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for whom I stand for something. Perhaps I could do more if I had my strength, if I could walk, if I could grasp the problem physically and not merely mentally, but somehow I itch to get up and move now. . It is like being chained, while savages maul those you love. It is hard for me to tell you this, but what a poor thing am I now if I give not the best I have. I loved a woman once.
She loved me, or thought she did. I was not unlovable in those days — I mean it was not preposterous, as it is now. I have some brown bundles of letters that some day, when I am gone, I have left it to you to burn. I have not the heart to do it myself. “But somehow, as I went on in my life, she seemed to have less and less interest in it and in me, and I did what you will perhaps think cruel or even unmanly. I gave her cause of offence.
I wrote sneeringly, cynically; I made out that I was even less interested in her, and one day there was a break and tears, and I have been empty-hearted ever since. I knew then it was best for her, and the years have proved me right, because God knows she is happier now than if she had been tied to me. You see men and women do strange things. Even I, your father in God, have deceived a woman, and wilfully, though then I could have flung myself to death for her. Some one may be torturing you now for your own good, for her own good, entangling ever more herself and you in the impossible task of unravelling God's wars with his children. I am bitter with myself when I think that I was writing coldly, analytically, and fingering over your nerves at a time when you were overwhelmed with sorrows, and none by to share them. Forget all that. Shove my sermons into the fire. Come to me here, and let us read these letters over together by my fire, and see if we may not find some healing for you yet, some solution of this sorcery.
What would it mean to you if, by my fire, I told you of this woman now married to a man very different from me, and so far as I know happy enough with him? It somehow sets me dreaming of those days, as I lie here now thinking of you.
She was brown-haired and brown-eyed. She could ride and swim, even as I, and that was a bond in itself in those days. She was of Quaker blood, but, through the death of her mother, had been educated in Paris, and for years had been the pet and boon companion of her father, a rich and cultured man. She knew the world much as I knew it, and in those days I had few friends, either men or women, whose experience and knowledge were of that cosmopolitan kind. She was a delight to me in all these ways, as you can fancy. French was my other tongue, and yet she knew it better than I. I was bubbling over with animal spirits that knew no tiring, and her laugh and gaiety and colour kept pace with my love of games and sports. I was the browned and sturdy fellow, whom you used to know, fresh from a month or two of the spring rowing at Cambridge. I had been on to New York with others, to attend a farewell dinner to a friend who was sailing for Europe and thence to India. We had the rather boisterous dinner that fellows of from twenty to thirty enjoy. I came back alone on the express-train. Going from one car to another, a lurch of the train threw me off the platform, and only because I caught my right arm through the iron railing, and held on and finally pulled myself back, was I saved from a bad mangling on the roadside, if not from something worse. Several of the passengers rushed to the door, and I was for a little the centre of observation when I got back into my chair. I kept seeing a pair of brown eyes peeping over a magazine, and those eyes were soft and interested, and, as I thought, even sympathetic. At any rate, if she could read anything at all, she must have read a very great interest in mine. I had never seen her before, but I meditated finding out who was to meet her in Boston, and then, — why then!