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11. CHAPTER XI: MISS AMEDROZ IS TOO CANDID BY HALE (continued)
She became conscious, as she was preparing herself for dinner, of some special attention to her toilet. She was more than ordinarily careful with her hair, and felt herself to be aware of an anxiety to look her best. She had now been for some time so accustomed to dress herself in black, that in that respect her aunt's death had made no difference to her. Deep mourning had ceased from habit to impress her with any special feeling of funereal solemnity. But something about herself, or in the room, at last struck her with awe, bidding her remember how death had of late been busy among those who had been her dearest and nearest friends; and she sat down, almost frightened at her own heartlessness, in that she was allowing herself to be happy at such a time. Her aunt had been carried away to her grave only yesterday, and her brother's death had occurred under circumstances of peculiar distress within the year and yet she was happy, triumphant almost lost in the joy of her own position! She remained for a while in her chair, with her black dress hanging across her lap, as she argued with herself as to her own state of mind. Was it a sign of a hard heart within her, that she could be happy at such a time? Ought the memory of her poor brother to have such an effect upon her as to make any joy of spirits impossible to her? Should she at the present moment be so crushed by her aunt's demise, as to be incapable of congratulating herself upon her own success? Should she have told him, when he asked her that question upon the bridge, that there could be no marrying or giving in marriage between them, no talking on such a subject in days so full of sorrow as these? I do not know that she quite succeeded in recognizing it as a truth that sorrow should be allowed to bar out no joy that it does not bar out of absolute necessity by its own weight, without reference to conventional ideas; that sorrow should never, under any circumstances, be nursed into activity, as though it were a thing in itself divine or praiseworthy. I do not know that she followed out her arguments till she had taught herself that it is the Love that is divine the Love which, when outraged by death or other severance, produces that sorrow which man would control if he were strong enough, but which he cannot control by reason of the weakness of his humanity. I doubt whether so much as this made itself plain to her, as she sat there before her toilet table, with her sombre dress hanging from her hands on to the ground. But something of the strength of such reasoning was hers. Knowing herself to be full of joy, she would not struggle to make herself believe that it behoved her to be unhappy. She told herself that she was doing what was good for others as well as for herself what would be very good for her father, and what should be good, if it might be within her power to make it so, for him who was to be her husband. The blackness of the cloud of her brother's death would never altogether pass away from her. It had tended, as she knew well, to make her serious, grave, and old, in spite of her own efforts to the contrary. The cloud had been so black with her that it had nearly lost for her the prize which was now her own. But she told herself that that blackness was an injury to her, and not a benefit, and that it had now become a duty to her for his sake, if not for her own to dispel its shadows rather than encourage them. She would go down to him full of joy, though not full of mirth, and would confess to him frankly, that in receiving the assurance of his love, she had received everything that had seemed to have any value for her in the world.
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