Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/369

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365
THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL PAIN

smile, nor a finger clasp, nor a syllable could she give, in token of her recognition of the life about her. For a couple of years or longer the only expression possible was through her clear eyes, which always seemed to be automatically trying their best to tell how truly their owner responded, really if not voluntarily, to every effort to communicate with or to help or sustain her imprisoned spirit. Once in a while an explosion of meaningless laughter, so unlike the laughter of her former self, would startle one with its unexpectedness as well as quality, but would carry little or no meaning, as only exceptionally would there be any such response to the pleasantries (which it was remembered she formerly rejoiced in) as would suggest that impression and expression had remained very closely associable. Indeed, it was obvious enough that she had now become only a bundle of impressionable tissues, organs and centers, never so keen as now, never so liable to insult, never so pitiable; simply—was now practically helpless in body—yet absolutely as active in mind as ever. Not disembodied, but body-burdened, was her soul to continue through all these months, to see on, hear on, taste on, feel on, think on, hope or fear on, rebel or acquiesce on, love or hate on—but always to be increasingly conscious of the body that was dying, dying, yet ever alive to ache, to hinder, to endanger! With Dante how truly could she have said,

I did not die and I alive remained not.

Yet, to those who were closely about her, to the great world that but little more than heard about her, even to those who were under obligation to interpret as truthfully as possible, it may be doubted if any one ever got more than an inkling of the great mental anguish or even physical distress suffered by her, until she herself as pathetically as surely made it known. Assuredly, the manner and speech and life of the household and neighborhood did not evince much beyond commonplace understanding sympathy and effort. And as the most interested may now look back upon his own thought and care of her, how paltry, too, how inefficient, how bungling, compared with what it ought to have been or might have been, does it all now seem!

And so all had waited until, in spite of everything—in spite of the greatly augmented sensitiveness of impression, in spite of the locked-up systems of expression, in spite of slowly entombing fate, in spite of inner travail, pain and unhappiness—had waited until this most pathetic sufferer conceived and perseveringly gave to the world, what probably is absolutely unique in letters, and better than this, even, something which may possibly be so pondered by all who have to do with human suffering of any sort of the locked-in kind, that to the end of time the human heart universal shall be the better for her effort.

Imagine her then with but the slightest power of denoting her wishes, and this with uncountable bunglings and failures, sitting at her