I hovered there—I couldn’t help it, a bit gloatingly—before I pounced; and yet even when he became aware of me, as he did in a minute, he didn’t shift his position by an inch, but only took me and my dreadful meaning, with his wan stare, as a part of the strange burden of his fate. He didn’t seem even surprised to speak of; he had waked up—premising his brief, bewildered delirium—to the sense that something natural must happen, and even to the fond hope that something natural would; and I was simply the form in which it was happening. I came nearer, I stood before him; and he kept up at me the oddest stare—which was plainly but the dumb yearning that I would explain, explain! He wanted everything told him—but every single thing; as if, after a tremendous fall, or some wild parabola through the air, the effect of a violent explosion under his feet, he had landed at a vast distance from his starting-point and required to know where he was. Well, the charming thing was that this affected me as giving the very sharpest point to the idea that, in asking myself how I should deal with him, I had already so vividly entertained.
VIII. THE MARRIED DAUGHTER
By Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
We start in life with the most preposterous of all human claims—that one should be understood. We get bravely over that after awhile; but not until the idea has been knocked out of us by the hardest. I used to worry a good deal, myself, because nobody—distinctly not one person—in our family understood me; that is, me in my relation to themselves; nothing else, of course, mattered so much. But that was before I was married. I think it was because Tom understood me from the very first eye-beam, that I loved him enough to marry him and learn to understand him. I always knew in my heart that he had the advantage of me in that beautiful art: I suppose one might call it the soul-art. At all events, it has been of the least possible consequence to me since I had Tom, whether any one else in the world understood me or not.
I suppose—in fact, I know—that it is this unfortunate affair of Peggy’s which has brought up all that old soreness to the surface of me.
Nobody knows better than I that I have not been a popular member of this family. But nobody knows as well as I how hard I have tried to do my conscientious best by the whole of them, collectively and individually considered. An older sister, if she have any consciousness of responsibility at all, is, to my mind, not in an easy position. Her extra years give her an extra sense. One might call it a sixth sense of family anxiety which the younger children cannot share. She has, in a way, the intelligence and forethought of a mother without a mother’s authority or privilege.