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The Autobiography of Christopher Kirkland, Vol. 1. Linton, E. Lynn (Elizabeth Lynn), 1822–1898.
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page: 172

CHAPTER VII.

ABOUT this time, however, came a lull in my speculative troubles, for trouble of another kind began to possess me. There had lately settled among us a certain Mr. and Mrs. Dalrymple, who had already won the goodwill of the neighbourhood by their charm of manner and general delightfulness. They had established themselves on a scale of what was to us rather unusual luxury; and, as Mr. Dalrymple was known to one of our magnates, there was no cause to doubt the solidity of their condition. We had had before now our jackdaws pranked page: 173 in peacocks' feathers, and we had been punished pretty severely for our want of discrimination; but here we stood on safe ground, and no one hung back because no one was afraid.

It may be that the idealizing power of youth created more than existed, and that the golden mists of time have added their magic to that idealization; but even now, with my imagination sobered by age and chastened by experience, Mrs. Dalrymple stands in my memory as something unapproachable and supreme. Her image is that of the most exquisite creature under heaven—of a woman more like an impersonate poem, or embodied music, or a spirit half-transparently incarnate, than a living, solid flesh-and-blood reality. She was about twenty-seven—tall, slender, with a cream-white skin, and dark eyes full of inconceivable pathos and a kind of far-away spiritualized listening look, as if she saw what we did not. Her eyelashes page: 174 were the longest I have ever seen, and she had a fabulous abundance of jet-black hair. She dressed, too, as no one dressed in Eden; with more elegance and refinement than that to which we were accustomed from even our grandest ladies. She had lived much abroad; and from her Polish mother she had inherited the subtle charm which is given by the foreign element, as well as having that which comes from home good-birth and perfect breeding.

She was in delicate health; languid in her movements; indolent in her habits; but she had an almost feverish activity of mind, an almost dangerous energy of thought. She could do everything. She was an admirable linguist, and spoke the principal four Continental languages as well as she spoke English itself—which, by the way, was coloured with the daintiest little dash of foreign accent—a certain Italianized lingering on the letters that was like a caress. page: 175 She was a musician of rare force and an artist far beyond the average. She could talk of men, books, places, things, ideas. She knew all that others knew and worlds beyond. She was the most graciously-educated and the most gracefully-minded woman I have ever seen—I use the terms advisedly—and from my father to myself we all yielded to her charm and adored her.

From the first the Dalrymples were very friendly with us. We saw a good deal of them; and the more we saw them, the more we loved them and the more they seemed to like us. For myself, it soon came to be that the day when I was not with them seemed to be blank and colourless—a day of deadly dulness, to be lived through only for the sake of the morrow, when I should go up to Windy Brow, where they lived, as a half-frozen creature creeps to the fire to be warmed back into life. Gradually these page: 176 new arrivals became the world to me. When I was not with them, I was thinking of them—longing, pining, restless, dissatisfied; oppressed with untranslatable sorrow; burning with hidden fever; finding no pleasure save in the books which Mrs. Dalrymple had lent me, whereof I learnt all the marked passages, and repeated them to myself with somewhat the same reverence as that with which I said my prayers. Or I made Edwin or Ellen play again and again the music she played and had given them—certain pieces of Mendelssohn and Beethoven which were to me like poems or pictures—as full of thought and dramatic fervour as the one, and of visible beauty as the other. Or I begged for that long-drawn sigh of Pestel's prison-hymn, which I cannot hear even now without a swelling at my heart and something that feels like tears behind my eyes.

When they played these things to me I page: 177 used often to find, to my own surprise, my eyes wet with real tears as I sat, my elbows on my knees, my face buried in my hands, lost in a dream of nameless yearning—a kind of nebulous haze of formless sadness, where nothing was distinct save sorrow—which yet was also beauty.

Then I used to dash out of the room, generally leaping through the window into the garden, to hide from my brother and sisters the strange effeminacy that had overtaken me. My abrupt departure naturally enough offended them, and was counted to me for ingratitude, after they had done something to please me; so that when I returned I received a lesson on my sin of rudeness and bearishness in general, which, with my fiery temper, was sure to involve me in a quarrel.

I was both too intense and too inexperienced in those days to realize how things must necessarily look from the outside. I page: 178 was only conscious of what I felt. And when looks and feelings were at variance, I took my stand on the latter, and held myself unjustly treated when condemned for the former. Were more allowance made for this inability to realize the world outside one's self—this inability to understand that we are not so transparent as we imagine ourselves to be, and that what we do and not what we feel is the rule by which we are measured—life would be far better for us all, and especially for such young creatures as I was;—young creatures of impulse and sincerity, as yet incapable of that ethical diagnosis which can criticize self.

Our new friends did us all good. Mrs. Dalrymple helped Edwin and my sisters with their music and lifted their taste into a higher sphere; and Mr. Dalrymple led them to practise drawing on a better method than they had done before. He taught them to sketch from nature and to draw from the page: 179 round, and he gave them hints about their colours and perspective; so that their efforts grew to be of better quality all through than when they had been content to reproduce in pencil, with smooth and servile fidelity, this stag's head from a wood-cut by Bewick, or that child and dog from a steel engraving after Corbauld.

To me, neither a musician nor an artist, they lent books—chiefly the poets in various tongues—which widened my horizon and added to my knowledge. I had always been passionately fond of poetry, so that I had felt as if our common possessions had belonged by right of appreciation to me alone; but it seemed to me that I had never understood the true meaning of even those I had loved best until now. Shakespeare and Schiller and Goethe, Shelley and Byron, Dante and Tasso—all took a different meaning and gained an added value after Mrs. Dalrymple had repeated such and such pas passages page: 180 sages, or given a new interpretation to such and such thoughts. And whatever I read now, it was with her voice, her inflection sounding in my ears, and her divine eyes following mine on the page. Her mental influence was about me like the sunlight, and there was no hour of the day when I forgot her—no occupation which made me unconscious of her. She was the soul of all things to me; and I felt like that picture of the half-uprising man in whose nostrils she was gently breathing the breath of life—like the dumb Memnon when the first rays of the sun touched the soulless stone.

All the thoughts which had hitherto held me, and which I had elaborated for myself, seemed to me crude, unformed, unbeautiful; without life or artistry—all but my love of Liberty, and that I think must come from the formation of my brain from birth. I had been such a rude clod up to now; and now I was fining down, like Dryden's page: 181 Cymon—was I becoming the inversion of Pygmalion's statue?

Again another help onward. Mrs. Dalrymple taught the rest new steps and new dances. I say the rest, for though she tried to teach me as one of them, I could not learn. Yet she took as much trouble with me as with them, and I did my best to do as she told me. But something held me. ‘A spirit in my feet’ kept me stupid and clumsy.

I could have walked safely over a foot-wide ledge with a precipice on each side of me, but my head swam when Adeline Dalrymple laid her long white hand on my shoulder and I put my arm round her supple stayless waist; and I was faint and giddy before I had made a couple of turns round the room. What anguish it was to stop, and yet how impossible to go on! Why was I so weak? I, the strong one, par excellence, of the family—the young page: 182 lion of the brood—the Esau, the Nimrod, the savage—to be unable to waltz twice round a room not more than twenty-four feet square! It was inconceivable and humiliating; but also it was unalterable; and I never conquered the strange physical weakness which touched me only when waltzing with Mrs. Dalrymple, but which overpowered me then.

She too was sorry. True to her Polish blood, for all her delicacy of health and general indolence of habit she was enthusiastically fond of dancing; and she would have liked me for a partner, she said with her faint sweet tremulous smile, and that look in her eyes which was like the very glory of the heavens opening.

If, however, I could not waltz, I could talk and listen. And in our little evenings together, when I was finally pronounced hopeless, not to let me feel neglected and shut out, Mrs. Dalrymple generously forbore page: 183 to dance with the others, so that she might sit and talk to me on the window-seat. And on the whole I felt that I had the best of it.

Up to now I had never known the sentiment of jealousy against Edwin. He was the family favourite, caressed by all where I had ever been cold-shouldered and repulsed. At an age when education was the one essential of my life, and idleness the ruin of my whole future, I had been sacrificed in my best interests and denied my natural rights simply to be kept as his companion at home. Yet I had neither grudged him myself nor been jealous of what the others had given him. I had sometimes broken my young heart over the difference made between us—that was only natural; but I had never carried the blame to him, nor made him suffer because I was wronged and he was favoured.

Now there were times when I almost page: 184 hated him for what he was; though I hated myself much more in that I was not like him. I was furious against myself because I was tall and lean and strong, large-boned, and with a shock of thick brown hair disturbed by that unmanageable wave which broke it in heavy flocks that never would lie straight; while he was slenderly framed and almost as round-limbed as a girl—his head a nest of close-growing golden curls—his skin like a child's—and his blue eyes like limpid lakes beneath the long fine arch of his narrow brows. He was of the Cherubino type, and women treated him pretty much as they would have treated one of themselves. And when I saw Mrs. Dalrymple let him put his arms round her waist while she kissed him as if he had been a child, I confess I was sometimes more really mad than sane. If I could have changed my physique for his, I would at this time. I, who had always gloried in page: 185 my strength, would have made myself now a weakling, if Adeline Dalrymple would have treated me as she treated my brother. And there were times when, as I say, I hated him; and felt that I could have struck him like a second Cain.

I did my best to conceal this jealous rage against the one whom hitherto I had loved best of all in the world. But people who live together, especially young people, are quick to note differences of feeling; and Edwin saw the change in me and taxed me with it. Of course I denied that there was any change at all; and, because his charge was true, I grew irritable and sullen under the accusation. But once, when the tears sprang to his eyes, and his small mouth quivered as he said: ‘I never thought, Chris, that you would have behaved like this to me: and what have I done to deserve it?’ I was conquered. After all, he was my first care, and I would give him page: 186 even Mrs. Dalrymple's preference. I would give him, if need be, my life!

For all answer to his reproaches, which meant affection, I threw my arms round his neck, and bursting into one of those violent floods of tears which used to characterize me as a child, I kissed him, as also I used to kiss him when we were children together, and dashed out of the house in a tumult of emotion which made me feel as if I had been caught in a typhoon.

I was in that stage of feeling which makes fetishes of inanimate objects and carries into things the divinity centred in persons; which energizes symbols and vivifies relics, which then it adores. I remember pushing this fetishism so far as to envy the very clothes that Mrs. Dalrymple wore—which clothes also had a special character of their own to help on my folly. That old wish of being the glove on her hand was no mere literary conceit to me; it was what I myself page: 187 realized. I endued with a kind of consciousness all that belonged to this divinest woman; and consciousness included love. She had a certain ermine cloak, lined with pale pink satin through which ran gold and silver threads. If I had made a new religion, with her for the Paraclete, I would have taken that cloak for my standard, as Mohammed took the blacksmith's apron—I would have venerated it as Catholics venerate the handkerchief of St. Veronica.

When I look back on the passionate idealism, the unreasoning sentiment of this time, and test it by scientific principles, I can understand how myths crystallize and religions are made. I dreamt of Mrs. Dalrymple night after night; but never as an ordinary woman—always with a halo of divinity about her which took her out of the ranks of common humanity and lifted her heaven-high above the rest. She was to me what the Madonna is to the Neapolitan— page: 188 what his guardian angel is to the young seminarist. She was the divine part of humanity; the incarnation of all its beauty; the last expression of all its poetry and purity and inner wisdom. She was the seraph of the hierarchy; and to worship her as a goddess was the necessary corollary of knowing her as a woman. For her sake I loved the meanest creature that belonged to her; and to meet and speak to one of the servants of the house, to caress one of the dogs in her absence, made me comparatively content. That ‘rose and pot’—how true all real poetry is!

Her husband, Mr. Dalrymple, was in his way a clever as well as an eccentric man, at once charming and less than charming. He had a passion for little dogs, which he called his children and made his idols. He had exactly twenty; all of rare kinds and of perfect breeds. It was one of the sights of the place to see this elegant, aristo- aristocratic page: 189 cratic-looking man, dressed in the latest fashion—light trousers buttoned round his ankles, light kid gloves, coloured under-waistcoat showing a narrow band of rose or blue, gorgeous stock, white hat, hair and whiskers artificially curled and highly perfumed, scented handkerchief and superb jewellery, as if he were in Bond Street, not among the Cumberland mountains—daintily picking his way on the rough roads, with his twenty little dogs, all in pairs, streaming behind him like a herd of miniature wild beasts. He had the most extraordinary names for them all; of which I only remember Zamiel and Lilith for the barking Pomeros; Puck and Ariel for the graceful Italian greyhounds; Sambo and Sally for the pugs; the little female truffle-hunter was Queen Mab, but I forget the name of her husband; and the toy-terriers were Oberon and Titania.

Mr. Dalrymple was his wife's husband, page: 190 and therefore I held him sacred; he was also a man of cultivated intellect, perfect manners, refined tastes, wide experience, and therefore I respected him. But naturally for himself, in view of the man he was and the boy I was, I should not have liked him. He was too effeminate for my taste—and he did not admire his wife as she deserved to be admired. He was essentially a dilettante—just touching the borders of excellence and never attaining it. He drew well, played the guitar well, wrote pretty music and pretty poetry; but he failed in the full grasp and completion of any of these things. Strange stories of his personal habits, and his devotion to certain occult studies, which terrified the weaker minds among us, crept about the vale; but we were a scandalmongering set at Eden, and we had those in our midst who would have criticized and plucked out the feathers of the angel Gabriel's wings, had he page: 191 alighted at the Town-hall. All the same, Mr. Dalrymple openly confessed to a belief in magic, ghosts, and all the higher phenomena of mesmerism. According to him, both the witches of old and the Indian jugglers of the present time, had and have mysterious powers extra to those of the common run of men; and he lost his time and strength in experiments where he was now the deceiver and now the dupe.

He was never with his wife, save on state occasions of formal visits and dinners; and they lived two entirely different lives under the same roof. He was a vegetarian and a Rechabite; but he drank a great deal of strong coffee and smoked incessantly; and though by no means a confirmed opium-eater, like De Quincey, he was not innocent of that strange man's vice, nor of that other, corresponding, of smoking hachshish.

If his wife did not complain of his neglect, who else had the right? Though I some- sometimes page: 192 times felt I should like to kill him when I saw her sweet, pale face grow paler than before, her pathetic eyes more mournful, as she had to confess that she had not seen her husband for perhaps three days—though we might have seen him, and he had certainly been out and about in the interval—I calmed myself by remembering that I had no right to thrust myself into her affairs, even by my sympathy; and that what she kept secret, I and all ought to hold sacred.

My worship for her was too exalted to be intrusive, too humble to take the initiative. It was she who set the rule and measure of our intercourse; and I should as little have dreamed of going beyond her allowance—of asking a question on things which she had not already explained—as I should have spoken with levity of my dead mother. But I was unhappy all the same, in more ways than one; and, what with my jealous fear of her liking Edwin too much, my in- indignation page: 193 dignation because Mr. Dalrymple did not like her enough, and my dread lest she did not like me at all, I was for the most part in a state of torment which nothing soothed but her voice and presence, and nothing effectually charmed away but some signal act of gracious kindness and special distinction.

In the midst of all this feverish unrest I had some divinely happy hours. As time went on, and our intimacy increased, not a day passed when we were not with the Dalrymples—with her more often than with him, and seldom with both together. We used to row across the lake and land at some favourite spot where there was a fine view, or a waterfall, or perhaps a rare fern or orchid to look for and never find; and where there was sure to be one of those wide wet tracts which require some amount of courage and activity to pass dryshod. At such places Mr. Dalrymple, if he came page: 194 at all, had enough to do to take care of himself, having the most extraordinary horror of dirt and damp. My sisters were mountaineers born and bred, and needed as little help as a triad of goats; but Adeline Dalrymple was different. She was like a hot-house flower where they were field daisies; and what was child's play to them was an insurmountable difficulty to her. Such a feat as springing from one loose stone to another over a mountain ghyll, or picking her way from tussock to tussock through a bog, was simply impossible. And I was glad that it was so. For then I used to take her in my strong young arms and carry her safely across and far on to the dry ground. I could not dance with her, but I could bear her through difficulties such as these, and feel as if I had the very universe in my arms. It was the epitome of all divinity—the possession of all humanity. It did not make me faint nor giddy, but strong, invul- invulnerable page: 195 nerable, unconquerable—like an old Israelite to whom had been given the sacred ark to defend—the very essence of God made helpless to guard.

I used to want to kneel to her, to kiss the hem of her garment, to make myself her footstool, her slave, so that I could be of use to her. I would have liked to have spent my life in ministering to her, as if she had been a living goddess in a temple and I her sole servitor. Sometimes I had the criminally selfish half-wish that some great loss should befall her, when the world would desert her—all but I—and I would carry to her the same homage, the same reverent worship as before. Discrowned by evil hands, she should ever be sole queen to me! And sometimes I had a morbid kind of wonder, if she would be sorry were I to die, and if she would ever come to look at my grave and lay flowers on the turf. If she did, I knew that down there beneath page: 196 dead and dumb as I might be, I should know the touch of her hand, hear the tread of her feet, and feel on my face the quick-drawn breath of her parted lips. I could never die so that I should not be conscious of her; and I could only die in her service. To know her, to love her, was of itself the warranty of immortality. She was already, herself, immortal; for the body which held her spirit was emphatically only a veil, a shell, a medium of communication. The true reality was the angel within her form.

The strange deifying reverence that I felt for Mrs. Dalrymple was due partly to my age and temperament, and partly to her own philosophy. She belonged to a school of thought quite unlike any I had ever met with. And, as she interested herself in my religious difficulties, she naturally gave me her own views to help my cruder thoughts. She was emphatically a transcendentalist, and in a certain sense a pantheist. To her page: 197 the things of the spirit—the unseen world of the souls that had once been men, and of the angels who had neither been born nor had died—spiritual experiences and realizations, and the all-pervading presence of God, were more real than those things we call time and space. She believed in the interfusion of souls—soul with soul in spiritual blending more lasting than any earthly tie, more potent than any physical circumstance of disruption or removal. She believed in the oneness of God with life, of God with matter, with thought, with emotion, with the cosmic forces of the universe. Like the atmosphere which surrounds us, like the ether which interpenetrates all space, God is the universal medium, the spiritual ether in which we float, the energizing sense by which we recognise and love each other. Soul interfused with soul, and both lying cradled in the Heart of God—minds touching each page: 198 other in the dark, and seeking each other through long ages and across interminable distances, welded together for all time and through all eternity—welded together by and with and in the very substance of God!

She was also in a sense a metempsychosist, and believed that we had all known each other in another life—all of us who loved in this. For she maintained the absolute indestructibility of love, and the impossibility of sundering those whose spirits had once met each other and been united by love. Her beautiful face took the rapt look of a sibyl when she spoke to me, as she often did, of the glorious joy and sense of freedom and invulnerability contained in this conviction; and how it dwarfed all the pains of life, and life itself to a mere short day's dream not worth lamenting while it was passing. Eternity was behind and before us. Why fix our minds only on the one troubled hour?

‘Those who believe as I do,’ she said one page: 199 evening to me, when we were sitting in the twilight, watching the last of the day fading from the sky and the first of the stars coming out; ‘no—not who believe, but who know—are never really separated from the beings they love. Time and space may divide us from each other, and circumstances may be stronger than our will; but thought overrides matter, our souls are ever one and inseparable, and the bond of the spirit once made is indissoluble. Love is in itself immortality. It cannot die; it cannot change; and no force in nature can kill it.’

She laid her white and scented hand on mine, so brown and large and bony—and bent her head till she looked full and straight in my eyes. I was sitting on a low stool by her side; she was on the window-seat made in the embrasure.

‘You, dear boy, will go into the world far away from all of us here,’ she said; and—was it my fancy? or did that sweet voice which page: 200 always reminded me of pearls tremble, and something as tender as tears come into her glorious eyes?—‘but, wherever you go, my spirit will go with you, surrounding you, guarding you, one with your very breath, your very life. Never forget that, my child. I am with you always—like God and with God—in the future always, as I have ever been in the past.’

Her hand closed on mine with an almost convulsive grasp. It burnt like fire, and the diamonds on her fingers and at her throat flashed as if by their own internal light. Her voice had sunk almost to a whisper, and something seemed to pass from her to me which thrilled me like electricity. I could not speak. My heart suddenly swelled so that it strangled my voice and cut short my breath. I only felt a dumb kind of desire to carry my life to her hands and worship her as I would have worshipped the Eternal Mother of men and page: 201 things. She was beyond womanhood to me—she was the casket that embodied and enclosed the Divine.

As I looked at her, she still bending down her head and looking into my eyes, I felt a strange rapture and loss of myself in her personality. Her eyes were as mysterious as those stars overhead—worlds where I was, as it were, engulfed, but wherein was contained all the beauty, the love, the secrets of the universe. It was the unveiling of Isis to her priest—the goddess revealing herself to man. I scarcely lived; I did not breathe; I was as if spiritually carried away into another sphere; and for the moment I was not human but immortal. It was a sensation beyond mere physical excitement; and it would have been appalling from its intensity, had I had enough consciousness left to examine or reflect.

What was in my face I do not know, but there must have been something which did page: 202 not displease Mrs. Dalrymple. One hand still clasped mine, the other she laid on my forehead, pushing back my hair and bending my head a little backward.

‘Dearest child,’ she said, ‘God has given you to me. You are mine in spirit now and for ever. Never forget this moment, Christopher, when our souls have met and recognised each other once again across the long ages which have separated them.’

She stooped her gracious face to mine, and lightly kissed me on the eyes and forehead.

It was the first kiss any woman, other than my sisters, had given me since I was a child; and it was the birth-hour of a new life to me. Henceforth all things were transformed for me, and life meant a new existence as it had a new message. The sunrises and the sunsets, the song of the birds, the flowers in the fields, the shadows of the clouds on the mountains, the reflections page: 203 in the lake and the ripple of the blue waves, the voice of the waters making music in cascades, the budding and the fall of the leaves of the trees—all were the circumstances of a more beautiful world than that in which I had hitherto lived. Nature had a secret language which was revealed to me, and I understood the hidden meaning of things which hitherto had had no meaning at all. I, like Adeline Dalrymple, felt and saw God everywhere—but when I thought of God, she stood ever foremost at His hand.

How I lived then, I do not know. I remember nothing very distinctly outside my being with Mrs. Dalrymple—our sunlit noonday walks in her garden—our speculations beneath the stars—her eyes, which looked more eloquently than words—her words, of which I sometimes lost the meaning because her voice filled my ears with too much music. When I was not with page: 204 her, I was away in the lonely mountains, where I could think of her without interruption and associate her with the beauty of all about me. I carried my secret joy like a bird in my bosom, hidden from the eyes of all; and not even to Edwin did I reveal what was in my heart.

Of him I was no longer jealous. I had no cause. For I noticed that of late Mrs. Dalrymple had ceased to treat him so familiarly as she used to do in the early days; and on this side I was at peace. I lived in my enchanted island, so far as I knew alone and undiscovered. And if any one suspected my state, no one spoke to me about it. But indeed I have forgotten all the details of my family life at this time. I suppose I ate and drank and slept and lived among them as usual; but I do not remember the fact nor feeling of a day, save once, when I looked at Edwin and thought: ‘How much I know that you do not—and page: 205 how different the world is to you and me!’

The strain at this moment must have been severe. I had not done growing, though I was six feet as it was—but I am six feet two now; and my big bony frame took a great deal of rest and nourishment to keep it in serviceable condition then and to make a strong man of me in the future. Under the excitement of my present rapturous life I lost both my sleep and my appetite, and became as thin as a grasshopper. It was impossible not to see that I was changing; and my sisters were always commenting on my eyes, which they said looked as if they had been picked out by hawks and put in again by a chimney-sweep; while my face was whiter and leaner than ever, and I was altogether uglier and even more like Don Quixote than I used to be. But as I was certainly less violent and less irascible, they were too glad of a change which was a page: 206 respite to fall foul of the cause, whatever it might have been.

By degrees the rapture of my first content faded and the old unrest took possession of me and ruined all. To be with Mrs. Dalrymple was ecstasy, but to be away from her was torture and despair. And how could I be always with her? Still, absence from her was like passing into the darkness of the grave; and my old impatience of sorrow made me furious and wild against the obstructions which kept us apart. I used to get out of our house at night by a side door that no one ever looked after, and wander about her garden on the chance of seeing her at the bedroom window, or perhaps of seeing only her light, burning far into the dawning day. There was no danger of being discovered. Mr. Dalrymple slept at the other side of the house altogether, and the big watch-dog knew me. I used to stand among the laurestinus bushes, looking page: 207 up at her window; and I was grandly rewarded when, as she sometimes did, she came all in white and drew back the blinds, opening the window, and sometimes stepping out on the balcony and looking at the sky. I never let her know that I was there. That too was my secret which I kept sacred; till one night, as if attracted by some magnetic influence, she came down the outside steps which led from her bedroom to the garden, and walked straight to where I was standing in the shadow of the bushes.

‘I knew you were here,’ she said, as she came up to me. ‘I was conscious of you, and could not sleep. Child! what have you done to me to draw me to you? What strange power have you over me?’

I trembled as if in fever.

‘Have I any power over you?’ I said.

‘You see it,’ she answered simply.

I cannot describe the curious sense of in- inversion page: 208 version which these words created. I, who had been the slave, the worshipper, the subordinate, to be suddenly invested with power—to be even so prepotent as to compel obedience from the one who had hitherto been supreme—it was a change of parts which for the moment overwhelmed me with a sense of universal instability; and to the end of my life I shall never forget the strange confusion of pride and pleasure, of pain in loss yet joy in the sensation of a newborn power which possessed me, as the goddess thus became a woman, and made of me, who had been her slave, her master and a man.

I did not speak, nor did she. It was like an enchanted spell which words would have broken; and we walked in the dark alleys of the shrubbery in a silence that was at once divine in its blessedness and painful in its vagueness, and more like a dream than a fact. I did not know what it meant, page: 209 and yet I dared not break it; and she did not. We went into a small summer-house at the end of the garden, and sat there hand in hand, till the morning broke. Then the faint flush on the mountain-top and the first stirring of the birds told us it was time to part.

‘See how I have trusted you!’ she said as she stood up to go. She laid both her hands on my shoulders, then drew my face forward and kissed me as she had done once before, on the forehead and the eyes. ‘Your consecration,’ she said; ‘the seal of our eternal oneness.’

Overpowered by an emotion so powerful as to be physical pain, I knelt on the ground at her feet; and I think that for a moment I died.

This was the first and only time we met thus by night in the garden. But after this I passed the best half of every night in the shadow of the laurestinus bushes, praying page: 210 for her to come down to me as she had done on that night of ecstasy and silence. And as the hours passed and she gave no sign, I used to feel as if I must inevitably die as I stood there—as if this agony of vain longing and ruthless disappointment took from me my very heart's blood.

At last the strain grew too intense, and nature gave way. I had a sharp attack of brain-fever, when I was for many days in danger. Through the dark tempestuous trouble of the time, I vaguely remember a sudden influx of peace and rest when there came to my bedside some one who spoke to me softly, in what seemed to me a language I had once learned and now vainly tried to remember; bending over me and breathing on me. I remember how my face was cooled and refreshed by what I thought was water from a Greek fountain, and how, with a subtle scent of roses, it was softly dried. I thought it was my mother who had come page: 211 out of heaven, or poor Nurse Mary who had returned; then that it was the Divine Virgin who had made me her second Christ; then that it was the goddess Isis, she whose awful beauty no man had unveiled; and then I had a confused dream of Diana and Endymion, which changed into that of Juno and Ixion, as the vision faded and the form melted away into mist.

It was none of all these. It was Adeline Dalrymlple; and the tears on my face, which seemed to have fallen from some divine source, were those shed because of the sorrow which had no healing—because of the love which had had no past and could have no future.

When I recovered I found that the Dalrymples had left Windy Brow, and no one at Eden knew where they had gone. Years after I heard of them as living at Venice, where Mrs. Dalrymple was a confirmed invalid and never seen, and Mr. page: 212 Dalrymple was wholly given up to mesmerism, opium and poetry.

Thus then, began and ended the first love of my life; and in this manner the Great Book was opened and the page turned down—half-read but ineffaceable. And ever and ever a fragrance steals from that closed page which neither length of time nor deeper knowledge of life can destroy. Adeline Dalrymple remains in my memory as the impersonation of all beauty and all delight—a woman more heavenly than human—ever the saint in her shrine, the goddess in her temple, her white robes unstained and her divine glory undiminished through all time and for all eternity.

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