‘If you don’t want any supper,’ she said in a moment, ’please go and tell them, so that they needn’t sit up for you.’
Alice obeyed. When she came up again, her sister was, or pretended to be, asleep; even the noise made by bringing luggage into the room did not cause her to move. Having sat in despondency for a while, Miss Madden opened one of her boxes, and sought in it for the Bible which it was her custom to make use of every night. She read in the book for about half an hour, then covered her face with her hands and prayed silently. This was her refuge from the barrenness and bitterness of life.
CONFESSION AND COUNSEL
The sisters did not exchange a word until morning, but both of them lay long awake. Monica was the first to lose consciousness; she slept for about an hour, then the pains of a horrid dream disturbed her, and again she took up the burden of thought. Such waking after brief, broken sleep, when mind and body are beset by weariness, yet cannot rest, when night with its awful hush and its mysterious movements makes a strange, dread habitation for the spirit—such waking is a grim trial of human fortitude. The blood flows sluggishly, yet subject to sudden tremors that chill the veins and for an instant choke the heart. Purpose is idle, the will impure; over the past hangs a shadow of remorse, and life that must yet be lived shows lurid, a steep pathway to the hopeless grave. Of this cup Monica drank deeply.
A fear of death compassed her about. Night after night it had thus haunted her. In the daytime she could think of death with resignation, as a refuge from miseries of which she saw no other end; but this hour of silent darkness shook her with terrors. Reason availed nothing; its exercise seemed criminal. The old faiths, never abandoned, though modified by the breath of intellectual freedom that had just touched her, reasserted all their power. She saw herself as a wicked woman, in the eye of truth not less wicked than her husband declared her. A sinner stubborn in impenitence, defending herself by a paltry ambiguity that had all the evil of a direct lie. Her soul trembled in its nakedness.
What redemption could there be for her? What path of spiritual health was discoverable? She could not command herself to love the father of her child; the repugnance with which she regarded him seemed to her a sin against nature, yet how was she responsible for it? Would it profit her to make confession and be humbled before him? The confession must some day be made, if only for her child’s sake; but she foresaw in it no relief of mind. Of all human beings her husband was the one least fitted to console and strengthen her. She cared nothing for his pardon; from his love she shrank. But if there were some one to whom she could utter her thoughts with the certainty of being understood—