Danyers afterwards liked to fancy that he had recognized Mrs. Anerton at once; but that, of course, was absurd, since he had seen no portrait of her—sh_ffected a strict anonymity, refusing even her photograph to the mos_rivileged—and from Mrs. Memorall, whom he revered and cultivated as he_riend, he had extracted but the one impressionist phrase: "Oh, well, she'_ike one of those old prints where the lines have the value of color."
He was almost certain, at all events, that he had been thinking of Mrs.
Anerton as he sat over his breakfast in the empty hotel restaurant, and that, looking up on the approach of the lady who seated herself at the table nea_he window, he had said to himself, "That might be she."
Ever since his Harvard days—he was still young enough to think of them a_mmensely remote—Danyers had dreamed of Mrs. Anerton, the Silvia of Vincen_endle's immortal sonnet-cycle, the Mrs. A. of the Life and Letters. Her nam_as enshrined in some of the noblest English verse of the nineteent_entury—and of all past or future centuries, as Danyers, from the stand-poin_f a maturer judgment, still believed. The first reading of certain poems—o_he Antinous, the Pia Tolomei, the Sonnets to Silvia,—had been epochs i_anyers's growth, and the verse seemed to gain in mellowness, in amplitude, i_eaning as one brought to its interpretation more experience of life, a fine_motional sense. Where, in his boyhood, he had felt only the perfect, th_lmost austere beauty of form, the subtle interplay of vowel-sounds, the rus_nd fulness of lyric emotion, he now thrilled to the close-packed significanc_f each line, the allusiveness of each word—his imagination lured hither an_hither on fresh trails of thought, and perpetually spurred by the sense that, beyond what he had already discovered, more marvellous regions lay waiting t_e explored. Danyers had written, at college, the prize essay on Rendle'_oetry (it chanced to be the moment of the great man's death); he ha_ashioned the fugitive verse of his own storm-and-stress period on the form_hich Rendle had first given to English metre; and when two years later th_ife and Letters appeared, and the Silvia of the sonnets took substance a_rs. A., he had included in his worship of Rendle the woman who had inspire_ot only such divine verse but such playful, tender, incomparable prose.
Danyers never forgot the day when Mrs. Memorall happened to mention that sh_new Mrs. Anerton. He had known Mrs. Memorall for a year or more, and ha_omewhat contemptuously classified her as the kind of woman who runs chea_xcursions to celebrities; when one afternoon she remarked, as she put _econd lump of sugar in his tea:
"Is it right this time? You're almost as particular as Mary Anerton."
"Yes, I never can remember how she likes her tea. Either it's lemon wit_ugar, or lemon without sugar, or cream without either, and whichever it i_ust be put into the cup before the tea is poured in; and if one hasn'_emembered, one must begin all over again. I suppose it was Vincent Rendle'_ay of taking his tea and has become a sacred rite."
"Do you know Mrs. Anerton?" cried Danyers, disturbed by this careles_amiliarity with the habits of his divinity.
"'And did I once see Shelley plain?' Mercy, yes! She and I were at schoo_ogether—she's an American, you know. We were at a pension near Tours fo_early a year; then she went back to New York, and I didn't see her again til_fter her marriage. She and Anerton spent a winter in Rome while my husban_as attached to our Legation there, and she used to be with us a great deal."
Mrs. Memorall smiled reminiscently. "It was the winter."
"The winter they first met?"
"Precisely—but unluckily I left Rome just before the meeting took place.
Wasn't it too bad? I might have been in the Life and Letters. You know h_entions that stupid Madame Vodki, at whose house he first saw her."
"And did you see much of her after that?"
"Not during Rendle's life. You know she has lived in Europe almost entirely, and though I used to see her off and on when I went abroad, she was always s_ngrossed, so preoccupied, that one felt one wasn't wanted. The fact is, sh_ared only about his friends—she separated herself gradually from all her ow_eople. Now, of course, it's different; she's desperately lonely; she's take_o writing to me now and then; and last year, when she heard I was goin_broad, she asked me to meet her in Venice, and I spent a week with he_here."
Mrs. Memorall smiled and shook her head. "Oh, I never was allowed a peep a_him_; none of her old friends met him, except by accident. Ill-natured peopl_ay that was the reason she kept him so long. If one happened in while he wa_here, he was hustled into Anerton's study, and the husband mounted guard til_he inopportune visitor had departed. Anerton, you know, was really much mor_idiculous about it than his wife. Mary was too clever to lose her head, or a_east to show she'd lost it—but Anerton couldn't conceal his pride in th_onquest. I've seen Mary shiver when he spoke of Rendle as our poet. Rendl_lways had to have a certain seat at the dinner-table, away from the draugh_nd not too near the fire, and a box of cigars that no one else was allowed t_ouch, and a writing-table of his own in Mary's sitting-room—and Anerton wa_lways telling one of the great man's idiosyncrasies: how he never would cu_he ends of his cigars, though Anerton himself had given him a gold cutter se_ith a star-sapphire, and how untidy his writing-table was, and how the house- maid had orders always to bring the waste-paper basket to her mistress befor_mptying it, lest some immortal verse should be thrown into the dust-bin."
"The Anertons never separated, did they?"
"Separated? Bless you, no. He never would have left Rendle! And besides, h_as very fond of his wife."
"Oh, she saw he was the kind of man who was fated to make himself ridiculous, and she never interfered with his natural tendencies."
From Mrs. Memorall, Danyers further learned that Mrs. Anerton, whose husban_ad died some years before her poet, now divided her life between Rome, wher_he had a small apartment, and England, where she occasionally went to sta_ith those of her friends who had been Rendle's. She had been engaged, fo_ome time after his death, in editing some juvenilia which he had bequeathe_o her care; but that task being accomplished, she had been left withou_efinite occupation, and Mrs. Memorall, on the occasion of their last meeting, had found her listless and out of spirits.
"She misses him too much—her life is too empty. I told her so—I told her sh_ught to marry."
"Why not, pray? She's a young woman still—what many people would call young,"
Mrs. Memorall interjected, with a parenthetic glance at the mirror. "Why no_ccept the inevitable and begin over again? All the King's horses and all th_ing's men won't bring Rendle to life-and besides, she didn't marry him whe_he had the chance."
Danyers winced slightly at this rude fingering of his idol. Was it possibl_hat Mrs. Memorall did not see what an anti-climax such a marriage would hav_een? Fancy Rendle "making an honest woman" of Silvia; for so society woul_ave viewed it! How such a reparation would have vulgarized their past—i_ould have been like "restoring" a masterpiece; and how exquisite must hav_een the perceptions of the woman who, in defiance of appearances, and perhap_f her own secret inclination, chose to go down to posterity as Silvia rathe_han as Mrs. Vincent Rendle!
Mrs. Memorall, from this day forth, acquired an interest in Danyers's eyes.
She was like a volume of unindexed and discursive memoirs, through which h_atiently plodded in the hope of finding embedded amid layers of dusty twaddl_ome precious allusion to the subject of his thought. When, some months later, he brought out his first slim volume, in which the remodelled college essay o_endle figured among a dozen, somewhat overstudied "appreciations," he offere_ copy to Mrs. Memorall; who surprised him, the next time they met, with th_nnouncement that she had sent the book to Mrs. Anerton.
Mrs. Anerton in due time wrote to thank her friend. Danyers was privileged t_ead the few lines in which, in terms that suggested the habit of
"acknowledging" similar tributes, she spoke of the author's "feeling an_nsight," and was "so glad of the opportunity," etc. He went awa_isappointed, without clearly knowing what else he had expected.
The following spring, when he went abroad, Mrs. Memorall offered him letter_o everybody, from the Archbishop of Canterbury to Louise Michel. She did no_nclude Mrs. Anerton, however, and Danyers knew, from a previous conversation, that Silvia objected to people who "brought letters." He knew also that sh_ravelled during the summer, and was unlikely to return to Rome before th_erm of his holiday should be reached, and the hope of meeting her was no_ncluded among his anticipations.
The lady whose entrance broke upon his solitary repast in the restaurant o_he Hotel Villa d'Este had seated herself in such a way that her profile wa_etached against the window; and thus viewed, her domed forehead, small arche_ose, and fastidious lip suggested a silhouette of Marie Antoinette. In th_ady's dress and movements—in the very turn of her wrist as she poured out he_offee—Danyers thought he detected the same fastidiousness, the same air o_acitly excluding the obvious and unexceptional. Here was a woman who had bee_uch bored and keenly interested. The waiter brought her a _Secolo,_ and a_he bent above it Danyers noticed that the hair rolled back from her forehea_as turning gray; but her figure was straight and slender, and she had th_nvaluable gift of a girlish back.
The rush of Anglo-Saxon travel had not set toward the lakes, and with th_xception of an Italian family or two, and a hump-backed youth with an _abbé_, Danyers and the lady had the marble halls of the Villa d'Este to themselves.
When he returned from his morning ramble among the hills he saw her sitting a_ne of the little tables at the edge of the lake. She was writing, and a hea_f books and newspapers lay on the table at her side. That evening they me_gain in the garden. He had strolled out to smoke a last cigarette befor_inner, and under the black vaulting of ilexes, near the steps leading down t_he boat-landing, he found her leaning on the parapet above the lake. At th_ound of his approach she turned and looked at him. She had thrown a blac_ace scarf over her head, and in this sombre setting her face seemed thin an_nhappy. He remembered afterwards that her eyes, as they met his, expresse_ot so much sorrow as profound discontent.
To his surprise she stepped toward him with a detaining gesture.
"Mr. Lewis Danyers, I believe?"
"I am Mrs. Anerton. I saw your name on the visitors' list and wished to than_ou for an essay on Mr. Rendle's poetry—or rather to tell you how much _ppreciated it. The book was sent to me last winter by Mrs. Memorall."
She spoke in even melancholy tones, as though the habit of perfunctor_tterance had robbed her voice of more spontaneous accents; but her smile wa_harming. They sat down on a stone bench under the ilexes, and she told hi_ow much pleasure his essay had given her. She thought it the best in th_ook—she was sure he had put more of himself into it than into any other; wa_he not right in conjecturing that he had been very deeply influenced by Mr.
Rendle's poetry? Pour comprendre il faut aimer, and it seemed to her that, i_ome ways, he had penetrated the poet's inner meaning more completely than an_ther critic. There were certain problems, of course, that he had lef_ntouched; certain aspects of that many-sided mind that he had perhaps faile_o seize—
"But then you are young," she concluded gently, "and one could not wish you, as yet, the experience that a fuller understanding would imply."
She stayed a month at Villa d'Este, and Danyers was with her daily. She showe_n unaffected pleasure in his society; a pleasure so obviously founded o_heir common veneration of Rendle, that the young man could enjoy it withou_ear of fatuity. At first he was merely one more grain of frankincense on th_ltar of her insatiable divinity; but gradually a more personal note crep_nto their intercourse. If she still liked him only because he appreciate_endle, she at least perceptibly distinguished him from the herd of Rendle'_ppreciators.
Her attitude toward the great man's memory struck Danyers as perfect. Sh_either proclaimed nor disavowed her identity. She was frankly Silvia to thos_ho knew and cared; but there was no trace of the Egeria in her pose. Sh_poke often of Rendle's books, but seldom of himself; there was no posthumou_onjugality, no use of the possessive tense, in her abounding reminiscences.
Of the master's intellectual life, of his habits of thought and work, sh_ever wearied of talking. She knew the history of each poem; by what scene o_pisode each image had been evoked; how many times the words in a certain lin_ad been transposed; how long a certain adjective had been sought, and wha_ad at last suggested it; she could even explain that one impenetrable line, the torment of critics, the joy of detractors, the last line of The Ol_dysseus.
Danyers felt that in talking of these things she was no mere echo of Rendle'_hought. If her identity had appeared to be merged in his it was because the_hought alike, not because he had thought for her. Posterity is apt to regar_he women whom poets have sung as chance pegs on which they hung thei_arlands; but Mrs. Anerton's mind was like some fertile garden wherein, inevitably, Rendle's imagination had rooted itself and flowered. Danyers bega_o see how many threads of his complex mental tissue the poet had owed to th_lending of her temperament with his; in a certain sense Silvia had hersel_reated the Sonnets to Silvia.
To be the custodian of Rendle's inner self, the door, as it were, to th_anctuary, had at first seemed to Danyers so comprehensive a privilege that h_ad the sense, as his friendship with Mrs. Anerton advanced, of forcing hi_ay into a life already crowded. What room was there, among such towerin_emories, for so small an actuality as his? Quite suddenly, after this, h_iscovered that Mrs. Memorall knew better: his fortunate friend was bored a_ell as lonely.
"You have had more than any other woman!" he had exclaimed to her one day; an_er smile flashed a derisive light on his blunder. Fool that he was, not t_ave seen that she had not had enough! That she was young still—do year_ount?—tender, human, a woman; that the living have need of the living.
After that, when they climbed the alleys of the hanging park, resting in on_f the little ruined temples, or watching, through a ripple of foliage, th_emote blue flash of the lake, they did not always talk of Rendle or o_iterature. She encouraged Danyers to speak of himself; to confide hi_mbitions to her; she asked him the questions which are the wise woman'_ubstitute for advice.
"You must write," she said, administering the most exquisite flattery tha_uman lips could give.
Of course he meant to write—why not to do something great in his turn? Hi_est, at least; with the resolve, at the outset, that his best should be th_est. Nothing less seemed possible with that mandate in his ears. How she ha_ivined him; lifted and disentangled his groping ambitions; laid the awakenin_ouch on his spirit with her creative _Let there be light!_
It was his last day with her, and he was feeling very hopeless and happy.
"You ought to write a book about _him,"_ she went on gently.
Danyers started; he was beginning to dislike Rendle's way of walking i_nannounced.
"You ought to do it," she insisted. "A complete interpretation—a summing- u_f his style, his purpose, his theory of life and art. No one else could do i_s well."
He sat looking at her perplexedly. Suddenly—dared he guess?
"I couldn't do it without you," he faltered.
"I could help you—I would help you, of course."
They sat silent, both looking at the lake.
It was agreed, when they parted, that he should rejoin her six weeks later i_enice. There they were to talk about the book.
**Lago d'Iseo, August 14th**
When I said good-by to you yesterday I promised to come back to Venice in _eek: I was to give you your answer then. I was not honest in saying that; _idn't mean to go back to Venice or to see you again. I was running away fro_ou—and I mean to keep on running! If you won't, I must. Somebody must sav_ou from marrying a disappointed woman of—well, you say years don't count, an_hy should they, after all, since you are not to marry me?
That is what I dare not go back to say. You are not to marry me. We have ha_ur month together in Venice (such a good month, was it not?) and now you ar_o go home and write a book—any book but the one we—didn't talk of!—and I a_o stay here, attitudinizing among my memories like a sort of female Tithonus.
The dreariness of this enforced immortality!
But you shall know the truth. I care for you, or at least for your love, enough to owe you that.
You thought it was because Vincent Rendle had loved me that there was s_ittle hope for you. I had had what I wanted to the full; wasn't that what yo_aid? It is just when a man begins to think he understands a woman that he ma_e sure he doesn't! It is because Vincent Rendle _didn't love me_ that ther_s no hope for you. I never had what I wanted, and never, never, never will _toop to wanting anything else.
Do you begin to understand? It was all a sham then, you say? No, it was al_eal as far as it went. You are young—you haven't learned, as you will later, the thousand imperceptible signs by which one gropes one's way through th_abyrinth of human nature; but didn't it strike you, sometimes, that I neve_old you any foolish little anecdotes about him? His trick, for instance, o_wirling a paper-knife round and round between his thumb and forefinger whil_e talked; his mania for saving the backs of notes; his greediness for wil_trawberries, the little pungent Alpine ones; his childish delight in acrobat_nd jugglers; his way of always calling me _you—dear you_, every lette_egan—I never told you a word of all that, did I? Do you suppose I could hav_elped telling you, if he had loved me? These little things would have bee_ine, then, a part of my life—of our life—they would have slipped out in spit_f me (it's only your unhappy woman who is always reticent and dignified). Bu_here never was any "our life;" it was always "our lives" to the end… .
If you knew what a relief it is to tell some one at last, you would bear wit_e, you would let me hurt you! I shall never be quite so lonely again, no_hat some one knows.
Let me begin at the beginning. When I first met Vincent Rendle I was no_wenty-five. That was twenty years ago. From that time until his death, fiv_ears ago, we were fast friends. He gave me fifteen years, perhaps the bes_ifteen years, of his life. The world, as you know, thinks that his greates_oems were written during those years; I am supposed to have "inspired" them, and in a sense I did. From the first, the intellectual sympathy between us wa_lmost complete; my mind must have been to him (I fancy) like some perfectl_uned instrument on which he was never tired of playing. Some one told me o_is once saying of me that I "always understood;" it is the only praise I eve_eard of his giving me. I don't even know if he thought me pretty, though _ardly think my appearance could have been disagreeable to him, for he hate_o be with ugly people. At all events he fell into the way of spending mor_nd more of his time with me. He liked our house; our ways suited him. He wa_ervous, irritable; people bored him and yet he disliked solitude. He too_anctuary with us. When we travelled he went with us; in the winter he too_ooms near us in Rome. In England or on the continent he was always with u_or a good part of the year. In small ways I was able to help him in his work; he grew dependent on me. When we were apart he wrote to me continually—h_iked to have me share in all he was doing or thinking; he was impatient fo_y criticism of every new book that interested him; I was a part of hi_ntellectual life. The pity of it was that I wanted to be something more. _as a young woman and I was in love with him—not because he was Vincen_endle, but just because he was himself!
People began to talk, of course—I was Vincent Rendle's Mrs. Anerton; when th_onnets to Silvia appeared, it was whispered that I was Silvia. Wherever h_ent, I was invited; people made up to me in the hope of getting to know him; when I was in London my doorbell never stopped ringing. Elderly peeresses, aspiring hostesses, love-sick girls and struggling authors overwhelmed me wit_heir assiduities. I hugged my success, for I knew what it meant—they though_hat Rendle was in love with me! Do you know, at times, they almost made m_hink so too? Oh, there was no phase of folly I didn't go through. You can'_magine the excuses a woman will invent for a man's not telling her that h_oves her—pitiable arguments that she would see through at a glance if an_ther woman used them! But all the while, deep down, I knew he had neve_ared. I should have known it if he had made love to me every day of his life.
I could never guess whether he knew what people said about us—he listened s_ittle to what people said; and cared still less, when he heard. He was alway_uite honest and straightforward with me; he treated me as one man treat_nother; and yet at times I felt he must see that with me it was different. I_e did see, he made no sign. Perhaps he never noticed—I am sure he never mean_o be cruel. He had never made love to me; it was no fault of his if I wante_ore than he could give me. The Sonnets to Silvia, you say? But what are they?
A cosmic philosophy, not a love-poem; addressed to Woman, not to a woman!
But then, the letters? Ah, the letters! Well, I'll make a clean breast of it.
You have noticed the breaks in the letters here and there, just as they see_o be on the point of growing a little—warmer? The critics, you may remember, praised the editor for his commendable delicacy and good taste (so rare i_hese days!) in omitting from the correspondence all personal allusions, al_hose _détails intimes_ which should be kept sacred from the public gaze. The_eferred, of course, to the asterisks in the letters to Mrs. A. Those letter_ myself prepared for publication; that is to say, I copied them out for th_ditor, and every now and then I put in a line of asterisks to make it appea_hat something had been left out. You understand? The asterisks were _ham—there was nothing to leave out.
No one but a woman could understand what I went through during those years—th_oments of revolt, when I felt I must break away from it all, fling the trut_n his face and never see him again; the inevitable reaction, when not to se_im seemed the one unendurable thing, and I trembled lest a look or word o_ine should disturb the poise of our friendship; the silly days when I hugge_he delusion that he must love me, since everybody thought he did; the lon_eriods of numbness, when I didn't seem to care whether he loved me or not.
Between these wretched days came others when our intellectual accord was s_erfect that I forgot everything else in the joy of feeling myself lifted u_n the wings of his thought. Sometimes, then, the heavens seemed to be opened… .
All this time he was so dear a friend! He had the genius of friendship, and h_pent it all on me. Yes, you were right when you said that I have had mor_han any other woman. _Il faut de l'adresse pour aimer_, Pascal says; and _as so quiet, so cheerful, so frankly affectionate with him, that in all thos_ears I am almost sure I never bored him. Could I have hoped as much if he ha_oved me?
You mustn't think of him, though, as having been tied to my skirts. He cam_nd went as he pleased, and so did his fancies. There was a girl once (I a_elling you everything), a lovely being who called his poetry "deep" and gav_im Lucile on his birthday. He followed her to Switzerland one summer, and al_he time that he was dangling after her (a little too conspicuously, I alway_hought, for a Great Man), he was writing to me about his theory of vowel- combinations—or was it his experiments in English hexameter? The letters wer_ated from the very places where I knew they went and sat by waterfall_ogether and he thought out adjectives for her hair. He talked to me about i_uite frankly afterwards. She was perfectly beautiful and it had been a pur_elight to watch her; but she would talk, and her mind, he said, was "al_lbows." And yet, the next year, when her marriage was announced, he went awa_lone, quite suddenly … and it was just afterwards that he published _Love'_iaticum_. Men are queer!
After my husband died—I am putting things crudely, you see—I had a return o_ope. It was because he loved me, I argued, that he had never spoken; becaus_e had always hoped some day to make me his wife; because he wanted to spar_e the "reproach." Rubbish! I knew well enough, in my heart of hearts, that m_ne chance lay in the force of habit. He had grown used to me; he was n_onger young; he dreaded new people and new ways; il avait pris son pli. Woul_t not be easier to marry me?
I don't believe he ever thought of it. He wrote me what people call "_eautiful letter;" he was kind; considerate, decently commiserating; then, after a few weeks, he slipped into his old way of coming in every afternoon, and our interminable talks began again just where they had left off. I hear_ater that people thought I had shown "such good taste" in not marrying him.
So we jogged on for five years longer. Perhaps they were the best years, for _ad given up hoping. Then he died.
After his death—this is curious—there came to me a kind of mirage of love. Al_he books and articles written about him, all the reviews of the "Life," wer_ull of discreet allusions to Silvia. I became again the Mrs. Anerton of th_lorious days. Sentimental girls and dear lads like you turned pink whe_omebody whispered, "that was Silvia you were talking to." Idiots begged fo_y autograph—publishers urged me to write my reminiscences of him—critic_onsulted me about the reading of doubtful lines. And I knew that, to al_hese people, I was the woman Vincent Rendle had loved.
After a while that fire went out too and I was left alone with my past.
Alone—quite alone; for he had never really been with me. The intellectua_nion counted for nothing now. It had been soul to soul, but never hand i_and, and there were no little things to remember him by.
Then there set in a kind of Arctic winter. I crawled into myself as into _now-hut. I hated my solitude and yet dreaded any one who disturbed it. Tha_hase, of course, passed like the others. I took up life again, and began t_ead the papers and consider the cut of my gowns. But there was one questio_hat I could not be rid of, that haunted me night and day. Why had he neve_oved me? Why had I been so much to him, and no more? Was I so ugly, s_ssentially unlovable, that though a man might cherish me as his mind'_omrade, he could not care for me as a woman? I can't tell you how tha_uestion tortured me. It became an obsession.
My poor friend, do you begin to see? I had to find out what some other ma_hought of me. Don't be too hard on me! Listen first—consider. When I firs_et Vincent Rendle I was a young woman, who had married early and led th_uietest kind of life; I had had no "experiences." From the hour of our firs_eeting to the day of his death I never looked at any other man, and neve_oticed whether any other man looked at me. When he died, five years ago, _new the extent of my powers no more than a baby. Was it too late to find out?
Should I never know _why?_
Forgive me—forgive me. You are so young; it will be an episode, a mere
"document," to you so soon! And, besides, it wasn't as deliberate, as cold- blooded as these disjointed lines have made it appear. I didn't plan it, lik_ woman in a book. Life is so much more complex than any rendering of it ca_e. I liked you from the first—I was drawn to you (you must have seen that)—_anted you to like me; it was not a mere psychological experiment. And yet i_ sense it was that, too—I must be honest. I had to have an answer to tha_uestion; it was a ghost that had to be laid.
At first I was afraid—oh, so much afraid—that you cared for me only because _as Silvia, that you loved me because you thought Rendle had loved me. I bega_o think there was no escaping my destiny.
How happy I was when I discovered that you were growing jealous of my past; that you actually hated Rendle! My heart beat like a girl's when you told m_ou meant to follow me to Venice.
After our parting at Villa d'Este my old doubts reasserted themselves. Wha_id I know of your feeling for me, after all? Were you capable of analyzing i_ourself? Was it not likely to be two-thirds vanity and curiosity, and one- third literary sentimentality? You might easily fancy that you cared for Mar_nerton when you were really in love with Silvia— the heart is such _ypocrite! Or you might be more calculating than I had supposed. Perhaps i_as you who had been flattering my vanity in the hope (the pardonable hope!) of turning me, after a decent interval, into a pretty little essay with _argin.
When you arrived in Venice and we met again—do you remember the music on th_agoon, that evening, from my balcony?—I was so afraid you would begin to tal_bout the book—the book, you remember, was your ostensible reason for coming.
You never spoke of it, and I soon saw your one fear was I might do so—migh_emind you of your object in being with me. Then I knew you cared for me! yes, at that moment really cared! We never mentioned the book once, did we, durin_hat month in Venice?
I have read my letter over; and now I wish that I had said this to you instea_f writing it. I could have felt my way then, watching your face and seeing i_ou understood. But, no, I could not go back to Venice; and I could not tel_ou (though I tried) while we were there together. I couldn't spoil tha_onth—my one month. It was so good, for once in my life, to get away fro_iterature… .
You will be angry with me at first—but, alas! not for long. What I have don_ould have been cruel if I had been a younger woman; as it is, the experimen_ill hurt no one but myself. And it will hurt me horribly (as much as, in you_irst anger, you may perhaps wish), because it has shown me, for the firs_ime, all that I have missed… .