He did not leave for Cambridge the next day, as he had said he would. He
deferred his departure a whole week, and during that time he made me feel what
severe punishment a good yet stern, a conscientious yet implacable man can
inflict on one who has offended him. Without one overt act of hostility, one
upbraiding word, he contrived to impress me momently with the conviction that I
was put beyond the pale of his favour.
Not that St. John harboured a spirit of unchristian vindictiveness--not that he
would have injured a hair of my head, if it had been fully in his power to do so.
Both by nature and principle, he was superior to the mean gratification of
vengeance: he had forgiven me for saying I scorned him and his love, but he had
not forgotten the words; and as long as he and I lived he never would forget
them. I saw by his look, when he turned to me, that they were always written on
the air between me and him; whenever I spoke, they sounded in my voice to his
ear, and their echo toned every answer he gave me.
He did not abstain from conversing with me: he even called me as usual each
morning to join him at his desk; and I fear the corrupt man within him had a
pleasure unimparted to, and unshared by, the pure Christian, in evincing with
what skill he could, while acting and speaking apparently just as usual, extract
from every deed and every phrase the spirit of interest and approval which had
formerly communicated a certain austere charm to his language and manner. To
me, he was in reality become no longer flesh, but marble; his eye was a cold,
bright, blue gem; his tongue a speaking instrument--nothing more.
All this was torture to me--refined, lingering torture. It kept up a slow fire of
indignation and a trembling trouble of grief, which harassed and crushed me
altogether. I felt how--if I were his wife, this good man, pure as the deep sunless
source, could soon kill me, without drawing from my veins a single drop of blood,
or receiving on his own crystal conscience the faintest stain of crime. Especially I
felt this when I made any attempt to propitiate him. No ruth met my ruth. He
experienced no suffering from estrangement- -no yearning after reconciliation;
and though, more than once, my fast falling tears blistered the page over which
we both bent, they produced no more effect on him than if his heart had been
really a matter of stone or metal. To his sisters, meantime, he was somewhat
kinder than usual: as if afraid that mere coldness would not sufficiently convince
me how completely I was banished and banned, he added the force of contrast;
and this I am sure he did not by force, but on principle.
The night before he left home, happening to see him walking in the garden about
sunset, and remembering, as I looked at him, that this man, alienated as he now
was, had once saved my life, and that we were near relations, I was moved to
make a last attempt to regain his friendship. I went out and approached him as
he stood leaning over the little gate; I spoke to the point at once.
"St. John, I am unhappy because you are still angry with me. Let us be friends."
"I hope we are friends," was the unmoved reply; while he still watched the rising
of the moon, which he had been contemplating as I approached.