HE went away a thousand times more hopelessly entangled
in the meshes of fate than ever.
He loved Helena with a passion that frightened him, so
mysterious, so sudden, so exalted, so intense in its spiritual force was
He who said that love, to he sincere, must be of slow
growth, that man was a fool.
As God said, unto the darkened world, "Let there be light"
and there was light, so, unto many a slumbering heart, He has said, "Let
there he love," and there was love--radiant, glorious, eternal, as is the
splendor of the sun in the heavens.
So had love sprung to life in the heart of Percy Durand--a
love that the waters of death could not quench.
"Never since my mother died," he whispered to his heart,
"have I felt such an adoring affection bordering upon worship, as I feel
for this girl. I could be any thing, do any thing, with her beside me--my
guide, my friend, my mate, my wife."
Wife! Yes, that was how he thought of Helena. All his
old theories and cynical beliefs fell away from him, like dead leaves from
a tree, in the presence of this beautiful new love.
All his old life of license, and bachelor freedom, and
secret companionship with a charming woman, seemed like the apples of Sodom
to him now.
He wanted a home where he could proudly welcome the whole
world, if need be, to witness his happiness. He wanted a wife to entertain
his friends--not a mistress to hide from them; and he wanted children to
crown his life and perpetuate his name.
These highest human instincts come knocking at the door
of every man's heart, some time in his life.
He may bolt the door with avarice or pride, curtain the
windows with lawless passions, and block the entrance with worldly ambitions
and pleasure. But the Creator who meant him to be a part of that holy earthly
trinity,--father, mother, and child,--shall send a great unrest upon his
soul; and despite all his precautions, a longing for the love of a pure
woman and a little child shall take possession of his heart.
That time had come to Percy : come as suddenly and unexpectedly
as the greatest eras almost always come in human existence.
He closed his eyes and indulged in wild dreams.
He saw himself sitting before an open fire-place : a little
distance from him, Helena, in flowing white robes, singing a golden-haired
child to sleep upon her breast. Near by, a friend, some of his bachelor
companions, perhaps, envying his happiness, as he looked upon the scene
with admiring eyes.
Then he sprang up and fairly groaned aloud.
"I must guard myself in my letters," he said. "I will
only write to Helena, as a suffering man might address a Sister of Charity.
She shall never know how I love her, until my life is free from every fetter
of sin and folly, and until I have made myself worthy by years of noble
But you may as well talk of hiding the glory of the sunrise
from the earth, as the fervor of a great passion from the object which
Careful as were his expressions, his letters breathed
an atmosphere of love as passionate as his mysterious sorrow seemed hopeless.
Helena's nature was deeply romantic and profoundly sympathetic.
These letters, therefore, appealed to the strongest elements of her being.
All through her girlhood she had jealously guarded her
heart's vast store of intense love for an ideal lover whom she had never
And now through the medium of an earnest sympathy she
was bestowing upon Percy all the lavish wealth of her rich nature, just
as one might give a five-dollar gold piece, thinking it was only a shining
penny, to a mendicant. She lived in a dream world; she performed her duties
as music teacher and choir singer mechanically. The people with whom she
associated were shadowy and unreal forms. The only person who really existed
for her, was Percy, with his load of mysterious sorrow, which she and her
glorious horde of spirit friends would somehow lift from him.
With her slight knowledge of the world at large, and society
as it exists in cities, Helena had no comprehension of what that sorrow
might be. She did not puzzle her head to divine it. She was willing to
wait Percy's own time. Whatever it was, she knew he deserved her sympathy
and her prayers.
Almost daily Percy saw Dolores. Each day he promised himself,
that he would tell her what was in his heart. Each day he delayed the dreaded
Upon Dolores, the terrible and overwhelming conviction
was forcing itself, that Percy no longer loved her. The thought of a rival
never once presented itself to her. She knew that she was beautiful, accomplished,
congenial--every thing, in fact, which he could desire in a companion.
"But," she reasoned, "it is a man's nature to tire of
that which is his. Somewhere I have read, 'who ever gives too much in love,
is certain not to receive enough in return;' and I am proving it true.
It would be the same, were I his wife."
Then, in spite of herself, back upon her mind rushed the
recollection of a quotation once made by Mrs. Butler in her arguments in
favor of marriage : "If the fickle husband goes, he returns; but the lover,
once gone, he never returns." She remembered how scornfully she had regarded
such an argument. "What woman of pride or self-respect would desire the
fickle husband to return?" she had said. "I should want him to go speedily,
the moment his heart strayed from me, or tired of me. And better by far,
for both, if there were no legal ties to sever."
All this sophistry she recalled now, with a dull pain
at her heart. The time had come, when she felt positive, that Percy no
longer loved her. Yet she could not tell him to go. The very thought
of a separation was like a knife in her breast.
"How vain it is to assert what we would do in any situation
in life," she said, "until we have loved. Love changes everything, even
to one's whole nature. May God help me to bear this."
She had an instinctive knowledge, that Percy was trying
to summon courage to tell her of his changed feelings. She shrank from
it, as from a blow.
"I cannot hear him say the words, she moaned. "I cannot
live and hear them from his lips; and I cannot let him go--I cannot,
She grew thin and hollow-eyed, and the pathos of her face
was heartrending. She tried to be cheerful and amuse Percy with her old
flow of wit and anecdote. They took their usual drives, and indulged in
theatres, and petits soupers afterward, as of old, but it was all
a melancholy failure, a farce of their former happy days. Though he gave
her the same gallant attentions, she knew his heart was not in it.
It was like looking on the dead face of a dear one : the
features unchanged, but the spirit fled.
One day as he sat smoking a cigar in their pretty artistic
rooms, while Dolores played a melancholy air on the piano, he determined
to tell her of his resolution to leave her and go abroad. "I will not tell
her that I love another," he thought; ''that will give needless pain. But
I cannot keep up this farce any longer. It must end."
"Dolores," he said, throwing away his cigar, "come and
sit beside me on this ottoman. I want to talk with you."
She turned a pale, startled face to his, and her hands
fell upon discordant keys.
"I will." she said, rising hurriedly, "in a moment. But
first let me show you such a strange, sad little poem I found among some
of Mrs. Butler's clippings to-day. Once I could not have understood such
a sentiment. To-day I do. I remember showing you a poem that I thought
applicable to ourselves another time, Percy. This is very unlike it."
She placed the slip of paper in his hand, and sat down
beside him while he read it : her elbows resting on his knees, her brow
bent on her clasped hands. This was what he read :
When your love begins to wane,
Spare me from the cruel pain
Of all speech that tells me so--
Spare me words, for I shall know.
By the half-averted eyes
By the breast that no more sighs,
By the rapture I shall miss
From your strangely-altered kiss,
By the arms that still enfold
But have lost their clinging hold,
And, too willing, let me go,
I shall know, love, I shall know.
Bitter will the knowledge be,
Bitterer than death to me.
Yet, 'twill coine to me some day,
For it is the sad world's way.
Make no vows--vows cannot bind
Changing hearts or wayward mind.
Men grow weary of a bliss
Passionate and fond as this.
Love will wane. But I shall know,
If you do not tell me so.
Know it, tho' you smile and say
That you love me more each day,
Know it by the inner sight
That forever sees aright.
Words could but increase my woe,
And without them, I shall know.
When he had finished the reading, he turned and drew Dolores'
white, suffering face against his breast without a word.
She lay there weeping silently, and neither spoke. But
both hearts were full of unutterable pain and despair.
She clung to him as he rose to go.
"You will come to-morrow?" she said.
"Not to-morrow," he answered, gently. "I am going out
of town for the day. But I will come again soon."
At the door he turned and looked back, his eyes full of
infinite pity. Oh! how gladly he would have bestowed upon her the love
that had so strangely gone out to Helena, had it been in his power.
"If God, among his gifts to mortals, had given us the
ability to transfer an unwise love, how much misery we should be saved,"
he thought, as he went out.