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Chapter III.3
The morning which was to decide all between my father and me, the morning on
whose event hung the future of my home life, was the brightest and loveliest that
my eyes ever looked on. A cloudless sky, a soft air, sunshine so joyous and
dazzling that the commonest objects looked beautiful in its light, seemed to be
mocking at me for my heavy heart, as I stood at my window, and thought of the
hard duty to be fulfilled, on the harder judgment that might be pronounced, before
the dawning of another day.
During the night, I had arranged no plan on which to conduct the terrible
disclosure which I was now bound to make--the greatness of the emergency
deprived me of all power of preparing myself for it. I thought on my father's
character, on the inbred principles of honour which ruled him with the stern
influence of a fanaticism: I thought on his pride of caste, so unobtrusive, so rarely
hinted at in words, and yet so firmly rooted in his nature, so intricately entwined
with every one of his emotions, his aspirations, his simplest feelings and ideas: I
thought on his almost feminine delicacy in shrinking from the barest mention of
impurities which other men could carelessly discuss, or could laugh over as good
material for an after-dinner jest. I thought over all this, and when I remembered
that it was to such a man that I must confess the infamous marriage which I had
contracted in secret, all hope from his fatherly affection deserted me; all idea of
appealing to his chivalrous generosity became a delusion in which it was
madness to put a moment's trust.
The faculties of observation are generally sharpened, in proportion as the
faculties of reflection are dulled, under the influence of an absorbing suspense.
While I now waited alone in my room, the most ordinary sounds and events in the
house, which I never remembered noticing before, absolutely enthralled me. It
seemed as if the noise of a footstep, the echo of a voice, the shutting or opening
of doors down stairs, must, on this momentous day, presage some mysterious
calamity, some strange discovery, some secret project formed against me, I
knew not how, or by whom. Two or three times I found myself listening intently on
the staircase, with what object I could hardly tell. It was always, however, on
those occasions, that a dread, significant quiet appeared to have fallen suddenly
on the house. Clara never came to me, no message arrived from my father; the
door-bell seemed strangely silent, the servants strangely neglectful of their duties
above stairs. I caught myself returning to my own room softly, as if I expected
that some hidden catastrophe might break forth, if sound of my footsteps were
Would my father seek me again in my own room, or would he send for me down
stairs? It was not long before the doubt was decided. One of the servants
knocked at my door--the servant whose special duty it had been to wait on me in
my illness. I longed to take the man's hand, and implore his sympathy and
encouragement while he addressed me.