I have, over the years, had far too many moments when
My regard for someone shifted in but a few blinks,
But then it has almost only ever been from good to bad,
From trust to betrayal, from hope to devastation.
She is different. All of this is different. She did not lead
Me on in bad faith. She was banking on her friend's
Continued health, a reasonable assumption. She was
Hoping the worst would not come to pass. We all
Do that. And quite likely, as she is so trusting, and him
A clergyman! I feel the ground beneath my anger shift
Away from her. For a moment, I pity her, as she cries,
So abject in her tortured innocence. I often forget
Just how young she is, and if this had been going on,
As I hated to imagine, for years, since she was much
Younger… Sitting beside her, I look her in the eye,
Hold her face, kiss her forehead, grateful that finally
She told someone, told me, won't have to carry it all
Alone anymore, will know for certain from now on
That she will be kept safe. And she snuffles about
How she thought I'd be cross, that I'd expose her
When she wasn't fit or free to say yes to me--
And I pull her close, barely able to say more than
"No, no, no---" Then she leaps up to show me
The letter, finally, with his signature and seal,
And as I try to read, she says that she could tell
No one "as he said it would reflect just as badly
On me... I know you'll think I'm weak, and stupid..."
I stare at her, appalled she'd think I'd expose her,
Think her anything but taken advantage of,
Victimized by this so-called man of God.
She says, "If only I'd had someone like you
To confide in, this wouldn't have happened."
And I think her tribe of relations failed her,
But I also underestimated her, thinking her
Faint-hearted rather than fed-upon, silly
Rather than suffering. I think that she is
Correct. Had I but known, had I known her then
My horsewhip would have been bloodied quickly.