With a sigh of relief he shut the door, and walked once or twice about the room, as though trying to shake off other people s affairs; then he bit off the end of a cigar, struck a match, and sat down. He put his hands deep into his pockets, and stretched his feet straight out in front of him.
It must be five years since I ve thought of it, he said to himself. He held his lighted cigar between his fingers, his chin sunk on his breast, his mouth set in that hard line which refuses to extenuate or evade; his eyes narrowed with thought. Five years: Yes, the memory had so faded and lessened that by and by it had ceased, and now it was as though, as he walked along the level path of daily life, a serpent suddenly lifted its evil head from the dust, and struck at him, hissing.
I was eighteen, he said to himself; no, nineteen. And now I m forty-two! Twenty-nine, thirty-nine it s twenty-three years ago. There is a hideous consciousness which comes to most of us men and women at one time or another in our lives, of our inability to get away from the past. From out of the roaring loom of Time comes the fabric of our lives; white, run, perhaps, with a warp of silver in our latter years; set, even, by the mercy of God, with deep jewels of experience; spangled with golden threads of opportunity; but back, in its beginnings what stains, what rents! dragged through what foul and primeval experiences of youth! Some, by environment and temperament, have nothing to blush for but follies; the joyous baseness of the young animal never broke through the conditions of their lives, or the dullness of their minds. But for most there are black spots from which, with wonder and disgust, the adult turns away his eyes: the cruelty and impurity of childhood; the ingratitude and meanness of youth. With the man, as with the race, that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural.