The Leavenworth Case HTML version
38. A Full Confession
"Between the acting of a dreadful thing,
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma or a hideous dream;
The genius and the mortal instruments
Are then in council; and the state of a man,
Like to a little Kingdom, suffers then
The nature of an insurrection."
I AM not a bad man; I am only an intense one. Ambition, love, jealousy, hatred, revenge-
-transitory emotions with some, are terrific passions with me. To be sure, they are quiet
and concealed ones, coiled serpents that make no stir till aroused; but then, deadly in their
spring and relentless in their action. Those who have known me best have not known this.
My own mother was ignorant of it. Often and often have I heard her say: "If Trueman
only had more sensibility! If Trueman were not so indifferent to everything! In short, if
Trueman had more power in him!"
It was the same at school. No one understood me. They thought me meek; called me
Dough-face. For three years they called me this, then I turned upon them. Choosing out
their ringleader, I felled him to the ground, laid him on his back, and stamped upon him.
He was handsome before my foot came down; afterwards--Well, it is enough he never
called me Dough-face again. In the store I entered soon after, I met with even less
appreciation. Regular at my work and exact in my performance of it, they thought me a
good machine and nothing more. What heart, soul, and feeling could a man have who
never sported, never smoked, and never laughed? I could reckon up figures correctly, but
one scarcely needed heart or soul for that. I could even write day by day and month by
month without showing a flaw in my copy; but that only argued I was no more than they
intimated, a regular automaton. I let them think so, with the certainty before me that they
would one day change their minds as others had done. The fact was, I loved nobody well
enough, not even myself, to care for any man's opinion. Life was well-nigh a blank to me;
a dead level plain that had to be traversed whether I would or not. And such it might have
continued to this day if I had never met Mary Leavenworth. But when, some nine months
since, I left my desk in the counting-house for a seat in Mr. Leavenworth's library, a
blazing torch fell into my soul whose flame has never gone out, and never will, till the
doom before me is accomplished.
She was so beautiful! When, on that first evening, I followed my new employer into the
parlor, and saw this woman standing up before me in her half-alluring, half-appalling
charm, I knew, as by a lightning flash, what my future would be if I remained in that
house. She was in one of her haughty moods, and bestowed upon me little more than a
passing glance. But her indifference made slight impression upon me then. It was enough
that I was allowed to stand in her presence and look unrebuked upon her loveliness. To
be sure, it was like gazing into the flower-wreathed crater of an awakening volcano. Fear