The nearer I approached to our own door, the more reluctance I felt to pass the
short interval between my first and second interview with Mr. Sherwin, at home.
When I entered the house, this reluctance increased to something almost like
dread. I felt unwilling and unfit to meet the eyes of my nearest and dearest
relatives. It was a relief to me to hear that my father was not at home. My sister
was in the house: the servant said she had just gone into the library, and inquired
whether he should tell her that I had come in. I desired him not to disturb her, as
it was my intention to go out again immediately.
I went into my study, and wrote a short note there to Clara; merely telling her that
I should be absent in the country for two days. I had sealed and laid it on the
table for the servant to deliver, and was about to leave the room, when I heard
the library door open. I instantly drew back, and half-closed my own door again.
Clara had got the book she wanted, and was taking it up to her own sitting-room.
I waited till she was out of sight, and then left the house. It was the first time I had
ever avoided my sister--my sister, who had never in her life asked a question, or
uttered a word that could annoy me; my sister, who had confided all her own little
secrets to my keeping, ever since we had been children. As I thought on what I
had done, I felt a sense of humiliation which was almost punishment enough for
the meanness of which I had been guilty.
I went round to the stables, and had my horse saddled immediately. No idea of
proceeding in any particular direction occurred to me. I simply felt resolved to
pass my two days' ordeal of suspense away from home--far enough away to
keep me faithful to my promise not to see Margaret. Soon after I started, I left my
horse to his own guidance, and gave myself up to my thoughts and recollections,
as one by one they rose within me. The animal took the direction which he had
been oftenest used to take during my residence in London--the northern road.
It was not until I had ridden half a mile beyond the suburbs that I looked round
me, and discovered towards what part of the country I was proceeding. I drew
the rein directly, and turned my horse's head back again, towards the south. To
follow the favourite road which I had so often followed with Clara; to stop perhaps
at some place where I had often stopped with her, was more than I had the
courage or the insensibility to do at that moment.
I rode as far as Ewell, and stopped there: the darkness had overtaken me, and it
was useless to tire my horse by going on any greater distance. The next
morning, I was up almost with sunrise; and passed the greater part of the day in
walking about among villages, lanes, and fields, just as chance led me. During
the night, many thoughts that I had banished for the last week had returned--
those thoughts of evil omen under which the mind seems to ache, just as. the
body aches under a dull, heavy pain, to which we can assign no particular place
or cause. Absent from Margaret, I had no resource against the oppression that
now overcame me. I could only endeavour to alleviate it by keeping incessantly
in action; by walking or riding, hour after hour, in the vain attempt to quiet the