The Legacy of Cain HTML version
32. The Middle-Aged Lady
In the year 1870 I found myself compelled to submit to the demands of two hard task-
Advancing age and failing health reminded the Governor of the Prison of his duty to his
successor, in one unanswerable word--Resign.
When they have employed us and interested us, for the greater part of our lives, we bid
farewell to our duties--even to the gloomy duties of a prison--with a sense of regret. My
view of the future presented a vacant prospect indeed, when I looked at my idle life to
come, and wondered what I should do with it. Loose on the world--at my age!--I drifted
into domestic refuge, under the care of my two dear and good sons. After a while (never
mind how long a while) I began to grow restless under the heavy burden of idleness.
Having nothing else to complain of, I complained of my health, and consulted a doctor.
That sagacious man hit on the right way of getting rid of me--he recommended traveling.
This was unexpected advice. After some hesitation, I accepted it reluctantly.
The instincts of age recoil from making new acquaintances, contemplating new places,
and adopting new habits. Besides, I hate railway traveling. However, I contrived to get as
far as Italy, and stopped to rest at Florence. Here, I found pictures by the old masters that
I could really enjoy, a public park that I could honestly admire, and an excellent friend
and colleague of former days; once chaplain to the prison, now clergyman in charge of
the English Church. We met in the gallery of the Pitti Palace; and he recognized me
immediately. I was pleased to find that the lapse of years had made so little difference in
my personal appearance.
The traveler who advances as far as Florence, and does not go on to Rome, must be
regardless indeed of the opinions of his friends. Let me not attempt to conceal it--I am
that insensible traveler. Over and over again, I said to myself: "Rome must be done"; and
over and over again I put off doing it. To own the truth, the fascinations of Florence,
aided by the society of my friend, laid so strong a hold on me that I believe I should have
ended my days in the delightful Italian city, but for the dangerous illness of one of my
sons. This misfortune hurried me back to England, in dread, every step of the way, of
finding that I had arrived too late. The journey (thank God!) proved to have been taken
without need. My son was no longer in danger, when I reached London in the year 1875.
At that date I was near enough to the customary limit of human life to feel the necessity
of rest and quiet. In other words, my days of travel had come to their end.
Having established myself in my own country, I did not forget to let old friends know
where they might find me. Among those to whom I wrote was another colleague of past
years, who still held his medical appointment in the prison. When I received the doctor's
reply, it inclosed a letter directed to me at my old quarters in the Governor's rooms. Who