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The Passionate Friends
by Herbert George Wells
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In the afternoon I wrote to Rachel. I had not written to her for three days, and even now I told her nothing of my meeting with Mary. I had not written partly because I could not decide whether I should tell her of that or not; in the end I tried to hide it from her. It seemed a little thing in regard to her, a thing that could not hurt her, a thing as detached from her life and as inconsecutive as a dream in my head.

Three days later I reached Milan, a day before the formal opening of the Peace Congress. But I found a telegram had come that morning to the Poste Restante to banish all thought of my pacific mission from my mind. It came from Paris and its blue ribbon of text ran:

"Come back at once to London. Justin has been told of our meeting and is resolved upon divorce. Will do all in my power to explain and avert but feel you should know at once."

There are some things so monstrously destructive to all we hold dear that for a time it is impossible to believe them. I remember now that as I read that amazing communication through—at the first reading it was a little difficult to understand because the Italian operator had guessed at one or two of the words, no real sense of its meaning came to me. That followed sluggishly. I felt as one might feel when one opens some offensive anonymous letter or hears some preposterous threat.

"What nonsense!" I said, faint-heartedly. I stood for a time at my bedroom window trying to shake this fact altogether off my mind. But it stayed, and became more and more real. Suddenly with a start I perceived it was real. I had to do things forthwith.

I rang the bell and asked for an Orario. "I shan't want these rooms. I have to go back to England," I said. "Yes,—I have had bad news." ...

Sec. 8

"We've only got to explain," I told myself a hundred times during that long sleepless journey. The thundering wheels so close beneath my head echoed: "Explain. Oh yes! Explain! Explain! Explain!"

And something, a voice to which I would not listen, urged: "Suppose they do not choose to believe what you explain."

When I sat face to face with Maxwell Hartington, my solicitor, in his ink-splashed, dirty, yellow-grained room with its rows of black tin boxes, I could no longer ignore that possibility. Maxwell Hartington sat back in his chair after his fashion, listening to my story, breathing noisily through his open mouth, perspiring little beads and looking more out of condition than ever. I never knew a man so wine-sodden and so sharp-witted.

"That's all very well, Stratton," he said, "between ourselves. Very unfortunate and all that sort of thing. But it doesn't satisfy Justin evidently; and we've got to put a different look on it if we can, before we go before a jury: You see——" He seemed to be considering and rejecting unpalatable phrases "They won't understand."

"But," I said, "after all—, a mere chance of the same hotel. There must be more evidence than that."

"You spent the night in adjacent rooms," he said dryly.

"Adjacent rooms!" I cried.

He regarded me for a moment with something bordering on admiration. "Didn't you know?" he said.

"No."

"They've routed that out. You were sleeping with your two heads within a yard of one another anyhow. Thirty-six you had, and she had thirty-seven."

"But," I said and stopped.

Maxwell Hartington's admiration gave place I think to a slight resentment at my sustained innocence. "And Lady Mary changed rooms with her secretary two nights before—to be near the vacant room. The secretary went into number 12 on the floor below,—a larger room, at thirteen francs a day, and one not exposed to the early daylight...."

He turned over a paper on his desk. "You didn't know, of course," he said. "But what I want to have"—and his voice grew wrathful—"is sure evidence that you didn't know. No jury on earth is going to believe you didn't know. No jury!—— Why,"—his mask dropped—"no man on earth is going to believe a yarn like that! If that's all you have, Stratton——"

Sec. 9

Our London house was not shut up—two servants were there on board-wages against the possibility of such a temporary return as I was now making—Rachel was away with you three children at Cromingham. I had not told her I was returning to London, and I had put up at one of my clubs. Until I had had a second interview with Maxwell Hartington I still would not let myself think that it was possible that Mary and I would fail with our explanations. We had the common confidence of habitually unchallenged people that our word would be accepted. I had hoped indeed to get the whole affair settled and abolished without anything of it coming to Rachel's ears. Then at my leisure I should be able to tell her exactly how things had come about. But each day made it clearer that things were not going to be settled, that the monstrous and the incredible was going to happen and that Justin had set his mind implacably upon a divorce. My sense of complete innocence had already been shaken by Maxwell Hartington; I had come to perceive that we had been amazingly indiscreet, I was beginning to think we had been criminally indiscreet.

I saw Maxwell Hartington for a second time, and it became clear to me I must abandon any hope of keeping things further from Rachel. I took my luggage round to my house, to the great astonishment of the two servants,—they had supposed of course that I was in Italy—and then went down on the heels of a telegram to Rachel. I forget the wording of that telegram, but it was as little alarming as possible; I think I said something about "back in London for documents; shall try to get down to you." I did not specify any particular train or indeed state definitely that I was coming that day.

I had never been to Cromingham before. I went to the house you occupied on the Esplanade and learnt that you were all upon the beach. I walked along the sea-wall scrutinizing the various bright groups of children and nursemaids and holiday people that were scattered over the sands. It was a day of blazing sunshine, and, between the bright sky and the silver drabs of the sand stretched the low levels of a sea that had its customary green-grey touched for once with something of the sapphire glow of the Mediterranean. Here and there were gay little umbrella tents or canvas shelters, and a bather or so and pink and white wading children broke the dazzling edge of foam. And I sought you with a kind of reluctance as though finding you would bring nearer the black irrational disaster that hung over us all.

And when I found you at last you were all radiantly happy and healthy, the prettiest of families, and only your mother was touched with any gravity deeper than the joy of sunshine and sea. You and Mademoiselle Potin—in those days her ministrations were just beginning—were busy constructing a great sea-wall that should really and truly stop the advancing tide. Rachel Two was a little apart, making with infinite contentment an endless multitude of conical sand pies with her little tin pail. Margaret, a pink inarticulate lump, scrabbled in the warm sand under Jessica's care. Your mother sat and watched you—thoughtfully. And before any of you knew that I was there my shadow fell across you all.

You accepted my appearance when I ought to have been in Italy with the unquestioning confidence with which you still take all my comings and goings. For you, Italy, America, any place is just round the corner. I was kissed with affection but haste, and you got back to your sand-works as speedily as possible. I inspected Rachel Two's mounds,—she was giving them the names of her various aunts and uncles—and patted the crowing Margaret, who ignored me. Rachel had sprung to her feet and kissed me and now hovered radiant over me as I caressed you youngsters. It was all so warm, so real, that for an instant the dark threat that hung over us all vanished from my skies, to return with the force of a blow.

"And what has brought you back?" said Rachel. "I had expected a month of widowhood. What can have brought you back?"

The dancing gladness in her eyes vanished swiftly as she waited for an answer to her question. She caught the note of tragedy from my face. "Why have you come back from Italy?" she asked in an altered voice.

"Rachel," I said taking her arm, with a desolating sense of the futility in my gesture of protection; "let us walk along the beach. I want to tell you something—— Something rather complicated."

"Is there going to be war, Stephen?" she asked abruptly.

It seemed then that this question which merely concerned the welfare of a hundred million people or so and pain, destruction and disaster beyond measure, was the most trivial of digressions.

"No," I said. "I haven't thought about the war."

"But I thought—you were thinking of nothing else."

"This has put it out of my head. It's something—— Something disastrous to us."

"Something has happened to our money?"

"I wish that was all."

"Then what is it?" Her mind flashed out. "It has something to do with Mary Justin."

"How did you know that?"

"I guessed."

"Well. It is. You see—in Switzerland we met."

"You met!"

"By accident. She had been staying at the hotel on Engstlen Alp."

"You slept there!" cried Rachel.

"I didn't know she was in the hotel until the next day."

"And then you came away!"

"That day."

"But you talked together?"

"Yes."

"And for some reason—— You never told me, Stephen! You never told me. And you met. But—— Why is this, disaster?"

"Because Justin knows and he means to divorce her—and it may be he will succeed...."

Rachel's face had become white, for some time she said nothing. Then slowly, "And if he had not known and done that—I should never have known."

I had no answer to make to that. It was true. Rachel's face was very still, and her eyes stared at the situation laid bare to her.

"When you began," she choked presently, "when she wrote—I knew—I felt——"

She ceased for fear she might weep, and for a time we walked in silence.

"I suppose," she said desperately at last, "he will get his divorce."

"I am afraid he will."

"There's no evidence—you didn't...."

"No."

"And I never dreamt——!"

Then her passion tore at her. "Stephen my dear," she wept, "you didn't? you didn't? Stephen, indeed you didn't, did you? You kept faith with me as a husband should. It was an accident—a real accident—and there was no planning for you to meet together. It was as you say? I've never doubted your word ever—I've never doubted you."

Well, at any rate I could answer that plainly, and I did.

"And you know, Stephen," she said, "I believe you. And I can't believe you. My heart is tormented. Why did you write to her? Why did you two write and go on writing? And why did you tell me nothing of that meeting? I believe you because I can't do anything but believe you. It would kill me not to believe you in a thing that came so near to us. And yet, there it is, like a knife being twisted in my heart—that you met. Should I have known of your meeting, Stephen—ever? I know I'm talking badly for you.... But this thing strikes me suddenly. Out of this clear beautiful sky! And the children there—so happy in the sunshine! I was so happy. So happy. With you coming.... It will mean shames and law-courts and newspapers, losses of friends, losses of money and freedom.... My mother and my people!... And you and all the work you do!... People will never forget it, never forgive it. They will say you promised.... If she had never written, if she had kept to her bargain——"

"We should still have met."

"Stephen!... Stephen, you must bear with me...."

"This is a thing," I said, "that falls as you say out of the sky. It seemed so natural—for her to write.... And the meeting ... it is like some tremendous disaster of nature. I do not feel I have deserved it. It is—irrational. But there it is, little Rachel of my heart, and we have to face it. Whatever happens we have to go on. It doesn't alter the work we have to do. If it clips our wings—we have to hop along with clipped wings.... For you—I wish it could spare you. And she—she too is a victim, Rachel."

"She need not have written," said Rachel. "She need not have written. And then if you had met——"

She could not go on with that.

"It is so hard," I said, "to ask you to be just to her—and me. I wish I could have come to you and married you—without all that legacy—of things remembered.... I was what I was.... One can't shake off a thing in one's blood. And besides—besides——"

I stopped helplessly.

Sec. 10

And then Mary came herself to tell me there would be no divorce.

She came to me unexpectedly. I had returned to town that evening, and next morning as I was sitting down in my study to answer some unimportant questions Maxwell Hartington had sent me, my parlormaid appeared. "Can you speak," she asked, "to Lady Mary Justin?"

I stood up to receive my visitor.

She came in, a tall dark figure, and stood facing me in silence until the door had closed behind her. Her face was white and drawn and very grave. She stooped a little, I could see she had had no sleep, never before had I seen her face marked by pain. And she hesitated.... "My dear!" I said; "why have you come to me?"

I put a chair for her and she sat down.

For a moment she controlled herself with difficulty. She put her hand over her eyes, she seemed on the verge of bitter weeping....

"I came," she said at last.... "I came. I had to come ... to see you."

I sat down in a chair beside her.

"It wasn't wise," I said. "But—never mind. You look so tired, my dear!"

She sat quite still for a little while.

Then she moved her arm as though she felt for me blindly, and I put my arms about her and drew her head to my shoulder and she wept....

"I knew," she sobbed, "if I came to you...."

Presently her weeping was over.

"Get me a little cold water, Stephen," she said. "Let me have a little cold water on my face. I've got my courage now again. Just then,—I was down too low. Yes—cold water. Because I want to tell you—things you will be glad to hear."

"You see, Stephen," she said—and now all her self-possession had returned; "there mustn't be a divorce. I've thought it all out. And there needn't be a divorce."

"Needn't be?"

"No."

"What do you mean?"

"I can stop it."

"But how?"

"I can stop it. I can manage—— I can make a bargain.... It's very sweet, dear Stephen, to be here talking to you again."

She stood up.

"Sit at your desk, my dear," she said. "I'm all right now. That water was good. How good cold things can be! Sit down at your desk and let me sit here. And then I will talk to you. I've had such a time, my dear. Ah!"

She paused and stuck her elbows on the desk and looked me in the eyes. And suddenly that sweet, frank smile of hers swept like sunshine across the wintry desolation of her face. "We've both been having a time," she said. "This odd little world,—it's battered us with its fists. For such a little. And we were both so ridiculously happy. Do you remember it, the rocks and the sunshine and all those twisted and tangled little plants? And how the boat leaked and you baled it out! And the parting, and how you trudged up that winding path away from me! A grey figure that stopped and waved—a little figure—such a virtuous figure! And then, this storm! this awful hullabaloo! Lawyers, curses, threats——. And Stella Summersley Satchel like a Fury of denunciation. What hatred that woman has hidden from me! It must have accumulated.... It's terrible to think, Stephen, how much I must have tried her.... Oh! how far away those Alps are now, Stephen! Like something in another life.... And here we are!—among the consequences."

"But,—you were saying we could stop the divorce."

"Yes. We can. I can. But I wanted to see you,—before I did. Somehow I don't feel lonely with you. I had to see you.... It's good to see you."

She looked me in the face. Her tired eyes lit with a gleam of her former humor.

"Have you thought," she asked, "of all that will happen if there is a divorce?"

"I mean to fight every bit of it."

"They'll beat you."

"We'll see that."

"But they will. And then?"

"Why should one meet disaster half way?"

"Stephen!" she said; "what will happen to you when I am not here to make you look at things? Because I shan't be here. Not within reach of you.... There are times when I feel like a mother to you. Never more than now...."

And then with rapid touches she began to picture the disaster before me. She pictured the Court and our ineffectual denials, she made me realize the storm of hostility that was bound to burst over us. "And think of me," she said. "Stripped I shall be and outcast."

"Not while I live!"

"But what can you do for me? You will have Rachel. How can you stand by me? You can't be cruel to Rachel. You know you can't be cruel to Rachel. Look me in the face, Stephen; tell me. Yes.... Then how can you stand by me?"

"Somehow!" I cried foolishly and stopped.

"They'll use me to break your back with costs and damages. There'll be those children of yours to think of...."

"My God!" I cried aloud. "Why do you torment me? Haven't I thought enough of those things?... Haven't I seen the ruin and the shame, the hopeless trap, men's trust in me gone, my work scattered and ended again, my children growing up to hear this and that exaggeration of our story. And you——. All the bravery of your life scattered and wasted. The thing will pursue us all, cling to us. It will be all the rest of our lives for us...."

I covered my face with my hands.

When I looked up, her face was white and still, and full of a strange tenderness. "I wouldn't have you, Stephen—I wouldn't have you be cruel to Rachel.... I just wanted to know—something.... But we're wandering. We're talking nonsense. Because as I said, there need be no divorce. There will be no divorce at all. That's what I came to tell you. I shall have to pay—in a way, Stephen.... Not impossibly. Don't think it is anything impossible...."

Then she bit her lips and sat still....

"My dear," I whispered, "if we had taken one another at the beginning...."

But she went on with her own thoughts.

"You love those little children of yours," she said. "And that trusting girl-wife.... Of course you love them. They're yours. Oh! they're so deeply—yours.... Yours...."

"Oh my dear! don't torture me! I do love them. But I love you too."

"No," she said, "not as you do them."

I made a movement of protest.

"No," she said, whitely radiant with a serenity I had never seen before in her face. "You love me with your brain. With your soul if you like. I know, my poor bleeding Stephen!—Aren't those tears there? Don't mind my seeing them, Stephen.... Poor dear! Poor dear!.... You love them with your inmost heart. Why should you mind that I see you do?... All my life I've been wrong, Stephen, and now I know too late. It's the things we own we love, the things we buy with our lives.... Always I have been hard, I've been a little hard.... Stephen, my dear, I loved you, always I have loved you, and always I have tried to keep myself.... It's too late.... I don't know why I am talking like this.... But you see I can make a bargain now—it's not an impossible bargain—and save you and save your wife and save your children——"

"But how?" I said, still doubting.

"Never mind how, Stephen. Don't ask me how now. Nothing very difficult. Easy. But I shall write you no more letters—see you—no more. Never. And that's why I had to come, you see, why I was able to come to you, just to see you and say good-bye to you, and take leave of you, dear Love that I threw away and loved too late...."

She bit her lip and faced me there, a sweet flushed living thing, with a tear coursing down her cheek, and her mouth now firm and steady.

"You can stop this divorce?" I said, "But how, Mary?"

"No, don't ask me how. At a price. It's a bargain. No, no! Don't think that,—a bargain with Justin, but not degrading. Don't, my dear, let the thought of it distress you. I have to give earnests.... Never, dear, never through all the dusty rest of life again will you and I speak together. Never! Even if we come face to face once more—no word...."

"Mary," I said, "what is it you have to do? You speak as if—— What is it Justin demands?"

"No! do not ask me that.... Tell me—you see we've so much to talk about, Stephen—tell me of all you are going to do. Everything. Because I've got to make a great vow of renunciation—of you. Not to think again—not even to think of you again.... No, no. I'm not even to look for you in the papers any more. There's to be no tricks this time. And so you see I want to fill up my mind with you. To store myself with you. Tell me your work is worth it—that it's not like the work of everyone. Tell me, Stephen—that. I want to believe that—tremendously. Don't be modest now. That will be cruel. I want to believe that I am at last to do something that is worth doing, something not fruitless...."

"Are you to go into seclusion," I asked suddenly, "to be a nun——?"

"It is something like that," she said; "very like that. But I have promised—practically—not to tell you that. Tell me your soul, Stephen, now. Give me something I may keep in my mind through—through all those years of waiting...."

"But where?" I cried. "What years of waiting?"

"In a lonely place, my dear—among mountains. High and away. Very beautiful, but lonely. A lake. Great rocks.... Yes,—like that place. So odd.... I shall have so much time to think, and I shall have no papers—no news. I mustn't talk to you of that. Don't let me talk to you of that. I want to hear about this world, this world I am going to leave, and how you think you are going on fighting in the hot and dusty struggle—to make the world cool and kind and reasonable, to train minds better, to broaden ideas ... all those things you believe in. All those things you believe in and stick to—even when they are dull. Now I am leaving it, I begin to see how fine it is—to fight as you want to fight. A tiresome inglorious lifelong fight.... You really believe, Stephen?"

Sec. 11

And then suddenly I read her purpose.

"Mary," I cried, and stood up and laid my hand upon her arm, "Tell me what is it you mean to do. What do you mean to do?"

She looked up at me defensively and for a moment neither of us spoke.

"Mary," I said, and could not say what was in my thoughts.

"You are wrong," she lied at last....

She stood up too and faced me. I held her shoulder and looked into her eyes.

The gong of my little clock broke the silence.

"I must go, Stephen," she said. "I did not see how the time was slipping by."

I began to entreat her and she to deny. "You don't understand," she said, "you don't understand. Stephen!—I had hoped you would understand. You see life,—not as I see it. I wanted—all sorts of splendid things and you—begin to argue. You are shocked, you refuse to understand.... No. No. Take your hands off me, Stephen dear, and let me go. Let me go!"

"But," I said, stupid and persistent, "what are you going to do?"

"I've told you. Stephen. I've told you. As much as I can tell you. And you think—this foolish thing. As though I could do that! Stephen, if I promise, will you let me go?..."

Sec. 12

My mind leaps from that to the moment in the afternoon, when torn by intolerable distresses and anxiety I knocked and rang, and again knocked at the door of the house she occupied in South Street, with the intention of making one last appeal to her to live—if, indeed, it was death she had in mind. I had let her go from me and instantly a hundred neglected things had come into my head. I could go away with her, I could threaten to die with her; it seemed to me that nothing in all the world mattered if only I could thrust back the dark hand of death to which she had so manifestly turned. I knew, I knew all along that her extorted promise would not bind her. I knew and I let the faintest shadow of uncertainty weaken and restrain me. And I went to her too late. I saw instantly that I was too late when the door opened and showed me the scared face of a young footman whose eyes were red with tears.

"Are you Doctor——?" he asked of my silence.

"I want——" I said. "I must speak to Lady Mary."

He was wordless for a moment. "She—she died, sir," he said. "She's died suddenly." His face quivered, he was blubbering. He couldn't say anything more; he stood snivelling in the doorway.

For some moments I remained confronting him as if I would dispute his words. Some things the mind contests in the face of invincible conviction. One wants to thrust back time....



CHAPTER THE TWELFTH

THE ARRAIGNMENT OF JEALOUSY

Sec. 1

I sit here in this graciously proportioned little room which I shall leave for ever next week, for already your mother begins to pack for England again. I look out upon the neat French garden that I have watched the summer round, and before me is the pile of manuscript that has grown here, the story of my friendship and love for Mary and of its tragic end, and of all the changes of my beliefs and purposes that have arisen out of that. I had meant it to be the story of my life, but how little of my life is in it! It gives, at most, certain acute points, certain salient aspects. I begin to realize for the first time how thin and suggestive and sketchy a thing any novel or biography must be. How we must simplify! How little can we convey the fullness of life, the glittering interests, the interweaving secondary aspects, the dawns and dreams and double refractions of experience! Even Mary, of whom I have labored to tell you, seems not so much expressed as hidden beneath these corrected sheets. She who was so abundantly living, who could love like a burst of sunshine and give herself as God gives the world, is she here at all in this pile of industrious inexpert writing?

Life is so much fuller than any book can be. All this story can be read, I suppose, in a couple of hours or so, but I have been living and reflecting upon and reconsidering the substance of it for over forty years. I do not see how this book can give you any impression but that of a career all strained upon the frame of one tragic relationship, yet no life unless it is a very short young life can have that simplicity. Of all the many things I have found beautiful and wonderful, Mary was the most wonderful to me, she is in my existence like a sunlit lake seen among mountains, of all the edges by which life has wrought me she was the keenest. Nevertheless she was not all my life, nor the form of all my life. For a time after her death I could endure nothing of my home, I could not bear the presence of your mother or you, I hated the possibility of consolation, I went away into Italy, and it was only by an enormous effort that I could resume my interest in that scheme of work to which my life is given. But it is manifest I still live, I live and work and feel and share beauty....

It seems to me more and more as I live longer, that most poetry and most literature and particularly the literature of the past is discordant with the vastness and variety, the reserves and resources and recuperations of life as we live it to-day. It is the expression of life under cruder and more rigid conditions than ours, lived by people who loved and hated more naively, aged sooner and died younger than we do. Solitary persons and single events dominated them as they do not dominate us. We range wider, last longer, and escape more and more from intensity towards understanding. And already this astounding blow begins to take its place among other events, as a thing strange and terrible indeed, but related to all the strangeness and mystery of life, part of the universal mysteries of despair and futility and death that have troubled my consciousness since childhood. For a time the death of Mary obscured her life for me, but now her living presence is more in my mind again. I begin to see that it is the reality of her existence and not the accidents of her end that matter most. It signifies less that she should have flung out of life when it seemed that her living could only have meant disaster to herself and to all she loved, than that all her life should have been hampered and restricted. Through all her life this brave and fine and beautiful being was for the most part of her possibilities, wasted in a splendid setting, magnificently wasted if you will, but wasted.

Sec. 2

It was that idea of waste that dominated my mind in a strange interview I had with Justin. For it became necessary for me to see Justin in order that we should stamp out the whispers against her that followed her death. He had made it seem an accidental death due to an overdose of the narcotic she employed, but he had not been able to obliterate altogether the beginnings of his divorce proceedings. There had been talk on the part of clerks and possible witnesses. But of all that I need not tell you here; what matters is that Justin and I could meet without hatred or violence. I met a Justin grey-haired and it seemed to me physically shrunken, more than ever slow-speaking, with his habit of attentive silences more marked and that dark scar spread beyond his brows.

We had come to our parting, we had done our business with an affectation of emotional aloofness, and then suddenly he gripped me by the arm. "Stratton," he said, "we two—— We killed her. We tore her to pieces between us...."

I made no answer to this outbreak.

"We tore her to pieces," he repeated. "It's so damned silly. One gets angry—like an animal."

I became grotesquely anxious to assure him that, indeed, she and I had been, as they say, innocent throughout our last day together. "You were wrong in all that," I said. "She kept her faith with you. We never planned to meet and when we met——. If we had been brother and sister——. Indeed there was nothing."

"I suppose," he said, "I ought to be glad of that. But now it doesn't seem to matter very much. We killed her.... What does that matter to me now?"

Sec. 3

And it is upon this effect of sweet and beautiful possibilities, caught in the net of animal jealousies and thoughtless motives and ancient rigid institutions, that I would end this writing. In Mary, it seems to me, I found both womanhood and fellowship, I found what many have dreamt of, love and friendship freely given, and I could do nothing but clutch at her to make her my possession. I would not permit her to live except as a part of my life. I see her now and understand her better than when she was alive, I recall things that she said and wrote and it is clear to me, clearer perhaps than it ever was to her, that she, with her resentment at being in any sense property, her self-reliant thought, her independence of standard, was the very prototype of that sister-lover who must replace the seductive and abject womanhood, owned, mastered and deceiving, who waste the world to-day. And she was owned, she was mastered, she was forced into concealment. What alternative was there for her? What alternative is there for any woman? She might perhaps have kept her freedom by some ill-paid work and at the price of every other impulse in her swift and eager nature. She might have become one of those poor neuters, an independent woman.... Life was made impossible for her and she was forced to die, according to the fate of all untimely things. She was destroyed, not merely by the unconsidered, undisciplined passions of her husband and her lover, but by the vast tradition that sustains and enforces the subjugation of her sex. What I had from her, and what she was, is but a mere intimation of all that she and I might have made of each other and the world.

And perhaps in this story I have said enough for you to understand why Mary has identified herself with something world-wide, has added to herself a symbolical value, and why it is I find in the whole crowded spectacle of mankind, a quality that is also hers, a sense of fine things entangled and stifled and unable to free themselves from the ancient limiting jealousies which law and custom embody. For I know that a growing multitude of men and women outwear the ancient ways. The blood-stained organized jealousies of religious intolerance, the delusions of nationality and cult and race, that black hatred which simple people and young people and common people cherish against all that is not in the likeness of themselves, cease to be the undisputed ruling forces of our collective life. We want to emancipate our lives from this slavery and these stupidities, from dull hatreds and suspicion. The ripening mind of our race tires of these boorish and brutish and childish things. A spirit that is like hers, arises and increases in human affairs, a spirit that demands freedom and gracious living as our inheritance too long deferred, and I who loved her so blindly and narrowly now love her spirit with a dawning understanding.

I will not be content with that compromise of jealousies which is the established life of humanity to-day. I give myself, and if I can I will give you, to the destruction of jealousy and of the forms and shelters and instruments of jealousy, both in my own self and in the thought and laws and usage of the world.

THE END

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THE END

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