- chapter: II
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June the twenty-fifth.
WHERE shall I find a name for the thing which has befallen me? It seems to me as if there were no name for it in earth or heaven. If I call it joy, I shrink away from the word; and if I call it altogether fear, I know that I do it a wrong: but if I call it hope, I find that my fear pulls my hope down, as the drowning pulls down his rescuer.
Yet I cannot deny that I am happy. I would if I could, for I certainly am not comfortable. Write it down, Marna Trent--fling it into black and white, and let it stare you out of your sane senses. See! How do you like the looks of it?
You have promised a man that you would be his wife. You have promised--a--MAN--that you would be his wife.
47 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEanything that might be mentioned, except that one dreadful thing. I am afraid I did say "wife." No; now I think of it, it was he who said that. All I said was "Yes," and, on the whole, sometime, perhaps, I would; and all I did was not to turn him out of the room after I had said it. That isn't strictly true, either. It wasn't quite all I did. As for him, he did so many things that I don't dare to think of them, because, if I do, the Wilderness Girl in me comes up, and I feel as if I could call out my whole tribe and have them kill him on the spot--I do indeed.
But the perfectly ridiculous thing about that is that if I saw so much as a woodpecker nipping at him, I should kill the woodpecker! And if I saw anybody really trying to do him any harm, all the tomahawks of colonial history would have to hit me first. I think I should feel a positive ecstasy in a tomahawk that was meant for him.
This seems to me a pitiable state of mind for a girl to be in. I don't respect it; really, I don't. There 's a part of me that stands off and looks on at myself, and keeps quite collected and sane, and says, "What a lunatic that girl is!" But the Wilderness Girl doesn't mind the other girl a bit, and this is what mortifies me so.
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I don't think I will write any more to-night. I'm ashamed to. I don't know what I might say. I'm afraid the Accepted Manuscript would reject me altogether if I should once let myself go and offer it any such copy as comes pouring upon this paper, hot and fast, like the drops of my heart's blood. I'll shut the book and go to bed.
An hour later.
I CAN'T do it. I've got as far as my hair and my slippers--and my white gown (for it is such a warm night, and no moon, just that sultry darkness which smothers the breath out of you, soul and body)--the gown with elbow-sleeves and the Valenciennes yoke. It is rather pretty. Nobody ever sees me in it but Maggie; only once in a while when Father rings, and I run down in a hurry. Maggie thinks it is becoming; but Father asked me if I didn't take cold in it. I've always been fond of this gown. Sometimes I wish the sleeves were longer.
Now I think of it, I must have been out of my right mind. I shall have to write and tell him so. I wonder if it wasn't a sunstroke I was out at noon, in the garden, rather long to-day. They say people do such queer things after sun-
49 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEstrokes. Job had something like a sunstroke, I 'm convinced. It was trying to find Job that I got into the sun. He was up in the tree-house, and it was hotter than anything; and he only shook hands, he was so weak, and didn't kiss me at all.
I DON'T see, in the least, why Mr. Herwin should have felt called upon to make up for Job's omission.
I HAD to give him sherbet, and put cracked ice on the back of his neck--I mean Job's neck. Job is much better. He is snoring in his basket, with his four feet up in the air. I shingled him to-day. He has kept his winter flannels on too long, the poor dear thing. I'm afraid I have neglected Job lately. I mean to devote myself to him exclusively hereafter.
MR. HERWIN'S hair does curl beautifully, and it is so much softer than one would have thought.
Two hours later.
50 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEdrown myself in seaweed and shells, because I am afraid to wade in and dare the ocean.
Plunge, Marna Trent! Admit it once for all. You love this man so much--so much--there is nothing you will not think, or feel, or do, or be, for his dear sake. You will even be his wife, because he wishes it. And what is there more than that a girl could do for a man's sake?
WHY do you have to write your soul, I wonder? Other people don't. They talk it, or they keep it to themselves and don't express it at all. Sometimes I suspect that is the best thing to do with souls--lock them up. But I haven't got that kind. Mine is a jack-in-the-box, and is always pushing the lid and jumping up. Well, if you've got to write, stop writing to yourself, and write to him, then. Sit down here, in your pretty lace gown, alone in your own room, at two o'clock in the morning, and tell this man whose wife you have promised to be how you feel about him now, at the very beginning of everything. I don't believe you could do a better thing. Come to think of it, he might rather like it, on the whole.
51 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEmight be agreeable to you. But now that I am trying to write it, I am not sure that I have begun it just right. I will send this as it stands, and try again. Faithfully yours, "MARNA TRENT."
I am not sleeping very well to-night,--I've been anxious about Job, on account of his sunstroke,--and so I thought I would write a line to you, and put it in the first volume of 'Rufus Choate' to-morrow. It is very I strange, but now I feel quite willing to put notes in 'Rufus Choate,' and I sha'n't be troubled if you send things by Maggie."Your affectionate "MARNA TRENT."
what have we done? Oh, what have we done? Why did you make me love you? I was quite happy before. All my days rose and set in peaceful easts and wests--gray and rose and sunlight colors. Now I am caught up into a stormy sky, dashed with scarlet and purple and fire, and swept along,--I don't know where, I don't know why,--carried away from myself, as I used to dream that I should be if I let myself out of the window, and did not fall, but were taken up by the wind, and borne to the
52 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEtops of the elms--never any higher, so as to be dangerous, but whirled along over the heads of people, out of everybody's reach.
"Now we are swept along together, you and I, and I am out of everybody's reach, but yours. And now that I and my dream are one, I am afraid of my dream; and I am afraid of you. Why did you love me? Why did you make me, why did you let me, love you? For you did--you know you did: you made me do it. I didn't want to love you. Haven't I entreated you, by every look and word and tone these ten weeks past, not to make me love you? My heart has been a beggar at your feet all the spring and summer, praying to you not to let me love you. You know it has. You are not a stupid man. You knew I didn't mean to love you, Dana Herwin; or, if you didn't know it, then I take it back, and you are a stupid man, and you deserve to be told so. Of course you know I had to be decent and friendly, and I didn't keep out of your way altogether. How could I? If I hadn't been friendly with you, that would have been telling. Nothing gives away the secret of a girl's heart quicker than that--not to dare to be friends with a man. She might as well propose to him and done with it, I think. Of course I had to treat you prettily.
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"But I didn't want to love you this way--not this way. I didn't want to marry you. I never thought of such a dreadful thing! And I wish you to understand, sir, that it is very disagreeable to me to think of it now. I will be honest with you at the beginning of everything. If a woman is honest with herself and her love, she must be honest with the man she loves. And I tell you, sir,--for it is the truth, and I've got to tell you,--if I could unlove you I would do it this minute, and stand by the consequences. I believe I'll try. If you don't have any more notes from me, you will know I have succeeded."Yours, M. T."
The light fell, and the dusk rose, and they twain, the escaped and the pursuing, the fleeing and the seeking, were alone on that part of the river. For it is not a frequented part of the river. And the princess hid from him.
"I AM sorry if it doesn't please you that I send notes without beginnings. I've tried a good many different ones, but they do not suit me. Perhaps it is because I don't quite see ends. How solemn a thing is a beginning without an end! A love that is never to have an end seems to me more sacred to think of than a life that is to have no end; because you can live
54 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEwithout loving, but you can't love without living, and the moment life and love become one--that is a terrible moment. I wrote long ago, in something I have that nobody sees, that joy is terrible. But you don't seem to think so, and that is what perplexes me.
"I remember a book my mother gave me when I was a little girl--I keep it now with my Bible. It is called 'A Story Without an End,' and is one of those old-time allegories about the human soul. A Child who was always spelled with a big C lived in a hut in a forest, alone with the birds and the butterflies, the flowers and the animals, and a little looking-glass covered with cobwebs in which he tried to see himself. And the bluebells were taller than the Child, and delighted me. There was a chapter on Faith, and one on Aspiration, and one on Love; and it seemed to me I understood the chapter stories about Faith, and even about Aspiration, but the one about Love I could not understand, and it troubled me. I seemed to sit down before it as the Child sat under the bluebells that were taller than himself--with his chin in his hands--this way. I'll show you next time we are in the drawing-room together. That is, if you won't disturb me; for I tell you at the beginning, I can't bear to have
55 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEmy chin touched. If you ever do that, I shall know that you wish to quarrel with me badly. You are quite mistaken that I have a dimple there. Nobody else ever told me so. My dimple is in my left cheek. I consider it a kind of embezzlement to create dimples where they don't exist, and much worse to make them an excuse for doing things.
"Sir, you kissed my chin yesterday, when I had asked you not to. This is the reason I am writing you without beginnings. The bluebells are taller than I to-day, and you must leave me alone with them in my forest. I shall stay there till you have learned not to--Why do you do things I ask you not to? I don't love you for it--truly I don't. I suppose some women would. But when a man chooses a Wilderness Girl, he must not expect her to be precisely like all the other girls, and, in my opinion, he should treat her accordingly. No, I am not ready yet to wear rings for people. When I am, I'll let you know. Nor I don't care what stone it is, as long as it isn't a diamond. I don't know how much I love you,--I admit that,--and I want you to understand that you don't know, either. Perhaps it is not so very much; who knows? Perhaps a little more than that--I can't say. But I do know
56 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEthat I could not vulgarize my love for you--whether it be little, or much, or less--by making myself prisoner to a commonplace solitaire.
"Why need I be a prisoner at all? I'm sure I can love you quite as much without rings."Lovingly and loyally,
"I THINK, on the whole, if I'd got to wear any, I'd like it to be a ruby; a small ruby, deep at the heart, and fed by an aorta of blazing color that you must take a little on trust, but get glimpses of once in a while, if you know how to treat the ruby and handle it just right. Of course it must be a carmine ruby--not one of those magenta things. I am not at all prepared for any kind of rubies yet. Really, you must not bother me and hurry me so. It makes me a little fretful. I shall run off into my forest if I am hurried, and then no man can find me--not even you, sir.
"This evening you annoyed me. I think once when you come, and once when you go, is enough. I do, indeed."
57 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEIf you will like it, if it will make you happy, I will wear your ring. You may put it on to-morrow evening. For truly I do wish to make you happy. MARNA.
P.S. Be patient with me. I know I make you a great deal of trouble, but indeed, indeed, I cannot help it. It is my nature, I'm afraid. But what is nature? It seems to me a trackless place; a great tropical jungle where it is easy to get lost on foot, or a vast space of ether where it is possible to get lost on wings. After all, I am rather young, though I don't feel as if I were,--no motherless girl does, I think,--and I don't always know the difference between my feet and wings. All I know is that I love you. And a ruby is love incarnate. Bind me to you with your ruby, my dear Love! Then I cannot get away if I would, and perhaps--who knows?--perhaps I would not if I could, for I am, and God knows I want to be,"Your MARNA."
My dear dead Mother out somewhere in the wide summer night, I write a note to you. Did any girl ever write a letter to her dead mother before? Oh, I don't know, but, Mother, I must! I am such a lonely girl!
58 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEhave nobody to speak to--I cannot talk to the girls I know, and there isn't any older woman who has ever shown a mother-heart to me that I could care for, to turn to now. Mother, don't forget me in your grand heaven! I never needed you so much when I was a little crying baby on your heart,--a little black-faced baby holding its breath till it almost died because it couldn't get what it wanted, the way they tell me I used to do,--I never needed you so much when I wore pink socks and little crocheted sacks, as I do to-day. I wonder if you remember about the socks and the sacks, up there in your great silence? Have the angels driven baby-clothes out of your heart? I don't believe it! Because I remember how much you littled me, before you died--I don't see many mothers like you in these grown-up days. Once, when you had been to Montreal with Father, and I had that typhoid fever and so nearly died, and you came home, and got to my bed without anybody's telling me, and I thought it was the strange nurse, but something fell on my face, hot, fast,--drop after drop, splashing down,--I thought: 'Nurses don't cry over little girl patients,' and I looked, and they were my mother's tears, and it was my mother's face.
59 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEMy mother's face! Lean down to mine a little, out of heaven, if you can.
Kiss me, Mother--if they will let you. I have told him I would wear his ruby ring."
So the princess, for she was royal, gainsaid him not.
I have worn it five hours. I cannot stand it another minute. It seems to cut into my finger, and to eat my flesh like fire. I feel as if I were led, a prisoner. It seems to me like handcuffs. I don't like it at all; I really don't.
"I have taken it off, and, you see, it fell on the floor. It has rolled away under the bureau. Job has gone to try to find it. Probably he thinks it is a collar. I'm sure I shouldn't blame if he did. It strikes me, I must say, very in that same light.
Pray don't feel at all hurt if I return it to to-morrow. You won't, will you? Really, I don't wish to be rude, or to hurt your feelings. If I supposed it possible that you could try to understand--but men are born so dull. I don't know why. I think God found his finest nature unemployed on the making of Adam, and so poor Eve was sacrificed to its expression.
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"I don't mean anything profane, either. Truly, I think only the Being who created her can possibly understand how a woman feels.
"Shall I send you back the ruby?"Your troubled "WILDERNESS GIRL.
"P.S. Job has found the ring. He made a ball of it, and rolled it all over the floor, before I could stop him. Then he took it and shook it, and dropped it in his bowl of water--the wine-colored glass finger-bowl that I keep in my room for him. So it is quite clean, and not hurt a bit.
"P.P.S. It is a wonderful ruby. I admire your taste in selecting it, even if I cannot wear your ring. I don't think I ever saw a finer. It has a heart as deep as life and as shy as love; and the color is something so exquisite that I could look at it all night."
I am sorry. I was wrong and foolish, like a pouting child. And I will wear it, after all. When you took my ringless hand so gently, and looked at it so sadly, and laid it down without a word, I could have curled myself against your heart, and put my arms about you, and
61 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFElifted my lips to you of my own free will. No; I know I didn't. But I punish myself by telling you what I feel like doing, if that is any comfort to you. I never saw you look so glorious in my life. If ever I should marry you, sir, I shall spoil you, for I shall let you know what a handsome man you are. There's something about your hair--and the pose of your head. And your eyes are like a revolving light in a lighthouse, I think: they darken and blaze, and then I miss a revolution, and they blaze and darken. I sometimes wish I could see your mouth. The other way of getting acquainted with it does not seem quite judicial. Of course a dark mustache becomes you, but still it is a little like a mask or a domino, after all, isn't it? Once in a while it comes over me--like that! What kind of man is in his mouth? All I know to-night is that he is a man dear to me; so dear that when I am with him I cannot let him know how dear he is, and when I am away from him I cannot do anything but write him notes to try to tell him.
That last of yours (by Maggie) was a lovely letter. I suppose it is what people call a love-letter. I wish I could send you anything like that. It took my breath away. I felt smothered. But I cannot write like that. No. My heart
62 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEsteps back and waits for yours. I should like you to write me on and on like that forever, and I should like to answer you always far beyond you, always stepping back a little--waiting for you, on forever, till you overtook me.
"Perhaps, if I had my way, you never should overtake me. I grant you that. But it is just possible I might not be let to have my way; and I recognize that, too.
"If you come into the tree-house to-morrow evening, after Father is done with you, there will be a moon--and Job--and perhaps a girl. And you may put the ring where it belongs."For I am
"Your penitent "MARNA.
"P.S. That is, if I don't change my mind by that time. I warn you, I'm capable of it.
"P.P.S. Job is too jealous for anything. He positively sulks when I mention you by name. I don't suppose you noticed how he growled when you kissed my chin that evening. I am glad you don't do it lately, for I think he might snap at you and hurt you. He doesn't look formidable, I own, but that is the very kind that does the most harm--in men and dogs."
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"Thou dearest! It was Eden in the tree-house. And I wear thy ruby ring."Thy "MARNA.
P.S. Did you ever dream of such a moon in the wildest and dearest dream you ever had? I never did. It swam in a new heaven; and we--we were in a new earth; and every flower in the garden needed a new name. My heart was a Child (with a big C) sitting at the feet of the garden, as (you said) your love knelt down at mine. Every flower was taller than I--the haughty fleur-de-lis, and the tender white roses, even the modest pansies, and the little, plain candytuft, that looks like daily life and pleasant duty--they all seemed to tower above me, like flowers of a strange country of which I did know the botany. Love, I think, is flora without a botany. You cannot name a feeling, and classify it, when you love. It would escape you and you,
Under its solemn fillet see the scorn.
64 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEI was afraid I should cry--truly I was--all the time.
"Alas! you are a man, and you cannot understand what I mean. But the ruby understands. That is the nature of a ruby: it knows everything about love, and something about a woman."MARNA, Prisoner."
I heard a story to-day. Senator Gray told it at lunch, and I meant to tell you it this evening, but, somehow, I didn't.
"A young medical student loved a girl, and became betrothed to her. (I like that word 'betrothal,' as I told you. Father knew a great poet, once, who announced to his friends 'the betrothal of my daughter.' Nobody ever spoke of that girl as 'engaged' after that!) So my medical student loved a girl, and--no, on consideration, he became engaged.
"You and I, if you please, are betrothed. But I am sure the fine and stately word would blush to own that man, though he loved the girl, after his fashion, and she was a sweet, womanly girl--I know about the family. And so he went abroad to finish his studies on the Continent. There he dissected and experimented, and went through the modern laboratories, and came
65 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEout of them and back to his own land, and went to see the girl.
"And when she asked him what was the matter, and why he was so changed, and what gave his eyes that new, cold look, he said:
"In all my studies I have not found love. I have dissected and experimented, and been through the laboratories. I have searched, and I do not find anything that can be called love. I have dissected a great many brains and hearts, and I have drawn conclusions. I have come across some points in toxicology, and I have reason to believe I am on the track of a new method of antisepsis--but I have not discovered love. I am beginning to think that there is no such thing. It cannot be proved. My scalpel has never touched it. My microscope has never seen it. I am forced to the conclusion that it does not exist. It cannot be proved.'
"'Very well,' said the girl; 'if you cannot prove the existence of love, I can.'
"'Prove it to me!' cried the young man, anxiously, for he really liked the girl. 'I shall be under obligations to you if you can convince me of the existence of love.'
66 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEback to his physiological laboratories, where he is experimenting and dissecting to this day.
"But the girl took a Sunday-school class and joined the Associated Charities.
"I thought you would enjoy that story. Dear, I thought I loved you when you said you liked my looks by the moonlight, in my Mayflower dress. But I love you more now than I did then.
"It is the most curious thing--the moment I am away from you I want to sit right down and write a note to you. I am glad you feel you feel the same way. I have quite a pile of them, all locked up, because Job chews them so. He seems to know they are yours, and takes the most violent aversion to them. One night he tore that one to pieces--do you remember?--the one I told you I didn't just exactly like. I don't mean, of course, that it wasn't quite a right letter. One reason I like you so much is because you are such a gentleman. But, somehow, it made me feel as if I wanted to go and show it to my mother, and she is dead, and I couldn't do it. Job bit that note all up, so I had to burn it; there wasn't a legible word left in it. Perhaps I am a little bit of a Puritan, as you say. But I can't help it. I am born
67 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEthat way. I like to be loved finely--if you know what I mean; and perhaps I like to be loved quietly. I think you must know, because nobody can be finer than you, or more quiet, either, when you feel like it. Sometimes I think there are two of you, and the other one is strong and masterful, and rides over things and people and feelings, and has its own way at any cost. Forgive me, Dear; perhaps I should not say these things. But you know there are two of me also, and one girl stands off and judges the other girl--and sometimes looks on at you as if you were not mine, but belonged to some other woman. I don't think I am as fond of a masterful, man, not just of his mere masterfulness, as most girls are. It doesn't seem to confuse me, or make me see things differently. If we were up in a captive balloon together, over the tops of the elms, in an easterly storm, and you said, 'Come! We will free the balloon and ride on the storm,' I suppose there are girls who would put their arms about your neck and say, 'Yes, if you wish it, we will ride on the storm.' But I should probably say:
"'Dana, let's keep our heads and go down.'
68 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEand you carried me into the house, and I saw how noble you were, and strong, and grand, I should--oh, my dear! I would make it up to you.
"Once you told me I was cold--to you. I was sorry. But I didn't say anything. I only: wished you had understood. I think I am writing this note to try to make you understand."Your "MARNA, Betrothed."
Now, for the first time in my life, I know what distance means. I thought I knew, of course. The curious thing about inexperience is that it does not recognize its master in experience; perhaps, if it did, it would cease to be inexperience. That reminds me that you told me once that I spelled love with a small l instead of with. a large one like most women, and that you should never be satisfied with mine until you had taught me to read it with a capital L, and another word with a capital M. I think you said it was the very essence of loving, in a woman, to spell her feeling properly--and that, as long as she did not, she was still half unwon. I wonder how you happen to think you know what is the essence of loving in a woman?
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"At least, I have got so far as this: I don't know but I am beginning to spell Love with a capital L. For it is the dreadful truth, Dana Herwin, that I miss you--I really do. I should not have thought that I would at all; I mean, not like this--not to be uncomfortable, you know, and to come so near being unhappy that you cease to be happy. I think--do you want to know what I think? And I feel--but you are not to know what I feel. In the morning, when I wake, I turn and look at the sea, between Mrs. Gray's pretty curtains (they are white and sheer, with green seaweed over them), and I say: 'All that ocean and land are between us: sixteen hours of it by boat, and over ten by train.' In the evening, when the rest are canoeing, or chatting on piazzas, I like to get by myself. I make all sorts of excuses to be alone--which is not natural to me, I'd have you understand, for, though I am a Wilderness Girl, I am a clannish girl; I like my tribe, and I don't mope. And, when I am alone, there is the most humiliating monotony in my thoughts. First it is your hair--I see the way it curls; I look at all the straight-haired men I meet, and wonder what kinds of women love them. Then your eyes--I see your eyes flashing and darkening, like that revolving light I spoke of, and missing a revolution, and dark-
70 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEening again before they blaze. Then I try to make out how your mouth looks without me--but I never see your mouth. Do you think I should love you as much if you shaved? Let me believe that I should love you more! Then your voice--but somehow your voice escapes me; and with it a part of you escapes me, too. I am a little confused when it comes to your voice. I only seem to get it reading 'Rufus Choate' to Father. Dear Father! I know you I are good to him, for he has the most unreasonable habit of missing me; it is quite confirmed, and that is why I make so few trips. Thanks to him, I never can be called a visiting young lady.
"But he took a notion about my coming to Senator Gray's. He said I looked--I think it was 'transparent'--some preposterous word. I suppose it comes of my feeling strange and changed--exhilarated all the time. Yet that seems too low a word. Call it exalted, rather. There's been a good deal written by poets and other uncomfortable people that I begin to understand, while yet I know that I do not comprehend it. Now, the way they have of classifying Love (with a capital, please observe, sir) as if it were to be found at a first-class vintner's--that perplexes me; for me it does not intoxicate.
71 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEAnd if you are disappointed, I am sorry. But perhaps I am what Goethe called a Nature; if I am, you will accept my Nature as you do everything about me, faults and all, and not complain? You are generous and noble to me, Dana! I never knew how many faults I had until it befell me that I wished to be a very superior girl for your sake. I never felt so sorry and ashamed of them as I have since I began to wish my soul a perfect ruby,--like this of yours I wear,--deep, deep down, pure fire, and flawless. I wonder do you like my tourmaline You never said very much about it (and I could not, somehow, ask you). I know it is a reserved stone, not talking much. It seemed to me shy, like a betrothed girl's heart; a stone that waits for something, and has the beauty of that which is unexpressed, although quite understood.
"I think I meant to say something quite different a page back. I will look and see. Yes, it was about wines. I suspect I was a little afraid to say it, and so strayed off to jewels, a less fluent subject. My pen has stiffened up on it.
72 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEIf Love is a wine, it is a communion wine,--to me,--and I taste it on my knees. "For I am, Sacredly, "YOUR MARNA."
"THOU strongest! What a ruby is thy love for me! My letters seem paler than tourmalins beside yours. And yet--and yet I am not sure: I think they love you more than they show; but not more than I hoped you would see without the showing. Try to see! Try to understand"Your "WILDERNESS GIRL IN CHAINS."
I have just got Father's letter agreeing to the West Sanchester plan. He says you have closed the lease of the Dowe Cottage for him for August and September. He asks me if I would like to have him invite you there for two weeks to stay with us. I am writing him by this mail. I said I would try to put up with it.
Mr. Herwin, will you be my father's guest and mine, and the ocean's, for half the month of August, at Sanchester?
73 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEWho knows? I think it is preposterous, the way I continue to miss you. "I am Your loving "LONELINESS."
I'm coming home. Really, I cannot stand it another day. Don't flatter yourself, for I am convinced that I flatter you all that you can bear without spoiling.
Mrs. Gray has been talking to me. She says more marriages are ruined by a woman's spoiling a man than there are by a man's neglecting a woman. I told her I failed to see how either event was at all possible. She said, 'My dear, you are like your mother.'
"Half the Wilderness Girl seems to be blotted out of me by separation from you. I have missed you too much. If I surprise you by being too civilized, after all, where shall we end? Our betrothal would become a tame and commonplace affair, and I know better than you do much that would disappoint you.
"You write me such love-letters as I think no woman ever had. I am ashamed of my poor, pale things beside them. But, Dear, yours hush me--like your lips on mine. And perhaps it is because I feel so much that I can say so little."Your own MARNA.
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"P.S. Job is gladder than anything to be coming home. I told him we were going, and he has sat upon my trunk and begged ever since. Job totally disapproves of Bar Harbor. It 'combines so much' wretchedness for him that I quite pity him. He never went on a visit before, and isn't at all accustomed to leash life. He has chewed up five beautiful skye ribbon leashes since we came. They are about all he eats, and he has grown quite thin. Then, Mrs. Gray is one of the dogless people, and although she invited him, she is not accustomed to skye terriers sleeping in her guest-rooms. I brought on his basket, but I saw at once it would have to stand in the sewing-room nights. I was so thankful it wasn't the stable that I was quite reconciled. But Job never has been. The first night he howled till 2 A.M., and--don't you ever tell!--I had to go and sneak him into my own bed to keep him still. He curled in my neck and sobbed like a terrified baby. But the next night he only cried till twelve, and since then he has been a perfect guest. Nobody ever knew he bit the Secretary of War on the heel because he danced with me once. And out of a gallantry which, I admit, was rather fine in him, the Secretary of War never told. He is a widower, you know, and has been visiting Mr. Gray.
75 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEAnd Mr. Gray thought it was the cat who carried the rat into the waste-paper basket in the library, and buried it in philanthropic petitions.
P.P.S. The Secretary of War wished me to send you his congratulations. But he did suggest that I ask you whether you were an advocate of vivisection, or expected to become so after marriage.
Job won't let him come within twenty feet of me. And by to-morrow evening I shall be--how near to you? We will begin with twenty feet, sir; and then--we'll see--"Your foolish, too joyous "MARNA."
August the second.
I HAVE always said I would not come to Sanchester unless I could have the Dowe Cottage, and here we are. I have loved and envied it all my life; it is the one perfect situation on the East Shore. I don't care a wild rose for any of the other places about here. I wonder how many strangers visiting the Cape have seen this house from the cars, and said, "Now, if I could have that!"
76 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEand sea that goes with it. The water is broken into gentleness by the shape of the cove; it does not rave, but sighs; the curve of the beach is as delicate as a lady's lip; there is the something too bewitching not to be elusive about the shapes of the rocks and the foreground of old fishermen and their old dories pushing off, and the nets; it all seems to assume difference each time that you look; and there is a weir here this summer. It is going to be so beautiful that I perceive it will turn my head. I waked at sunrise to-day and ran to my window, and sat there for an hour, drowned in the daybreak, drunken with beauty. There is rose-color in my room, and sky-color in the guest-room, and pearl tint in the little room between where I am to put Maggie, and all the rest of the cottage is green and white, or white and green, absolutely nothing else. It makes the house seem like one wave, tossed, I think, into foam, except just here, up where I am, and the foam has the colors of sunrise and sunset--like that wave beyond the weir, living and dying like a rainbow as I write.
I am so happy that I am afraid. It is as if I were a wave--alive and strong this minute, but sure to be broken and spent the next. Happiness is a tide: it carries you only a little way at a time; but you have covered a vast
77 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEspace before you know that you are moving at all.
I cannot think who wrote those lines that I have always liked:
I summon the tide eternal
To flow for you and me....
When shall the flood-tide be?
"Why not to Heaven?" quo' she.
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Dana will be here in an hour. The 6:20 train is just leaving town. He has been delayed by his first law case. Job and I must dress at once, and go to the station to meet him. I think I shall wear my white India; he seems to like it. And then any of Job's ribbons will go with it. I shall take the chiffon sunshade--the one he called "such pretty nonsense." I have the most preposterous affection for that sunshade. There's one thing that perplexes me, and as long as he will never, never see the Accepted Manuscript, I may as well say what it is just now and here. There was once a Wilderness Girl I knew. What has become of her? Where shall I turn to find her? Whither has she fled from me? Is she melting out on the tide, wave by wave? Shall I lose her altogether in the sea?
I DON'T know why I cannot sleep, for I am very happy. Perhaps it is because I am so happy, or perhaps it is being happy in so new a way that keeps me staring out here at the sea, with the gas low, and the curtains streaming straight out from the window in the strong southeasterly, the way they do nights at the seaside and never anywhere else. They fill like sails, and the room seems a ship. I write a little by the dim light,
79 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFE--for I don't feel like turning it up,--and then I stare a little, and then I write a little more.
Maggie, in her gray room, is sleeping stoutly. And beyond, in the sky-blue, sea-blue guest-room--I wonder if he is asleep, too? To be together in the same house, so near each other, is a strange and solemn thing.
Father said to-night: "You are as thoughtful of me as a son."
Father is very fond of him. And I--I love him so much that I begin to be afraid of him. I wish he were not quite so superb to look at. Sometimes I wish he were just a plain man, so that I could stand off and get an impression of him that would have a certain value. He dazzles me. We all have our own forms of paganism, and worship them in secret, being but half Christianized for their sakes. I think I have said before that my paganism is omnipotent beauty.
...Thou glorious! Here alone in my rose-colored room, nothing but this white paper being witness, my soul turns to thee as if thou wert a god upon a cloud. To thee I swerve. Something within me cries, "Worship!" I struggle to keep my feet.
80 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEstretch down my hands and lift you up and drop before you. You called me all the goddess names. And I, an adoring girl, accepted them.
Now Nature avenges herself upon me, here, alone, with this mute white paper, in the sacred: night; and I write, for you do not know it, and because you shall never know it--I write you a note which you are never to see.
"My Love: I am yours utterly."Marna."
It seems quite out of the course of nature not to write a letter to you every day. I am too much in the habit of it to stop too suddenly. So I send this line by Maggie. I am a little tired this morning,--I did not sleep very well, for Job sniffed all about the room for mice, and upset his pink finger-bowl on some slippers and things of mine; he isn't at home yet in the Dowe Cottage,--and, if you don't mind, I won't see you till luncheon. Father will need you in a thousand ways, and you might call on the Curtis girls, if time hangs heavily. I'm sure Minnie Curtis will be glad to see you. She always was. And I shall get downstairs by degrees, perhaps by half-past twelve."Yours affectionately, "MARNA."
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It is a week since he came to the Wave. (That is what we have agreed to call this house,) I used to think I knew what it was to be happy. Now I see that I had not studied the grammar of joy. Dana says:
"You have not learned the alphabet yet. You play truant too often."
"Why don't you keep me in school, then?" I said. "That is your business."
He made me no answer at all, and that is what makes me uncomfortable. When he speaks I know the worst. But when he only looks at me I am afraid of him and of what is coming. He has a terrible way of biding his time. I never know when he is done with a subject.
There is something that never was on sea or land about these days. I seem afloat, all the time, between the ocean and the sky; and if my feet touch the earth, they spurn it, as if they had wings, and I go whirling off and up. Now I am a creature of the air; height is my element; flight is the condition of being, and I flee. Then I am flung down swiftly, and find myself a creature of the sea; the deeps are my home; to be engulfed is the condition of being, and I drown. There are moments when I am tossed and driven blindly, and traverse vast spaces of the under-sea, visit sunken wrecks, float
82 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEpast buried treasure; and then I am hurled up and back, and thrown panting on the shore. Then I perceive that I am a weed upon a wave, and whithersoever the wave wills, there am I borne, and because I am a weed I do not buffet the wave, but love it, and it driveth me, for it is a wave.
But I do not show these things that I perceive to him.
August the twelfth.
A TERRIBLE thing has happened. Paradise is lost. So soon, too soon, I am exiled from my Eden; and each soul's Eden is its own. We may exchange tastes, habits, characters even, in this world: our Edens are untransferable; and an angel with a frowning smile stands guard at the gates of mine, already, to bar me out. That frowning smile is the nature of a man. Dana wishes me to marry him the first of October.
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August the thirteenth.
I SAID he had not done with the subject--that day he looked at me and did not talk; but I did not expect anything so formidable as this.
He has had an uncle die--that is the short of it; he went away for two days to the funeral. When he came back he brought a piece of dismal news and this preposterous proposition. It seems that this uncle must needs go and leave him all the money he had. I don't fancy it is much--I wouldn't ask. But, whatever it is, Dana feels at liberty to marry on it. With what there is of Mother's settled on me we should have enough without depending on Father, it seems; and Dana thinks I ought to love him enough to be willing to live somehow, if not as I am used to living--and so on. I did not tell him that I would be willing to live anyhow--I don't think that at all necessary. I did not say how little I think about money, and things like that: he knows. I did not say that I could starve and be quite happy. I said that I did not wish to be married.
August the fourteenth.
He says that does not make any difference. He says it has nothing to do with the subject.
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August the fifteenth.
I HAVE told him that if he wants to be married in October he must find some other girl to marry him. We have had our first quarrel. He is hurt and unhappy, and has gone to town. I cannot see why I need feel called upon to miss him quite so much--not so preposterously. I should not mind if I missed him only to a reasonable extent. He has telephoned that he is not coming out to-night. James answered the telephone. I was out watching Job catch grasshoppers, an exhilarating, not to say exalted, occupation. It was wet, too, and I came in too soppy and moppy for anything. There is a fog to-day. It wipes out the world as if it were a vast sponge. Happiness, I think, is only a little white writing on a slate: it looks as if it would last forever, but it is only chalk; the first touch expunges it. My slate is gone suddenly blank and black.
Two of our old fishermen are putting out in their old dories from the beach. They melt into the fog like thoughts. There! they are gone out utterly. They are so old that I cannot even wonder how they feel. Age seems to me like a mighty mist into which people dip and vanish slowly, and between them and the sympathy of youth an unfathomable fog shuts in. I stand
85 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEbefore the mist of years. What does it hold for or withhold from me? Dana and I seem like frail boats, feeling our way into a dim destiny. My love stretches beyond his longing, a mysterious sea. Shall I ever be old--and he? And will love mature as far as life does? If it did not, if it does not, better that it be and remain forever young, a mist-ideal in a blur of morning light.
Two hours later.
Into the record of these admirable and doubtless noble sentiments a sound cut sharply. It was Job barking the one particular individual bark which he reserves, out of the variety of his nature, for Dana Herwin--a chromatic bark of modulated love and jealousy, of welcome and of distrust. I ran down. He stood in the green-and-white hall. No person besides ourselves was there. When he touched me,--for he took me to his heart as if he never meant to let me go,--Job growled, and then he cried like a hurt child, and crawled under the sofa and sobbed. I never knew anybody sob like Job.
And Mr. Herwin did not say a word about marrying in October. I think he has forgotten all about it. I am quite happy.
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But I thought you had got over that. How can, how can you bring it all up again? Yes, I know I was very happy last evening, and I didn't much mind your knowing it. So I said, and so I did, as you say. But that did not mean that I am ready to be your wife. It is so hard for a man to understand a woman--it is so hard for you to understand me--that I do not think I ought ever to be your wife at all. I am convinced we should make each other very unhappy. As to marrying you in October, pray regard that point as irrevocably settled. I cannot consider the question for a moment. All the battle blood of my tribe is surging behind me, and I am"Your "WILDERNESS GIRL."
"OH, I love you--yes. I have said it. I cannot unsay it. I cannot unlove, and that is the pitiful part of it. But I do not wish to be your wife in October. You would carry no willing captive to your wedding-day."
"I NEVER knew a person with such a relentless will. I should think, if you loved me as you profess to do, you would have some compassion on me."
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"HAVE it your own way, then, if you must. Now you have got Father on your side I am perfectly discouraged. I am worn out with this conflict. I don't care whether I marry you this year or next, or in October, or in April, or now, or never. I am tired out. I am tired of the whole subject. I wish you to understand that I yield out of sheer exhaustion.
"Take me up, fling me over your shoulder, carry me away to your own tribe, then, if you insist upon it--and start all the elements of my nature that are incomprehensible to you into war."
Oh, I don't care what you give me. Why should you give me anything at all? That seems to me a foolish custom. I will not be a bride fettered with pearls and diamonds, and flaunting her chains before gods and men. I will have nothing from you but my wedding-ring. I suppose I can't decently refuse that. I think I have told you before--I don't care when. If it has got to be at all, one time is good as another."
88 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEarrange it between you. Really, I don't care to be bothered with these details.
"The only thing I insist on is that you shall find some suitable person to stay with Father, if you are going to turn him out of 'his own hired house' (as Longfellow used to call it) and send him back home alone, and keep me here without him. I warn you frankly: if you find me vanished any evening, you need not be surprised. As it looks to me now, the station is abnormally convenient, and, in fact, if I didn't know that I could melt away from you any time, I do not think, in fact I am quite sure, I could not possibly make up my mind to stay alone in the Dowe Cottage with you.
"Who ever invented the word 'honeymoon'? Some man, I am sure. He never tasted myrrh in it. There is nothing in this world I find it so hard to understand as the nature of a man. The mysteries of sin, suffering, and immortality are quite frank and open beside it.
"I am sorry if you are disappointed that I do not write love-letters to you in these days. Pray, what did you expect? I am dumb, and thou didst it.MARNA."
89 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEthink it best that you should be somewhere else, and rather come out, than stay out, just now. Probably we shall see enough of each other after the twentieth. Yours, "MARNA TRENT.
"P.S. Oh, forgive me! I do not mean to be cruel. I do not feel cruel. It seems to me as if you were the cruel one of us two. It would have been so easy to go on as we were, betrothed and blessed. We could have lived so for a long, long time, and been quite happy. I cannot see why you were not contented. I was. Paradise 'was paradise enow' for me."
September the twelfth.
I HAVE not seen Dana for a week. I suppose it was rather uncivil of me, but I wrote him not to come. I find it impossible to entertain him in these days. He seems to me like company. Father and Job and I are happier by ourselves. I must admit it is celestial weather. The ocean blinds me and the breakers deafen me. There always is something about September sunshine, but this September sunshine has the divine nature. It is working an awful miracle. I dare not think of it! Yet, in truth, I think of nothing else.
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Ina! Ina! Here we come to the parting of the ways between spirit and flesh; girl ghost and live wife, how can we stay together, or be ever to each other what we were? You--you would have been my bridesmaid, Dear; you would have worn, I think, a robin's-egg-blue silk mull. How dainty you would have been! I am not to have any bridesmaid, Ina. No one shall take your place. I don't care for any wedding; it is all to be by ourselves, at home; we are going over the day before--a very still little wedding, only a few people; and Father stays, but Dana and I, and Job, are coming back to the Wave. Ina, I am not glad, oh, I am not glad! Ina! In all this world of live people nobody understands"Your poor MARNA."
Leave me alone. Oh, leave me to my own nature for these last days and hours! What it is not in yours to comprehend let it be yours to reverence. I stand apart from you, and you seem to me a vast space away from me, like an alien king of an unseen country who has threatened me and mine. Though I make you unhappy, I must speak the truth to you, for
91 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFETruth is the king of kings, and outranks your throne or mine, or that on which we are fated to sit crowned together. You ask me do I not love you as I thought I did, that I treat you as I choose to do, in this miracle September?
"On my soul, I cannot answer you, for from my soul I do not know. I thought I loved you; and I was happy when you were near me. Now I know not if I love you; I only know I fear you, and I wish the width of the spaces between the stars and suns were distance between us.
"I feel a magic circle drawn around me. If you cross, you cross it at your peril, for, voluntary sorcerer, I stand within it. I have nothing for you--nothing; I belong to myself. I have fled to the wilderness of Womanhood, where no man ever sets his foot. If you pursue me, I cannot say what I shall do. I warn you! I warn you! It is nothing to me, and less than nothing, what other girls do the days before they are married to other men. I told you I was a Wilderness Girl; and now you find it out, you are surprised and shocked. I would have you know, sir, that a woman is to be obeyed when she makes her will known to the man who loves her. I am not sure that I love you enough to marry you. And, honestly, it does not trouble me that
92 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEI give you pain. I tell you, Dana Herwin--oh, but I cannot tell, I cannot tell you! You would not understand."
I am not fit to be married, I am behaving so badly! If you were not a ghost, I think I should be a better girl--I should act like other girls. And you would teach me how. Mother, it is the holy truth that I packed my bag to-night and ran away. I took the train and went to town,--the late train,--and I meant to send him word that I would not marry anybody, for I could never do it.
"And when I got to town I was frightened at what I had done, for I thought it would trouble Father, and I came back again upon the midnight train alone; and it rained, for there is a southeaster, and I got off at the station, crying, in the wet. And, oh, Mother, there he stood--the Man! His face was white, and his hand shook, and he did not speak at all. He took me home, and in at the side door, and called Maggie, and told me to go up-stairs, and did not trouble me to try to kiss me; but he had such a look that I felt ashamed, and I thought you would be ashamed of me, Mother. So I confess to you. For I have promised that I will marry
93 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEhim in two days and three nights more. And I am "Your unmothered and bewildered "DAUGHTER."
I cannot possibly see you this evening. You will excuse me, I am sure. I have some writing to do, and, besides, I don't feel like it. Can't you go and call on Minnie Curtis? I should think she might amuse you."Hurriedly yours, "MARNA TRENT."
Oh, I admit it! I take the first excuse I have to write the word. You have never given me a chance before. I do not think we have been apart three hours--have we?--in these fifteen days. Now you are to be three hours in town. It seems a long time. Twenty minutes are gone. I have been sitting here, in the rose-colored room, staring at the clock. I have been trying to decide where I shall put this note to surprise and please you. Dear, I like to please you! But, indeed, I do not always know how to make you believe that I do. You are very patient and gentle with me, and I--I love you!
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"I think I will pin it on your cushion with one of the pearl butterflies I wore to fasten my wedding lace. I was glad you noticed the butterflies. I am glad you liked the way I looked. This is part of the miracle. I begin to care so much--too much--for what you like. But now that I try to tell you so, I find that words flit away from me like butterflies--no, no! not that. Rather are my words moths, and they advance and retreat, and circle and waver about the light of my love for you, and dash them headlong, and perish in it. For my love is like a tall, strong candle on an altar; it burns steadily and sacredly before the holy of holies. I know that I have but begun to love you. I know that I shall love you more--I fear to know how I shall love you!"For I am "YOUR WIFE."
The Second Note.
Will you mind two notes from me? I cannot seem to find any other way of enduring this separation. I will slip this one under your pillow, so you will find it later than the pin-cushion one. See! I put one of the roses you brought me last night within the note.
95 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEI liked the rose; it is just the color of this room. I am writing to tell you that I lose myself without you. I never knew three such hours in my life. I have stared the clock out of countenance: only eighty-five minutes are gone yet. I cannot understand myself; I am quite perplexed. Thou strong and tender! Come quickly and explain me to myself!
"Thou dear Love! My love waits to learn the way of loving from thine own; a bud that shall know an eternal blossom, a story that shall be read without an end. I tried to tell you so last evening; I could not do it.
"The sea is white and still this morning. The fishermen are singing at their nets. Fires are on all the hearths; the sun is warm and deep. I thought September was the bridal month. Now I see it is October. Then I think we shall know it is November. Eden waits in every weather. All down the calendar,
"Dear, I cannot tell you unless I write it, and I feel that I must tell you, for I owe it to your patience and gentleness to tell you what a foolish, petulant girl she was--that Wilderness Girl. I whisper you a secret. She will not trouble you
96 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEany more. She has floated out upon the tide of love,
The Third Note.
"OH, teach me how to make you happy! I have everything to learn, I know. But believe me that I care for nothing else--for nothing in this world except your happiness. I will be the most docile and the gladdest scholar that man ever had.
"See, I have almost written this first separation away. I will confess: if I had not written, I should have cried. Oh, you will be home in half an hour!
"Don't be jealous, but I just went up and kissed the clock."MARNA, Wife."
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