4. CHAPTER IV
I have not a word to say about my own sensations.
My impression is that the shock inflicted on me completely
suspended my thinking and feeling power. I certainly could
not have known what I was about when Betteredge joined me--
for I have it on his authority that I laughed, when he asked
what was the matter, and putting the nightgown into his hands,
told him to read the riddle for himself.
Of what was said between us on the beach, I have not
the faintest recollection. The first place in which I can
now see myself again plainly is the plantation of firs.
Betteredge and I are walking back together to the house;
and Betteredge is telling me that I shall be able to face it,
and he will be able to face it, when we have had a glass
The scene shifts from the plantation, to Betteredge's little
sitting-room. My resolution not to enter Rachel's house is forgotten.
I feel gratefully the coolness and shadiness and quiet of the room.
I drink the grog (a perfectly new luxury to me, at that time of day),
which my good old friend mixes with icy-cold water from the well.
Under any other circumstances, the drink would simply stupefy me.
As things are, it strings up my nerves. I begin to "face it,"
as Betteredge has predicted. And Betteredge, on his side, begins to
"face it," too.
The picture which I am now presenting of myself, will, I suspect,
be thought a very strange one, to say the least of it.
Placed in a situation which may, I think, be described as entirely
without parallel, what is the first proceeding to which I resort?
Do I seclude myself from all human society? Do I set my mind
to analyse the abominable impossibility which, nevertheless,
confronts me as an undeniable fact? Do I hurry back to London
by the first train to consult the highest authorities,
and to set a searching inquiry on foot immediately?
No. I accept the shelter of a house which I had resolved
never to degrade myself by entering again; and I sit,
tippling spirits and water in the company of an old servant,
at ten o'clock in the morning. Is this the conduct that might
have been expected from a man placed in my horrible position?
I can only answer that the sight of old Betteredge's familiar
face was an inexpressible comfort to me, and that the drinking
of old Betteredge's grog helped me, as I believe nothing else
would have helped me, in the state of complete bodily and mental
prostration into which I had fallen. I can only offer this
excuse for myself; and I can only admire that invariable
preservation of dignity, and that strictly logical consistency
of conduct which distinguish every man and woman who may read
these lines, in every emergency of their lives from the cradle to