From Mathilda, by Mary Shelley.
He had promised to spend some hours with me one afternoon but a violent and continual rain prevented him. I was alone the whole evening. I had passed two whole years alone unrepining, but now I was miserable. He could not really care for me, I thought, for if he did the storm would rather have made him come even if I had not expected him, than, as it did, prevent a promised visit. He would well know that this drear sky and gloomy rain would load my spirit almost to madness: if the weather had been fine I should not have regretted his absence as heavily as I necessarily must shut up in this miserable cottage with no companions but my own wretched thoughts. If he were truly my friend he would have calculated all this; and let me now calculate this boasted friendship, and discover its real worth. He got over his grief for Elinor, and the country became dull to him, so he was glad to find even me for amusement; and when he does not know what else to do he passes his lazy hours here, and calls this friendship—It is true that his presence is a consolation to me, and that his words are sweet, and, when he will he can pour forth thoughts that win me from despair. His words are sweet,—and so, truly, is the honey of the bee, but the bee has a sting, and unkindness is a worse smart that that received from an insect’s venom. I will put him to the proof. He says all hope is dead to him, and I know that it is dead to me, so we are both equally fitted for death. Let me try if he will die with me; and as I fear to die alone, if he will accompany to cheer me, and thus he can shew himself my friend in the only manner my misery will permit.
It was madness I believe, but I so worked myself up to this idea that I could think of nothing else. If he dies with me it is well, and there will be an end of two miserable beings; and if he will not, then will I scoff at his friendship and drink the poison before him to shame his cowardice. I planned the whole scene with an earnest heart and franticly set my soul on this project. I procured Laudanum and placing it in two glasses on the table, filled my room with flowers and decorated the last scene of my tragedy with the nicest care.
1. My friend is coming over!
2. It’s raining but my friend is coming over!
3. It could never rain so hard that my friend wouldn’t come over!
4. He’ll be here. I have at least one friend in the world, and even if I don’t have anything else, I have that, and that’s enough. Some people don’t even have that. It’s enough. I can wait.
5. He’s not coming.
6. More specifically, he’s not coming even though I’m sure he knows that rain makes me particularly unhappy, and he is choosing not to come, or rather neglecting than choosing because he does not care enough about me to make an active decision. I have never once entered the transom of his mind. He is doing this on purpose; our entire friendship was a cruel game and I am only now realizing this.
7. He was only ever nice to me in order to further the hilarity of the eventual joke at my expense. Every time I thought we were being friends, he was building up my hopes for the purpose of crushing them now.
8. I should die, because life is just rain and people not coming over when they said they were going to.
9. Other people should also die.
10. He has one last chance to make things up to me, and he can only do it by dying right here, with me, in this room, drinking poison together. That’s the only way he can really prove that he is my friend. If he doesn’t come over, he’s not my friend; if he comes over and doesn’t drink poison, he’s even more not my friend; if we can die in each other’s arms because of our mutual hopelessness, then this friendship just might stand a chance.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.