I did not mean to say this; but, father, you remember the last time we conversed in this room?'
He had been so wholly unprepared for what he heard now, that it was with difficulty he answered, 'Yes, Louisa.'
'What has risen to my lips now, would have risen to my lips then, if you had given me a moment's help. I don't reproach you, father. What you have never nurtured in me, you have never nurtured in yourself; but O! if you had only done so long ago, or if you had only neglected me, what a much better and much happier creature I should have been this day!'
On hearing this, after all his care, he bowed his head upon his hand and groaned aloud.
'Father, if you had known, when we were last together here, what even I feared while I strove against it - as it has been my task from infancy to strive against every natural prompting that has arisen in my heart; if you had known that there lingered in my breast, sensibilities, affections, weaknesses capable of being cherished into strength, defying all the calculations ever made by man, and no more known to his arithmetic than his Creator is, - would you have given me to the husband whom I am now sure that I hate?'
He said, 'No. No, my poor child.'
'Would you have doomed me, at any time, to the frost and blight that have hardened and spoiled me? Would you have robbed me - for no one's enrichment - only for the greater desolation of this world - of the immaterial part of my life, the spring and summer of my belief, my refuge from what is sordid and bad in the real things around me, my school in which I should have learned to be more humble and more trusting with them, and to hope in my little sphere to make them better?'
'O no, no. No, Louisa.'
'Yet, father, if I had been stone blind; if I had groped my way by my sense of touch, and had been free, while I knew the shapes and surfaces of things, to exercise my fancy somewhat, in regard to them; I should have been a million times wiser, happier, more loving, more contented, more innocent and human in all good respects, than I am with the eyes I have. Now, hear what I have come to say.'
He moved, to support her with his arm. She rising as he did so, they stood close together: she, with a hand upon his shoulder, looking fixedly in his face.
'With a hunger and thirst upon me, father, which have never been for a moment appeased; with an ardent impulse towards some region where rules, and figures, and definitions were not quite absolute; I have grown up, battling every inch of my way.'
'I never knew you were unhappy, my child.'
'Father, I always knew it. In this strife I have almost repulsed and crushed my better angel into a demon. What I have learned has left me doubting, misbelieving, despising, regretting, what I have not learned; and my dismal resource has been to think that life would soon go by, and that nothing in it could be worth the pain and trouble of a contest.'
'And you so young, Louisa!' he said with pity.
'And I so young. In this condition, father - for I show you now, without fear or favour, the ordinary deadened state of my mind as I know it - you proposed my husband to me. I took him. I never made a pretence to him or you that I loved him. I knew, and, father, you knew, and he knew, that I never did. I was not wholly indifferent, for I had a hope of being pleasant and useful to Tom. I made that wild escape into something visionary, and have slowly found out how wild it was. But Tom had been the subject of all the little tenderness of my life; perhaps he became so because I knew so well how to pity him. It matters little now, except as it may dispose you to think more leniently of his errors.'
As her father held her in his arms, she put her other hand upon his other shoulder, and still looking fixedly in his face, went on.
'When I was irrevocably married, there rose up into rebellion against the tie, the old strife, made fiercer by all those causes of disparity which arise out of our two individual natures, and which no general laws shall ever rule or state for me, father, until they shall be able to direct the anatomist where to strike his knife into the secrets of my soul.'
'Louisa!' he said, and said imploringly; for he well remembered what had passed between them in their former interview.