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The Autobiography of Christopher Kirkland, Vol. 2. Linton, E. Lynn (Elizabeth Lynn), 1822–1898.
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CHAPTER VII.

MY Parisian experiences changed my point of view in more things than one, and in nothing more than on the marriage question. People would say those experiences had corrupted me. Perhaps so. For sure it is that from this time I have thought the laxity which reigns in society comes less from the corruption of the human heart than because life is too monotonous here, or the laws are too strict there. That is, I have learnt to condemn results less than to reason on causes.

With belief in direct revelation dies out page: 205 the divinity of laws as they stand. One gets to see that all society is built up by experiments, and that the final word has not been said on anything. One gets to see too, that, although to obey existing laws is the duty of every citizen, to change them is the right of the community and to criticize them that of the individual. Without doubt there is a better and a worse, a higher and a lower; but nothing is absolutely final; and that ‘fourth dimension’ may be applied to society as well as to space, and to morals and even matrimony as to other things. I saw that in Roman Catholic countries the sublime theory of the sacramental quality of marriage is wholly inoperative in practice, and that this is none the more sacred because it is indissoluble. On the contrary, the unyielding nature of the tie forces consideration for human weakness; and adultery is condoned because divorce is impossible.

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The matrimonial ideal of the one love for life, beginning in youth, enduring through maturity to old age, and ending only with death, is of course the purest and noblest basis of the family. Extremes meeting, we see this condition fulfilled in those elemental states of society where wants are few, the intellect is undeveloped, the sphere restricted, and the instincts, satisfied, leave no room for vagrant imagination—where in fact, there is no imagination to go astray. But in a complex and widely differentiated society like ours—where men cannot marry when young and women cannot marry where they would; where the highly developed nervous organization of the race makes compatibility difficult to find and incompatibility impossible to bear; where women's domestic life is cramping and monotonous, the development of trade having robbed it of half its duties and all its variety—post-nuptial dissatisfaction is fatally common for both page: 207 men and women alike. Hence, facility of divorce by robbing inconstancy of its falsehood and substituting the honest confession of incompatibility for the shameful detection of crime, is not only a just relief, but is also an accumulation of virtue for the community. Thus, though I have never gone so far as those who would have no bond outside inclination, I have, since my Paris days, gone as far as those countries which allow of divorce by mutual consent and without the necessity of committing a crime to procure relief.

These views are not considered now so subversive as they were when I was young and before the passing of our own Divorce Law, which at least gives easily to the poor what had been possible only with difficulty to the rich. Liberty of opinion has made great strides since then, in spite of the persecutions which have lately disgraced us; but we must never forget that these strides page: 208 were first marked out by those who had the courage to speak plainly and aloud, and the constancy to submit to the moral obloquy which was their reward. Every time has its fetishes which must not be touched with a profane hand, nor discussed as to their meaning or substance. To the Greek, his sacred Xoana were mystical representations of the unseen gods and not battered old blackened blocks of wood; to the Catholic peasant, the Miraculous Virgin of the Santuario is the direct Giver of Health, the Healer by its own intrinsic power, and not a hideous daub with as little art as divinity; to the seminarist, his guardian angel is a fact and not a poetic dream; to the pious savage, thunder is the voice of his god and the doctrine of an Impersonal Force would be impiety and patent falsehood; and to us, our existing laws on marriage—not to go farther afield—are as sacred and as unalterable as are all page: 209 those material fetishes to their worshippers; and he who discusses the one or the other from the ground-work of development and the point of view of expediency is an infidel and profane.

And yet my old friend Mrs. Hulme was right. There is no absolute; and we shall have to try back and go forward many times yet before we reach perfection.

No man can say that all things are perfect as they are, even in Protestant monogamous England; and the cuckoo-cry of the wickedness of the human heart is all excuse, not a reason. The worst possible legislation is that which multiplies unnecessary restrictions, and thus creates artificial offences. The best is that which leaves the individual unchecked liberty up to the point which harms no one. For legislation, like everything else, develops and matures, passing from the absolutism necessary for infancy to the freedom of the page: 210 full-grown man. So it will some day be with marriage—when the command: ‘You shall not, how much soever you may desire,’ shall give place to the wider line ‘You are the best judge for yourself.’

I have dwelt on this subject so long because it was one of those which had the most fatal influence over my future life. I was more or less a moral derelict everywhere; but here I was not only abandoned, but actively accursed as well.

The young man's fancies that we know of ran lightly in those days in the direction natural to my age. My position was sufficiently good to make marriage possible, and I had begun to feel the lodgings into which I had gone when the old boarding-house came to grief both lonely and oppressive. To be sure, all that Parisian experience had been a little deterring, not to say intimidating; but who believes that his neighbour's history will be his own? All women were page: 211 not discursive, and faithful wives and honest mothers were still to be found. I set myself, therefore, to look for that which never comes when sought, and I did my best to fall in love with one or other of the girls I knew—chiefly, of course, amongst the advanced class.

Somehow, each failed to satisfy my taste all through. I was a Republican, granted; but I was also a gentleman. I did not think then, and I do not think now, that Republicanism or Freethinking exempts us from the obligation of the most perfect courtesy, the most exquisite moral refinement. On the contrary. The more you respect yourself, which is the key-note of Republicanism, the more you will respect others; and the less you recognise divine command in the things of life, the more you will be careful to maintain the very minutiæ of moral delicacy. It is laid on you to prove to others that this spotless grace and deli- delicacy page: 212 cacy—this stately moral heroism—is the natural development of the moral sense, human and intrinsic, not taught from without. Far from brutal disregard or slipshod license, the Republican and Freethinker is bound to be more courteous and more self-restrained than others. He has only himself for his own diploma. It behoves him, then, to be careful of both parchment and endorsement.

But, I confess it with a certain sense of shame—a certain sense of ethical unmanliness in a fastidiousness which looked like disloyalty to my flag—all these girls of the emancipated class sinned, or in grace and good breeding, or in the more serious qualifications for domestic life. They were clever and bright-witted; some were pretty and some were good; but either they were not conventionally ladies or they were not trustworthy as future wives.

There was Henrietta, tall, handsome, page: 213 brilliant, vigorous—a fine kind of nineteenth-century Diana in a duffel coat with big buttons and outside pockets. She gave music lessons, to help her mother's narrow income. So far, this was to her honour. But the life of the streets, and the independence, freedom and breaking up of all domestic habits engendered thereby, were destructive of more than regularity of hours. She was a brave accentuated creature; an ardent Republican; a passionate woman's rights woman; a potential martyr for liberty of thought and freedom of action; the kind of woman to be of priceless value in a revolution, when she would have ridden fifty miles at a stretch to carry papers, at the risk of her life, past the enemy's lines; a woman to take the lead and keep it; a woman in her own right—‘maîtresse-femme’ from head to heel; good for action, for courage, for devotion and a hundred other heroic virtues. But for the monotony of page: 214 domestic life? for the small submissions of wifehood? the larger self-sacrifices of maternity? No! she was not fitted for these! When custom should have staled the first freshness of love, and the inevitable reaction should have set in, she would then have gone back to her old habits, to her vagabond life, to her delight in her sense of freedom and self-support, to her quasi-masculinity of custom, and her independence of hours and duties. And her own home would be the place where she would be seen least.

Then there was Laura, good, sweet-tempered, orderly, conformable. But she had not a thought higher than the lowest mole-heap of practical utility. She would have steeped herself in her domestic duties till nothing else was left. Her soul would have simmered away in the stew-pan; and that basket of needlework would have engulphed every vestige of her intellect. She page: 215 would have sunk into the place of a fair and gentle servant; and I wanted my wife to be my companion, not only my hand-maiden.

Again, there was Kate, that passionate and desolate little virgin disgraced by fortune and worthy of a better fate. She was lame, but very sweet and lovely in the face; a spiritual, self-consuming, enthusiastic flame of fire, with a soul that wore out her body and hidden passions that burned her as it were alive. I was very fond of her, and she liked me; but she was my friend, not my lover, and never could be.

For worldly advantages Miss Daniels was the largest prize in the lottery; and I knew, without vanity, that I had only to stretch out my hand, when she would put herself and all she possessed into it. She ‘called cousins,’ as she expressed it, with my old idol, King Dan, but—those buts!—she was seven years older than I, and page: 216 of portentous plainness. She was perfectly well-bred and extremely well-educated; and she had fifteen hundred a year. But it wanted only one or two little lines to make her face that of a dromedary. And with my sensuous temperament some share of beauty was an essential.

Theresa, sweet and seductive, had not quite a clean bill of moral health; and I did not care to come second. Mary was grace incarnate, but she was mad about display, and thought the only propaganda of advanced opinions to touch the world was to be made by diamonds and dinners. No! none of them would do. They were all deciduous; and my fancies fell like autumn leaves. I was desperately in love for four-and-twenty hours; and then I came out at the other side and recognised the impossibility of things.

This happened so often, that I began to believe myself incapable of anything like a page: 217 serious or sustained passion. Had I then exhausted my heart in that one early outflow? was I now nothing but a bit of moral thistledown, ever floating and never able to root?

When I saw Cordelia Gilchrist the whole panorama of my life changed, and I fell in love with her in that intense way which is almost like possession. It was not because of her beauty, for, save a tall and graceful figure, perfect hands and feet, and large deep blue or rather violet-coloured Irish eyes, she had no beauty, properly so called. But she had that irresistible fascination which is more than mere loveliness of feature. To see her was to love her; to love her was more than a liberal education—it was to touch the sublimest moral heights. Had I been able to forecast all that had to come, I would have done as I did, in spite of the anguish involved. I loved her as a man of my character would page: 218 perforce love the woman he found in every way supreme, and whom he rejoiced to own his superior. I loved her with tenderness and reverence combined; with the love of a man and the worship of a devotee; with the same idealizing fervour as that which I had given to Adeline Dalrymple, and with more consciousness of myself. And she loved me. It was a thing that came at first sight on both sides, a sudden recognition of affinity for which neither was responsible and which neither could resist. We were made for each other. Each was the half which together made the completed human being.

And yet, what hope was there? None! Cordelia was a Roman Catholic, sincere, convinced, devout. And I was a Freethinker, a Deist, whose God was scarcely Providence so much as the Universal Mind; a sociologist, unable to see society as other than a series of experiments, where even marriage, which page: 219 to her was a divine sacrament, was nothing but a human convention to be righteously dissolved if it failed its appointed end.

To Cordelia all that I thought was fearful blasphemy; and it is a marvel to me now how her love withstood her horror. But the fact that it did lifts my feeling for her into a kind of divine gratitude, which keeps her ever in the place of my holiest and my best. In spite of her religious repugnance she loved me, the human being. She would not abandon me, and she clung to the hope of my conversion. Her director, too, was merciful, and suffered her to continue the understanding—which was not a distinct engagement—in the belief that I should be turned to the true faith by love. As I was still notoriously unanchored, denying more than I affirmed—and mere negation is supposed to be a kind of Götterdammerung which only wants the presence of Freya to disperse and make page: 220 into living light—it was not impossible that love should work this reformation in me, as it had in others before me, and that I should come to my own happiness and make Cordelia's, as well as save my soul alive, by giving another convert to the Church which alone is the true Ark of Faith.

But, as I could not accept the foundation, the superstructure had never a chance. If Protestantism had been rejected for its unprovable assertions, what could I do with Catholicism, which makes larger demands on our faith and adds stone upon stone to the great temple of superstition? How could I speak of the Virgin Mary as Deipara?—take part in her Litany?—believe in her own Immaculate Conception?—call her ‘Mother of our Creator,’ and ask her to ‘deliver us from all dangers?’ I went to mass with Cordelia because she wished it, and I was with her. Had I page: 221 believed in hell, I would have gone there too, could I but have been with her. Ah! there could have been no hell where she was! Francesca da Rimini must have carried heaven with her had Paolo loved her as I loved Cordelia! And I let her chosen priests talk to me, because it was her wish; and also because I learnt more clearly what she thought through their teaching. But I was never stirred a hair's-breadth. Though I should lose all, I could not command belief in what seemed to me mere fables from end to end; and even against love I must be faithful to truth.

What argument was it to me, when Father Nolan spoke of authority and the long line of tradition, miracle and inspired counsel, which had remained unbroken in the Romish Church from the establishment of Christianity to now? Their traditions are not evidence; their miracles I disbelieved; and the Councils presided over page: 222 by a John XII., a Benedict IX., an Alexander VI., did not seem to me to carry with them strong assurance of divine inspiration. For unbroken succession of teaching—have not Indian jugglers also this? Does that make their juggling miraculous according to its seeming? Could all the authority of all the popes and cardinals that ever lived prove the truth of the Incarnation?—or manifest more than their own belief in it?—or reconcile stories which oppose the laws of nature and deny all that science teaches? Could authority and tradition harmonize impossibilities? or make the distinct assertion that this generation shall not pass away till such and such things be fulfilled, aught but a promise which failed to justify itself? Could any number of Councils, of the same Church which condemned Galileo, verify the standing still of the sun upon Gibeon and of the moon in the valley of Ajalon?—or the page: 223 going back of the shadow on the dial ten degrees for a sign of healing to Hezekiah? Who will keep the keeper? and who will verify the verifier?

The great cardinal who then ruled over the Romish Church in England—whose appointment had so fluttered the Protestant dovecote, and whose gigantic ‘guy’ I had seen not so long ago as the expression of that fluttering—he, like Father Nolan, found me impracticable; and what love for my darling could not win from me, arguments, flawed from the base upwards, could still less! For I loved her! I loved her!—how deeply, to my enduring sorrow I alone knew. I would have died for her as willingly as other men would have received their supreme honour. I would even have seen her married to another, if she had loved him and he had been worthy of her. I loved her beyond self, beyond jealousy, beyond passion itself. Her happiness was dearer to me than my page: 224 own; and to have known her blessed would have been more to me than any joy that could have befallen myself. I loved her till I sometimes felt as if my heart would break, as when something is overloaded—it may be with golden treasure; all the same, it is overloaded;—and it breaks. I loved her beyond life and fame and repute; and all that I had or desired of fortune was valuable only so far as it regarded her. I would have accepted a title only to give it to her; and wealth would have had no charm for me if I might not have shared it with her. I read her into the universe and saw all things as the reflex—the shadow—of her. But I could not lie—even for her!

When I parted from her it was absolutely as if my heart were taken from my body—as if my life were torn away physically. It was acute bodily suffering; and more than once I had to use conscious self-control not to shriek like a man in agony. Whenever page: 225 she left me it was no longer life, it was death—but death which retained the consciousness of pain. I would have made myself her helot, if that would have done her good. I would have sacrificed my whole position and have worked for her on the roads, in the mines, at the lowest and vilest occupations, if she would have gained thereby. Had she been stricken with leprosy, I would have taken her in my arms; had her breath carried with it death, I would have kissed her lips till I died. It was for no want of love. No man, living nor dead, in fact nor in fancy, ever loved with more wholeness of devotion than I. But the Truth, as I conceived it, was my Sacred Mother whom I must not betray. Let my heart break—let my life go down to ruin—let me lose all and stand a beggar and an outcast instead of the glad possessor of love and happiness—let me sit for ever among the ashes and live to the end in the black page: 226 midnight—but I must not lie; and I could not! And had I still to make the choice, I would rather commit personal suicide than, even for Cordelia, stand up in the market-place and say ‘I believe’ what I hold to be a fable.

On her side she was as firm as I was on mine, as passionately convinced of the truth of her creed as I was of its falsehood. She had no alternative but to refuse to marry me. How else could she have acted? She believed with the intensest fervour of conviction all that I rejected with the vehemence of denial. It would have been sacrilege to her Mother, the Church, and blasphemy to God, had she married me, unbeliever as I was. Indeed, her Church would not have sanctioned our union, nor could any priest have been found who would have given us the blessing. And to her—a simply civil ceremony would have made her, not my wife, but my concubine.

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‘If only you would believe!’ she used to say to me with tears in her beautiful eyes. Oh, those eyes! they haunt me still! those tears in them, which were like blood drawn from my very heart! And yet both truth and honour forbade me to dry them. My heart! my heart! how was it that you did not break?

One day she laid her hand on my arm.

‘Become simply a believer in the Divine Incarnation,’ she said. ‘Be a Christian of any denomination, and I will get the consent of the Church to marry you. But how can I be the wife of one who disbelieves in the Divinity of the Saviour?—who rejects the message of love and the means of reconciliation sent to a fallen world by God through Christ? How could I ever say my prayers again, after having committed such a deadly sin? and who would give me absolution while I went on living in it?’

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And what could I say but repeat the old sad cry?—

‘I cannot believe, and I cannot lie, even for you!’

But almost worse than my theological unbelief was my moral unsoundness; and specially on that marriage question. There seemed in this a certain kind of personal contamination which touched her own purity. My want of belief in the sacramental quality of marriage seemed to rob it of all sanctity, and to make it—on my side, at least—nothing better than a veiled and decent sin.

‘What security,’ she once asked, ‘have men or women with wives or husbands who think as you do? If marriage is merely a civil contract, dissoluble at pleasure—a social convenience without intrinsic sacredness—what security is there? Yourself, Christopher—if I have no stronger hold on you than your fancy—is that inalienable? We page: 229 all know that people change. How could I be sure you would not?’

It was in vain I pleaded the worth of a man's word and the security lying in a steadfast nature. I had never yet proved false to an affection nor a principle; and speculative opinions have nothing to do with practical honour nor living conduct. Because I thought marriage a civil contract and not a divine ordinance—because I would give relief to those who had made a mistaken choice—that did not imply I would change in my love for her, nor fail in my fidelity. Was no reliance to be placed on the proof afforded by the past? Was the whole run and set of a character valueless as evidence?

She shook her head when I spoke to her like this.

‘The only safeguard of conduct is religious principle,’ she said. ‘Outside belief in God and His commands there is no security—no sacredness!’

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We soon ceased to discuss the question of the sacramental or experimental character of marriage. It was too painful for her to hear; and I understood her sensitiveness. And I loved her for it; as I loved all that was hers, how much soever opposed to myself, because of the saintly purity and the saintly constancy with which she held to her convictions. If I could have changed her and made her a Freethinker, like myself, I would. As I could not, I loved her for what she was. But this marriage matter was the colouring thread that ran through the whole web of our mourning. And though after a time we left off open controversy, as being worse than useless, I knew what she felt; and she knew that I had not changed. She held fast by her points of faith and I by mine of denial; and there was no middle term where we could meet.

Year after year we went on in the old page: 231 ways, and time brought us no nearer to a settlement than we were at the beginning. She did not give me up. She had always the pious believer's faith in the power of God to work a miracle in my behalf, and in His goodness to turn my soul from the darkness to the light. I, on my side, prayed earnestly for better guidance. I besought the Power who over-shadowed and influenced all life to be shown my wrong, if I were in the wrong; to be convinced of error if I were wandering and astray. Passionate, extreme, thorough, I would have submitted to any public humiliation had I been convinced of the truth, as Cordelia saw it, and of my own error, as she believed it. No recantation would have been too complete—no penitent reconciliation to God too humble. I would have devoted my life to the service of the Church I had slandered. And had it been the Mother's will, and Cordelia's, I page: 232 would have foregone all personal benefit from my conversion, and would have gone into a monastery to expiate my former sins instead of to the marriage altar to profit by my present grace.

But no light, if light it were, came to me. The whole thing still continued to be a mass of beautiful but unreal superstition. And the idea that the Great Incommunicable Spirit beyond and above all sense had ever been localized and individualized was more and more to me the outcome of that ignorance which made the earth the cosmic centre—the outcome of that vanity which supposes man to be the supreme object of divine thought and care.

But we loved each other. Deeper than all faiths, stronger than all doubts, lay that deathless love of which irreconcilable principle was just strong enough to prevent the translation into deeds. It was not able to kill the spirit! Oh! those long years page: 233 of ever-increasing denial of those things which it was my life's happiness to affirm!—of ever-decreasing trust in the power of love to bridge over the gulf dividing us! It was like a long death-agony, where Hope and Fear stand by the watcher, now the one chanting a hymn with a smile, now the other wailing a threnody with a sob.

And the whole thing was such a contradiction; and yet it was inevitable! The ardent desire to benefit humanity, which is the very tap-root of my moral nature, urged me to combat everywhere the organized mental tyranny and debasing superstitious ignorance of the Church of Rome—that deadliest enemy to human progress which the modern world possesses. Yet the person for whom I would have died—for whose good I myself would have gone down into infamy—was a Roman Catholic, and from her faith drew half her moral beauty. From that very religion which I would have de- destroyed page: 234 stroyed, she got that supreme spiritual loveliness which bent me to worship her as something beyond the normal heights of humanity. She was like some faultless masterpiece turned out by misshapen workmen;—for never on earth lived a purer soul, a more conscientious, high-principled, faithful nature. If her land of departed souls be peopled with such as she, purgatory is an unnecessary halting-place, and hell would emphatically be empty!

For her dear sake, to this hour I have a strange feeling of tenderness for the Roman Catholic ritual—for all who worship in sincerity as she worshipped, love what she loved and believe in those to whom she prayed. The sweet faint lingering scent of incense in the churches recalls her pure and lovely image to my mind as clearly as when I saw her cross herself as she knelt, watching her in her prayers, and loving her all the more for the faith I could not share. And page: 235 I am not ashamed to confess that more than once in these later years, for all that has come and gone between now and then, I have wept like a child when I have heard the mass and seen the symbol which stood between me and this well-named ‘servant of Christ.’ Hating the system with the whole force of my intellect, I love the worship with that idealization of sentiment which is so pathetic in its impotence to influence the conduct.

My love for that best and holiest of women was like one of those ground-springs which are too deep to stop, yet are impossible to utilize; but they always keep that one spot green where forget-me-nots grow and summer roses fall. I loved her as a man loves when life and death meet in mingled passion and despair—with heart and soul and adoration—with the kiss that was heaven and the tears that were torture—with all that I had of poetry, of sentiment, of aspiration, of page: 236 desire—with infinite yearning, with boundless reverence, with tenderness, with devotion, with trust and with faith—with all that is human LOVE in its fullest sense. But the Crucified Christ stood between us with the force of Death; and the Church was the angel with the drawn sword who drove us forth from Paradise. And so it must be, while I could not worship nor she deny.

Thus the thing continued for many weary years, and at the end of all our struggles and all our agony, we were just where we were on the first night when we had met and recognised our mutual fitness to our mutual sorrow! Only this difference was between now and then—Hope lay like a dead child between us, and youth had faded from both.

We still saw each other at intervals. Cordelia had taken the habit of calling me brother, and wished that I should call her sister. Sister Cordelia! No living human page: 237 sound has in it the music of this to me! Sister Cordelia—the heart of all beauty, the soul of all grace! The name seemed to keep us together in the invisible bond which we could neither break nor draw closer. And by this time society had accepted our relations as fraternal, and had ceased to busy itself about our future.

One day we were walking in the fields together. It was the early summer, or rather the late spring-time—that time when love has yet in it the eager stretch of future hope, and when nature reminds one of nothing so much as a bridal and a blush. How well I remember that day—the unstained blue sky; the dazzlingly white cumulus clouds hanging like milky fleeces in the upper air; the interpenetrating sense of freshness, of joy, of life that laughed, of love that had won, everywhere in creation save with her and me! And yet we were together. And to me, with my passionate temperament, the page: 238 presence of the beloved and the joy of the moment were so much!

The fields were full of flowers—here silvered with daisies; there golden with buttercups and paler cowslips; and here again delicately shaded with the pale purple of the cuckoo flower. The air was full of subtle scents from root and blade and leaf and flower; from the teeming earth and the freshening water; from invisible substances brought from afar, and mixing their unknown sweetness with those we know at home. It was full of yet more subtle music from the thousand unseen creatures which hummed and quivered and sang their songs to each other in words we could not understand, but the theme of which we knew by the interpretation of our own hearts. A lark was soaring overhead, and singing as it soared; birds all along the hedgerows and from the trees were calling to their mates; a couple of white butterflies were fluttering above page: 239 our heads—everywhere it was the same—happiness and love—life, happiness and love!

We sat down on a bank under the lee of a hedge; and close to the gate. I took from my pocket Moore's ‘Lalla Rookh’ and began to read aloud the ‘Fire Worshipper.’ She was fond of that poem, representing as it did both her faith and her country. And at all times she liked my reading to her. When I came to those lines in the first canto, beginning: ‘Hadst thou been born a Persian maid,’ something as real as a touch seemed to pass between us, and more than the spoken words had been said. My voice broke and I stopped, while she looked into my eyes with an expression in her own that was at once a prayer and a confession, an entreaty and a lament; then suddenly she turned her face to my shoulder and burst into tears.

‘Why will you not come to me?’ she page: 240 sobbed. ‘How can you still deny Christ and crucify Him afresh? How can you reject me—who love you so tenderly?’

I cannot relate that scene; as little could I catalogue the death-throes of my favourite child. It was the last despairing effort to win me over that she made, the last time I had to endure the rack I had voluntarily prepared for myself. She was as little near to yielding to my prayer to marry me, despite all, as was ever Saint Agatha near to denying her Lord. And I could not forswear my truth, nor join in the ranks of those who worshipped idols and cherished fables as living facts.

We stood together and watched the last of all things fade away between us. And Death came up where Love had been, and settled down on our hearts for ever. The long agony of years culminated in one supreme hour of anguish; and when the evening came, all was over. I knew no page: 241 more than that she had left me—that she had gone with Father Nolan, who had seemed to come out of space to where we sat, and who had spoken to her words I scarcely understood, but words which she obeyed and which severed us for all time and eternity.

When I came back to life and the things of the earth and the senses, I was alone. The sky was overcast; the night had come; the hoarse cry of the goatsucker vibrated in the mournful air; an owl hooted from the wall; and the passing bell told of the death hour of some poor soul cut off from all its love. Christ and the Church were victorious; and there were only two desolate hearts the more, and one ruined life, to add to the count of the martyrs made by Faith and Denial.

But, set on a pedestal unattainable by any other stands the image of this sacred woman in my heart. Whatever of grace page: 242 and glory others have, she had more. Perfect in purity, in goodness, with a conscience that was as firm as adamant and crystal clear; perfect in loyalty to her creed and in loyalty to love, irreconcilable as these were; full of the majesty of moral beauty, of the splendour of human virtue—she is unique and apart from all I have ever known. She is the enduring loss and the unhealed sorrow of my life; and when I die, her name will be the last on my lips as it is the first in my heart. Whatever loves I had before, or have had since, lie in her shadow. The aureole round her memory eclipses their noonday brightness. Were she to call to me to go to her, I would stride over the grave of my fortune and my fair fame, and I would go. Were she to hold out her hand to me, I would step down the golden stair into the abyss to take it. And I lost her for an idea—for an unprovable belief and an undemonstrable page: 243 negation. I lost her because I could not lie, nor could she. But if I saw the print of her foot in the sand to-day, I would kiss the mark, and the bitter dust would be like rose-leaves on my mouth.

Life was never the same to me after this. Something had gone from me which could never be replaced. I felt like one who has received some unseen and irreparable hurt which maims, but does not kill. I was not visibly disabled, but living was more difficult. My affections had lost their centre and I was unfocussed everywhere. I had to live without personal hope or love in my life, and with only work, humanity, and thought to fill up the void. It was a colourless kind of thing for one like myself, strong, impassioned, fully vitalized, unable to exist under the blight of passive melancholy, whose impatience of gloom made it necessary to kill his sorrow or be killed by it. But it had to be borne; and I page: 244 did what I could for the sake of self-respect, and to vindicate the claim of character and philosophy to give the power of endurance. For I have always said that resignation to the inevitable is a question of natural strength and not of religious principle. The endless despair and passionate insubmission of many sincerely pious Christians show that they do not ‘forgive God’ for having afflicted them; while those who have no belief in the direct and deliberate will of an All-good Father, take their courage in both hands and bravely bear that cross which no tears can remove.

For myself, I buried my sorrow out of sight, and flung myself more and more into active life. Cordelia was dead to me, but humanity was left alive, and still suffered. There was so much to be done for the world! And after all, what were my individual sorrows compared with those of the race? What we now call altruism page: 245 was then as much a fact under another name. And altruism is integral to my nature, born as it is of passionate sensation and keen imagination, by which I suffer in my own person and understand that others should feel as I have done.

‘Your vice of pity,’ said old Madame Mohl one day to me, reprovingly.

For all that it has cost me I would rather have this vice than the alternative virtue of indifference.

Meanwhile, great changes had taken place in the old home. All my sisters were married, and my brother Edwin was also married. His wife was somewhat older than he and well endowed. She was almost maternally fond of him; and in every way his lines had fallen in pleasant places. Hence he was off my mind, and I had neither duties nor regrets on his account.

My father was dead; and the three old homes had passed into the unsympathetic page: 246 hands of strangers. Mr. Grahame too was dead, and the new incumbent of St. Mark's belonged to the most exaggerated section of the Evangelical school. He was simply ‘old priest writ large,’ who had narrowed the universe down to his own microscopic point. He was the sworn enemy of science, literary breadth of view, freedom of speculative opinion, change in any direction; and the grossest superstitions of Rome—to him the Scarlet Woman of the Apocalypse—were run hard by his own.

Thus my relations with Eden were broken at the root, and I never now went down among the mountains which had seen my youthful struggles and my boyish despair, the first waking of my mind to doubt and my first experience of love and loss.

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