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It need hardly be said that the woman by whom these letter were written had no thought that they would be read by anyone but the person to whom they were addressed. But a request, conveyed under circumstances which the writer herself would have regarded as all-commanding, urges that they should now be given to the world; and, so far as is possible with a due regard to the claims of privacy, what is here printed presents the letters as they were first written in their complete form and sequence.

Very little has been omitted which in any way bears upon the devotion of which they are a record. A few names of persons and localities have been changed; and several short notes (not above twenty in all), together with some passages bearing too intimately upon events which might be recognized, have been left out without indication of their omission.

It was a necessary condition to the present publication that the authorship of these letters should remain unstated. Those who know will keep silence; those who do not, will not find here any data likely to guide them to the truth.

The story which darkens these pages cannot be more fully indicated while the feelings of some who are still living have to be consulted; nor will the reader find the root of the tragedy explained in the letters themselves. But one thing at least may be said as regards the principal actors—that to the memory of neither of them does any blame belong. They were equally the victims of circumstances, which came whole out of the hands of fate and remained, so far as one of the two was concerned, a mystery to the day of her death.


Beloved: This is your first letter from me: yet it is not the first I have written to you. There are letters to you lying at love's dead-letter office in this same writing—so many, my memory has lost count of them!

This is my confession: I told you I had one to make, and you laughed:—you did not know how serious it was—for to be in love with you long before you were in love with me—nothing can be more serious than that!

You deny that I was: yet I know when you first really loved me. All at once, one day something about me came upon you as a surprise: and how, except on the road to love, can there be surprises? And in the surprise came love. You did not know me before. Before then, it was only the other nine entanglements which take hold of the male heart and occupy it till the tenth is ready to make one knot of them all.

In the letter written that day, I said, "You love me." I could never have said it before; though I had written twelve letters to my love for you, I had not once been able to write of your love for me. Was not that serious?

Now I have confessed! I thought to discover myself all blushes, but my face is cool: you have kissed all my blushes away! Can I ever be ashamed in your eyes now, or grow rosy because of anything you or I think? So!—you have robbed me of one of my charms: I am brazen. Can you love me still?

You love me, you love me; you are wonderful! we are both wonderful, you and I.

Well, it is good for you to know I have waited and wished, long before the thing came true. But to see you waiting and wishing, when the thing was true all the time:—oh! that was the trial! How not suddenly to throw my arms round you and cry, "Look, see! O blind mouth, why are you famished?"

And you never knew? Dearest, I love you for it, you never knew! I believe a man, when he finds he has won, thinks he has taken the city by assault: he does not guess how to the insiders it has been a weary siege, with flags of surrender fluttering themselves to rags from every wall and window! No: in love it is the women who are the strategists: and they have at last to fall into the ambush they know of with a good grace.

You must let me praise myself a little for the past, since I can never praise myself again. You must do that for me now! There is not a battle left for me to win. You and peace hold me so much a prisoner, have so caught me from my own way of living, that I seem to hear a pin drop twenty years ahead of me: it seems an event! Dearest, a thousand times, I would not have it be otherwise: I am only too willing to drop out of existence altogether and find myself in your arms instead. Giving you my love, I can so easily give you my life. Ah, my dear, I am yours so utterly, so gladly! Will you ever find it out, you who took so long to discover anything?


Dearest: Your name woke me this morning: I found my lips piping their song before I was well back into my body out of dreams. I wonder if the rogues babble when my spirit is nesting? Last night you were a high tree and I was in it, the wind blowing us both; but I forget the rest,—whatever, it was enough to make me wake happy.

There are dreams that go out like candle-light directly one opens the shutters: they illumine the walls no longer; the daylight is too strong for them. So, now, I can hardly remember anything of my dreams: daylight, with you in it, floods them out.

Oh, how are you? Awake? Up? Have you breakfasted? I ask you a thousand things. You are thinking of me, I know: but what are you thinking? I am devoured by curiosity about myself—none at all about you, whom I have all by heart! If I might only know how happy I make you, and just which thing I said yesterday is making you laugh to-day—I could cry with joy over being the person I am.

It is you who make me think so much about myself, trying to find myself out. I used to be most self-possessed, and regarded it as the crowning virtue: and now—your possession of me sweeps it away, and I stand crying to be let into a secret that is no longer mine. Shall I ever know why you love me? It is my religious difficulty; but it never rises into a doubt. You do love me, I know. Why, I don't think I ever can know.

You ask me the same question about yourself, and it becomes absurd, because I altogether belong to you. If I hold my breath for a moment wickedly (for I can't do it breathing), and try to look at the world with you out of it, I seem to have fallen over a precipice; or rather, the solid earth has slipped from under my feet, and I am off into vacuum. Then, as I take breath again for fear, my star swims up and clasps me, and shows me your face. O happy star this that I was born under, that moved with me and winked quiet prophecies at me all through my childhood, I not knowing what it meant:—the dear radiant thing naming to me my lover!

As a child, now and then, and for no reason, I used to be sublimely happy: real wings took hold of me. Sometimes a field became fairyland as I walked through it; or a tree poured out a scent that its blossoms never had before or after. I think now that those must have been moments when you too were in like contact with earth,—had your feet in grass which felt a faint ripple of wind, or stood under a lilac in a drench of fragrance that had grown double after rain.

When I asked you about the places of your youth, I had some fear of finding that we might once have met, and that I had not remembered it as the summing up of my happiness in being young. Far off I see something undiscovered waiting us, something I could not have guessed at before—the happiness of being old. Will it not be something like the evening before last when we were sitting together, your hand in mine, and one by one, as the twilight drew about us, the stars came and took up their stations overhead? They seemed to me then to be following out some quiet train of thought in the universal mind: the heavens were remembering the stars back into their places:—the Ancient of Days drawing upon the infinite treasures of memory in his great lifetime. Will not Love's old age be the same to us both—a starry place of memories?

Your dear letter is with me while I write: how shortly you are able to say everything! To-morrow you will come. What more do I want—except to-morrow itself, with more promises of the same thing?

You are at my heart, dearest: nothing in the world can be nearer to me than you!

Romantische fictie
14 juni
Rectory Print