Then her conscience reproached her, and she yearned to say something
kind and loving; but she judged that this would be construed into a
confession that she had been in the wrong, and discipline forbade that.
So she kept silence, and went about her affairs with a troubled heart.
Tom sulked in a corner and exalted his woes. He knew that in her heart
his aunt was on her knees to him, and he was morosely gratified by the
consciousness of it. He would hang out no signals, he would take notice
of none. He knew that a yearning glance fell upon him, now and then,
through a film of tears, but he refused recognition of it. He pictured
himself lying sick unto death and his aunt bending over him beseeching
one little forgiving word, but he would turn his face to the wall, and
die with that word unsaid. Ah, how would she feel then? And he pictured
himself brought home from the river, dead, with his curls all wet, and
his sore heart at rest. How she would throw herself upon him, and how
her tears would fall like rain, and her lips pray God to give her back
her boy and she would never, never abuse him any more! But he would
lie there cold and white and make no sign--a poor little sufferer, whose
griefs were at an end. He so worked upon his feelings with the pathos of
these dreams, that he had to keep swallowing, he was so like to choke;
and his eyes swam in a blur of water, which overflowed when he winked,
and ran down and trickled from the end of his nose. And such a luxury to
him was this petting of his sorrows, that he could not bear to have any
worldly cheeriness or any grating delight intrude upon it; it was too
sacred for such contact; and so, presently, when his cousin Mary danced
in, all alive with the joy of seeing home again after an age-long visit
of one week to the country, he got up and moved in clouds and darkness
out at one door as she brought song and sunshine in at the other.
He wandered far from the accustomed haunts of boys, and sought desolate
places that were in harmony with his spirit. A log raft in the river
invited him, and he seated himself on its outer edge and contemplated
the dreary vastness of the stream, wishing, the while, that he could
only be drowned, all at once and unconsciously, without undergoing the
uncomfortable routine devised by nature. Then he thought of his flower.
He got it out, rumpled and wilted, and it mightily increased his dismal
felicity. He wondered if she would pity him if she knew? Would she
cry, and wish that she had a right to put her arms around his neck and
comfort him? Or would she turn coldly away like all the hollow world?
This picture brought such an agony of pleasurable suffering that he
worked it over and over again in his mind and set it up in new and
varied lights, till he wore it threadbare. At last he rose up sighing
and departed in the darkness.