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humble and more trusting with them, and to hope in my little sphere
to make them better?'
'O no, no. No, Louisa.'
'Yet, father, if I had been stone blind; if I had groped my way by
my sense of touch, and had been free, while I knew the shapes and
surfaces of things, to exercise my fancy somewhat, in regard to
them; I should have been a million times wiser, happier, more
loving, more contented, more innocent and human in all good
respects, than I am with the eyes I have. Now, hear what I have
come to say.'
He moved, to support her with his arm. She rising as he did so,
they stood close together: she, with a hand upon his shoulder,
looking fixedly in his face.
'With a hunger and thirst upon me, father, which have never been
for a moment appeased; with an ardent impulse towards some region
where rules, and figures, and definitions were not quite absolute;
I have grown up, battling every inch of my way.'
'I never knew you were unhappy, my child.'
'Father, I always knew it. In this strife I have almost repulsed
and crushed my better angel into a demon. What I have learned has
left me doubting, misbelieving, despising, regretting, what I have
not learned; and my dismal resource has been to think that life
would soon go by, and that nothing in it could be worth the pain
and trouble of a contest.'
'And you so young, Louisa!' he said with pity.
'And I so young. In this condition, father - for I show you now,
without fear or favour, the ordinary deadened state of my mind as I
know it - you proposed my husband to me. I took him. I never made
a pretence to him or you that I loved him. I knew, and, father,
you knew, and he knew, that I never did. I was not wholly
indifferent, for I had a hope of being pleasant and useful to Tom.
I made that wild escape into something visionary, and have slowly
found out how wild it was. But Tom had been the subject of all the
little tenderness of my life; perhaps he became so because I knew
so well how to pity him. It matters little now, except as it may
dispose you to think more leniently of his errors.'
As her father held her in his arms, she put her other hand upon his
other shoulder, and still looking fixedly in his face, went on.
'When I was irrevocably married, there rose up into rebellion
against the tie, the old strife, made fiercer by all those causes
of disparity which arise out of our two individual natures, and
which no general laws shall ever rule or state for me, father,
until they shall be able to direct the anatomist where to strike
his knife into the secrets of my soul.'
'Louisa!' he said, and said imploringly; for he well remembered
what had passed between them in their former interview.
'I do not reproach you, father, I make no complaint. I am here
with another object.'
'What can I do, child? Ask me what you will.'
'I am coming to it. Father, chance then threw into my way a new
acquaintance; a man such as I had had no experience of; used to the
world; light, polished, easy; making no pretences; avowing the low
estimate of everything, that I was half afraid to form in secret;
conveying to me almost immediately, though I don't know how or by
what degrees, that he understood me, and read my thoughts. I could
not find that he was worse than I. There seemed to be a near
affinity between us. I only wondered it should be worth his while,
who cared for nothing else, to care so much for me.'
'For you, Louisa!'
Her father might instinctively have loosened his hold, but that he
felt her strength departing from her, and saw a wild dilating fire
in the eyes steadfastly regarding him.
'I say nothing of his plea for claiming my confidence. It matters
very little how he gained it. Father, he did gain it. What you
know of the story of my marriage, he soon knew, just as well.'
Her father's face was ashy white, and he held her in both his arms.
'I have done no worse, I have not disgraced you. But if you ask me
whether I have loved him, or do love him, I tell you plainly,
father, that it may be so. I don't know.'
She took her hands suddenly from his shoulders, and pressed them
both upon her side; while in her face, not like itself - and in her
figure, drawn up, resolute to finish by a last effort what she had
to say - the feelings long suppressed broke loose.
'This night, my husband being away, he has been with me, declaring
himself my lover. This minute he expects me, for I could release
myself of his presence by no other means. I do not know that I am
sorry, I do not know that I am ashamed, I do not know that I am
degraded in my own esteem. All that I know is, your philosophy and
your teaching will not save me. Now, father, you have brought me
to this. Save me by some other means!'
He tightened his hold in time to prevent her sinking on the floor,
but she cried out in a terrible voice, 'I shall die if you hold me!
Let me fall upon the ground!' And he laid her down there, and saw
the pride of his heart and the triumph of his system, lying, an
insensible heap, at his feet.
END OF THE SECOND BOOK
BOOK THE THIRD - GARNERING
CHAPTER I - ANOTHER THING NEEDFUL
LOUISA awoke from a torpor, and her eyes languidly opened on her
old bed at home, and her old room. It seemed, at first, as if all
that had happened since the days when these objects were familiar
to her were the shadows of a dream, but gradually, as the objects
became more real to her sight, the events became more real to her
She could scarcely move her head for pain and heaviness, her eyes
were strained and sore, and she was very weak. A curious passive
inattention had such possession of her, that the presence of her
little sister in the room did not attract her notice for some time.
Even when their eyes had met, and her sister had approached the
bed, Louisa lay for minutes looking at her in silence, and
suffering her timidly to hold her passive hand, before she asked:
'When was I brought to this room?'
'Last night, Louisa.'
'Who brought me here?'
'Sissy, I believe.'
'Why do you believe so?'
'Because I found her here this morning. She didn't come to my
bedside to wake me, as she always does; and I went to look for her.
She was not in her own room either; and I went looking for her all
over the house, until I found her here taking care of you and
cooling your head. Will you see father? Sissy said I was to tell
him when you woke.'
'What a beaming face you have, Jane!' said Louisa, as her young
sister - timidly still - bent down to kiss her.
'Have I? I am very glad you think so. I am sure it must be
The arm Louisa had begun to twine around her neck, unbent itself.
'You can tell father if you will.' Then, staying her for a moment,
she said, 'It was you who made my room so cheerful, and gave it
this look of welcome?'
'Oh no, Louisa, it was done before I came. It was - '
Louisa turned upon her pillow, and heard no more. When her sister
had withdrawn, she turned her head back again, and lay with her
face towards the door, until it opened and her father entered.
He had a jaded anxious look upon him, and his hand, usually steady,
trembled in hers. He sat down at the side of the bed, tenderly
asking how she was, and dwelling on the necessity of her keeping
very quiet after her agitation and exposure to the weather last
night. He spoke in a subdued and troubled voice, very different
from his usual dictatorial manner; and was often at a loss for
'My dear Louisa. My poor daughter.' He was so much at a loss at
that place, that he stopped altogether. He tried again.
'My unfortunate child.' The place was so difficult to get over,
that he tried again.
'It would be hopeless for me, Louisa, to endeavour to tell you how
overwhelmed I have been, and still am, by what broke upon me last
night. The ground on which I stand has ceased to be solid under my
feet. The only support on which I leaned, and the strength of
which it seemed, and still does seem, impossible to question, has
given way in an instant. I am stunned by these discoveries. I
have no selfish meaning in what I say; but I find the shock of what
broke upon me last night, to be very heavy indeed.'
She could give him no comfort herein. She had suffered the wreck
of her whole life upon the rock.
'I will not say, Louisa, that if you had by any happy chance
undeceived me some time ago, it would have been better for us both;
better for your peace, and better for mine. For I am sensible that
it may not have been a part of my system to invite any confidence
of that kind. I had proved my - my system to myself, and I have
rigidly administered it; and I must bear the responsibility of its
failures. I only entreat you to believe, my favourite child, that
I have meant to do right.'
He said it earnestly, and to do him justice he had. In gauging
fathomless deeps with his little mean excise-rod, and in staggering