Democracy An American Novel
THE next morning Carrington called at the Department and announced his acceptance
of the post. He was told that his instructions would be ready in about a fortnight, and
that he would be expected to start as soon as he received them; in the meanwhile, he
must devote himself to the study of a mass of papers in the Department. There was no
trifling allowable here.
Carrington had to set himself vigorously to work. This did not, however, prevent him
from keeping his appointment with Sybil, and at four o'clock they started together,
passing out into the quiet shadows of Rock Creek, and seeking still lanes through the
woods where their horses walked side by side, and they themselves could talk without
the risk of criticism from curious eyes. It was the afternoon of one of those sultry and
lowering spring days when life germinates rapidly, but as yet gives no sign, except
perhaps some new leaf or flower pushing its soft head up against the dead leaves that
have sheltered it. The two riders had something of the same sensation, as though the
leafless woods and the laurel thickets, the warm, moist air and the low clouds, were a
protection and a soft shelter. Somewhat to Carrington's surprise, he found that it was
pleasant to have Sybil's company. He felt towards her as to a sister--a favourite sister.
She at once attacked him for abandoning her and breaking his treaty so lately made,
and he tried to gain her sympathy by saying that if she knew how much he was
troubled, she would forgive him. Then when Sybil asked whether he really must go and
leave her without any friend whom she could speak to, his feelings got the better of him:
he could not resist the temptation to confide all his troubles in her, since there was no
one else in whom he could confide. He told her plainly that he was in love with her
"You say that love is nonsense, Miss Ross. I tell you it is no such thing.
For weeks and months it is a steady physical pain, an ache about the heart, never
leaving one, by night or by day; a long strain on one's nerves like toothache or
rheumatism, not intolerable at any one instant, but exhausting by its steady drain on the
strength. It is a disease to be borne with patience, like any other nervous complaint, and
to be treated with counter-irritants. My trip to Mexico will be good for it, but that is not
the reason why I must go."
Then he told her all his private circumstances; the ruin which the war had brought on
him and his family; how, of his two brothers, one had survived the war only to die at
home, a mere wreck of disease, privation, and wounds; the other had been shot by his
side, and bled slowly to death in his arms during the awful carnage in the Wilderness;
how his mother and two sisters were struggling for a bare subsistence on a wretched
Virginian farm, and how all his exertions barely kept them from beggary.