child I have suffered. What to others was pure and lawful joy became to me a temptation. But God was not unjust; if He so framed me, He gave me at the same time the power to understand and to choose. All those warnings which I have, in my blindness, spoken of so lightly to you, I now recall with humbler and truer mind. If the shadow of sin darkened my path, it was that I might look well to my steps, and, alas, I have failed so, have gone so grievously astray! God, in His righteous anger, has terribly visited me. The most fearful form of death has risen before me; I have been cast into abysses of horror, and only saved from frenzy by the mercy which brought all this upon me for my good. A few months ago I had also a warning. I did not disregard it, but I could not overcome the love which bound me to you. But for that love, how much easier it would have been to me to overcome the world and myself.
“You will forgive me, for you will understand me. Do not write in reply; spare me, I entreat you, a renewal of that dark hour I have passed through. With my aunt I am going to leave London. We shall remain together, and she will strengthen me in the new life. May God bless you here and hereafter. MAUD ENDERBY.”