It took me half an hour to get myself into some kind of shape, and again and again I just wanted to throw myself on my bed and let the tears go on coming until the men arrived with their guns to finish me off. But the will to live came back into me with the familiar movements of doing my hair and of getting my body, sore and aching and weak with the memory of much greater pain, to do what I wanted, and slowly into the back of my mind there crept the possibility that I might have been through the worst. If not, why was I still alive? For some reason these men wanted me there and not out of the way. Sluggsy was so good with his gun that he could surely have killed me when I made a run for it. His bullets had come close, but hadn't they been just to frighten, to make me stop?
A moment, and I occupy my place in the Cathedral, where we all went together, every Sunday morning, assembling first at school for that purpose. The earthy smell, the sunless air, the sensation of the world being shut out, the resounding of the organ through the black and white arched galleries and aisles, are wings that take me back, and hold me hovering above those days, in a half-sleeping and half-waking dream.
I am certain of it in my heart, in my veins.' There was real fervour in the voice. 'But I am determined that my title shall be officially recognized. You will be most welcome to remain as my guest and I shall be constantly at your disposal to help with your researches.'
I had a great deal of work to do, and had many anxieties, but the same considerations made me keep them to myself. I am far from sure, now, that it was right to do this, but I did it for my child-wife's sake. I search my breast, and I commit its secrets, if I know them, without any reservation to this paper. The old unhappy loss or want of something had, I am conscious, some place in my heart; but not to the embitterment of my life. When I walked alone in the fine weather, and thought of the summer days when all the air had been filled with my boyish enchantment, I did miss something of the realization of my dreams; but I thought it was a softened glory of the Past, which nothing could have thrown upon the present time. I did feel, sometimes, for a little while, that I could have wished my wife had been my counsellor; had had more character and purpose, to sustain me and improve me by; had been endowed with power to fill up the void which somewhere seemed to be about me; but I felt as if this were an unearthly consummation of my happiness, that never had been meant to be, and never could have been.
I smiled because he smiled, but I was a little troubled in my mind, too.
Holding the door through which they had come, and waiting for them to move farther into the room so that she could cloge it, stood an older, rather matronly woman of about forty-five. She also had Chinese blood. Her appearance, wholesome, bosomy, eager, was almost excessively gracious. Her square cut pince-nez gleamed with the hostess's desire to make them feel at home.
If the room to which my bed was removed were a sentient thing that could give evidence, I might appeal to it at this day - who sleeps there now, I wonder! - to bear witness for me what a heavy heart I carried to it. I went up there, hearing the dog in the yard bark after me all the way while I climbed the stairs; and, looking as blank and strange upon the room as the room looked upon me, sat down with my small hands crossed, and thought.
I subsequently came across a piece of criticism which was written on me as a novelist by a brother novelist very much greater than myself, and whose brilliant intellect and warm imagination led him to a kind of work the very opposite of mine. This was Nathaniel Hawthorne, the American, whom I did not then know, but whose works I knew. Though it praises myself highly, I will insert it here, because it certainly is true in its nature: “It is odd enough,” he says, “that my own individual taste is for quite another class of works than those which I myself am able to write. If I were to meet with such books as mine by another writer, I don’t believe I should be able to get through them. Have you ever read the novels of Anthony Trollope? They precisely suit my taste — solid and substantial, written on the strength of beef and through the inspiration of ale, and just as real as if some giant had hewn a great lump out of the earth and put it under a glass case, with all its inhabitants going about their daily business, and not suspecting that they were being made a show of. And these books are just as English as a beef-steak. Have they ever been tried in America? It needs an English residence to make them thoroughly comprehensible; but still I should think that human nature would give them success anywhere.”