Someone who once wronged you has fallen ill! Not an open enemy, perhaps; it may be that you are the only soul in the world who knows the offense they committed against you. These are the early hours of the first flush of triumph, and you must keep your wits and your blood about you! Will you plunge into sympathy? Will you wall yourself off in cool despair? Will you take the chance for revenge – or has Nature beaten you to it?
Are you ready to NURSE THEM?
I am already lightly daubing their fevered brow!
I am not ready – I must retreat first into my alchemical tower, to confer with shades, cast auguries, and inspect auspices – I am not yet equal to the moment! I am not ready! If there be a Genius of maladies – give me a little time, Spirit!
I am smiling into my sleeve as I prepare a remedy (and what a remedy it shall be, for it shall once and for all resolve this evil –!!)
I am gripping their thin hand with all my might, and whispering urgently!
Has this illness weakened your resolve? Where is your enmity?
This fever has broken it!! How can I add manufactured suffering to the world's natural sorrows, which are so heavy, so great? I should have forgiven sooner – I should have forgiven more!
I am troubled! My resolve is here – but so too is pity – and so too is the natural pleasure that is the child of ministration!
I am doubly resolved! First to destroy my enemy, and second to destroy the weakness towards my enemy that is in myself!
I cannot say – all I feel is the dizzying force of superiority that comes from seeing my own health and vigor contrasted with the sickbed! All I can think is I am well, I am well, I am whole and well –
Will they LIVE?
Of course you're going to live. Don't say things like that. You need to keep up your strength.
Don't be silly, darling!
I cannot bear it – I cannot bear it – where is the doctor? Why doesn't he come? Why does no one open a window? There is no air in this room, how can anyone be expected to get well when they can't breathe?
Only Time and I know that –
Will you FETCH THE BUCKET?
Let the maid fetch the bucket!
Oh, let the boy fetch the bucket!
I will fetch the bucket!
Here you are, darling – there now – it's already here, hush –
Do you REMEMBER THEIR HEALTH?
No – it's as if they have only ever been sick – as if the whole world has only ever been this sickroom with myself in it –
Yes. I must not forget it. I must never forget it. I must not slacken, I must keep before my mind's eye the very rudeness and flower of their health, the strength of their trespass against me – it is that figure I strike at, not this limp thing on a couch!
I remember it – but somehow I cannot make it real – it evaporates, like a fog, when I try to grasp it with my mind!
I have forgotten it! I will see they forget it! I will see that the world forgets there was ever a time when he was well!
I ASK AGAIN: WILL THEY LIVE?
Do not ask me!!
Yes – if only so I might be revenged upon their full strength! I will not triumph over a shade only half-conscious of my victory!
I say that tonight they will die at my feet!
Live – ay, live, and live long, and suffer much!
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]