The Guilty River
8. The Deaf Lodger
The letter was superscribed: "Private and Confidential." It was written in these words:
"Sir,--You will do me grievous wrong if you suppose that I am trying to force myself on
your acquaintance. My object in writing is to prevent you (if I can) from misinterpreting
my language and my conduct, on the only two occasions when we happen to have met.
"I am conscious that you must have thought me rude and ungrateful--perhaps even a little
mad--when I returned your kindness last night, in honoring me with a visit, by using
language which has justified you in treating me as a stranger.
"Fortunately for myself, I gave you my autobiography to read. After what you now know
of me, I may hope that your sense of justice will make some allowance for a man, tried (I
had almost written, cursed) by such suffering as mine.
"There are other deaf persons, as I have heard, who set me a good example.
"They feel the consolations of religion. Their sweet tempers find relief even under the
loss of the most precious of all the senses. They mix with society; submitting to their
dreadful isolation, and preserving unimpaired sympathy with their happier fellow-
creatures who can hear. I am not one of those persons. With sorrow I say it--I never have
submitted, I never can submit, to my hard fate.
"Let me not omit to ask your indulgence for my behavior, when we met at the cottage this
"What unfavorable impression I may have produced on you, I dare not inquire. So little
capable am I of concealing the vile feelings which sometimes get the better of me, that
Miss Cristel (observe that I mention her with respect) appears to have felt positive alarm,
on your account, when she looked at me.
"I may tell you, in confidence, that this charming person came to my side of the cottage,
as soon as you had taken your departure, to intercede with me in your favour. 'If your
wicked mind is planning to do evil to Mr. Roylake,' she wrote in my book, 'either you
will promise me to give it up, or I will never allow you to see me again; I will even leave
home secretly, to be out of your way.' In that strong language she expressed--how shall I
refer to it?--shall I say the sisterly interest that she felt in your welfare?"
I laid down the letter for a moment. If I had not already reproached myself for having
misjudged Cristel--and if I had not, in that way, done her some little justice in my own
better thoughts--I should never have recovered my self-respect after reading the deaf
man's letter. The good girl! The dear good girl! Yes: that was how I thought of her, under
the windows of my stepmother's boudoir--while Mrs. Roylake, for all I knew to the