With some faint hope that she might have returned to the cottage, I hastened thither, but, finding it dark and desolate, I gave way to my despair.
O blind, self-deceiving fool! She had said that, and she was right—as usual. She had called me an egoist—I was an egoist, a pedant, a blind, self-deceiving fool who had wilfully destroyed all hopes of a happiness the very thought of which had so often set me trembling—and now—she had left me—was gone! The world —my world, was a void—its emptiness terrified me. How should I live without Charmian, the woman whose image was ever before my eyes, whose soft, low voice was ever in my ears?
And I had thought so much to please her! I who had set my thoughts to guard my tongue, lest by word or look I might offend her! And this was the end of it!
Sitting down at the table, I leaned my head there, pressing my forehead against the hard wood, and remained thus a great while.
At last, because it was very dark, I found and lighted a candle, and came and stood beside her bed. Very white and trim it looked, yet I was glad to see its smoothness rumpled where I had laid her down, and to see the depression in the pillow that her head had made. And, while I stood there, up to me stole a perfume very faint, like the breath of violets in a wood at evening time, wherefore I sank down upon my knees beside the bed.
And now the full knowledge of my madness rushed upon me in an overwhelming flood; but with misery was a great and mighty joy, for now I knew her worthy of all respect and honor and worship, for her intellect, for her proud virtue, and for her spotless purity. And thus, with joy came remorse, and with remorse—an abiding sorrow.
And gradually my arms crept about the pillow where her head had so often rested, wherefore I kissed it, and laid my head upon it and sighed, and so fell into a troubled sleep.
HOW BLACK GEORGE FOUND PRUDENCE IN THE DAWN
The chill of dawn was in the air when I awoke, and it was some few moments before, with a rush, I remembered why I was kneeling there beside Charmian’s bed. Shivering, I rose and walked up and down to reduce the stiffness in my limbs.
The fire was out and I had no mind to light it, for I was in no mood to break my fast, though the necessary things stood ready, as her orderly hands had set them, and the plates and cups and saucers twinkled at me from the little cupboard I had made to hold them; a cupboard whose construction she had overlooked with a critical eye. And I must needs remember how she had insisted on being permitted to drive in three nails with her own hand—I could put my finger on those very nails; how she had tapped at those nails for fear of missing them; how beautiful she had looked in her coarse apron, and with her sleeves rolled up over her round white arms—how womanly and sweet; yet I had dared to think—had dared to call her—a Messalina! Oh, that my tongue had withered or ever I had coupled one so pure and noble with a creature so base and common!