'I descended — as I might have known I should, but that he fascinated me with his boyish courtship — into a doll, a trifle for the occupation of an idle hour, to be dropped, and taken up, and trifled with, as the inconstant humour took him. When he grew weary, I grew weary. As his fancy died out, I would no more have tried to strengthen any power I had, than I would have married him on his being forced to take me for his wife. We fell away from one another without a word. Perhaps you saw it, and were not sorry. Since then, I have been a mere disfigured piece of furniture between you both; having no eyes, no ears, no feelings, no remembrances. Moan? Moan for what you made him; not for your love. I tell you that the time was, when I loved him better than you ever did!'
She stood with her bright angry eyes confronting the wide stare, and the set face; and softened no more, when the moaning was repeated, than if the face had been a picture.
'Miss Dartle,' said I, 'if you can be so obdurate as not to feel for this afflicted mother — '
'Who feels for me?' she sharply retorted. 'She has sown this. Let her moan for the harvest that she reaps today!'
'And if his faults — ' I began.
'Faults!' she cried, bursting into passionate tears. 'Who dares malign him? He had a soul worth millions of the friends to whom he stooped!'
'No one can have loved him better, no one can hold him in dearer remembrance than I,' I replied. 'I meant to say, if you have no compassion for his mother; or if his faults — you have been bitter on them — '
'It's false,' she cried, tearing her black hair; 'I loved him!'
' — if his faults cannot,' I went on, 'be banished from your remembrance, in such an hour; look at that figure, even as one you have never seen before, and render it some help!'
All this time, the figure was unchanged, and looked unchangeable. Motionless, rigid, staring; moaning in the same dumb way from time to time, with the same helpless motion of the head; but giving no other sign of life. Miss Dartle suddenly kneeled down before it, and began to loosen the dress.
'A curse upon you!' she said, looking round at me, with a mingled expression of rage and grief. 'It was in an evil hour that you ever came here! A curse upon you! Go!'
After passing out of the room, I hurried back to ring the bell, the sooner to alarm the servants. She had then taken the impassive figure in her arms, and, still upon her knees, was weeping over it, kissing it, calling to it, rocking it to and fro upon her bosom like a child, and trying every tender means to rouse the dormant senses. No longer afraid of leaving her, I noiselessly turned back again; and alarmed the house as I went out.
Later in the day, I returned, and we laid him in his mother's room. She was just the same, they told me; Miss Dartle never left her; doctors were in attendance, many things had been tried; but she lay like a statue, except for the low sound now and then.
I went through the dreary house, and darkened the windows. The windows of the chamber where he lay, I darkened last. I lifted up the leaden hand, and held it to my heart; and all the world seemed death and silence, broken only by his mother's moaning.