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    The Muse's Tragedy

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    Chapter 1
    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--she affected a strict anonymity, refusing even her photograph to the
    most privileged--and from Mrs. Memorall, whom he revered and cultivated
    as her friend, he had extracted but the one impressionist phrase: "Oh,
    well, she's like 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 near the window, he had said to himself, "_That might be she_."

    Ever since his Harvard days--he was still young enough to think of them as
    immensely remote--Danyers had dreamed of Mrs. Anerton, the Silvia of
    Vincent Rendle's immortal sonnet-cycle, the Mrs. A. of the _Life and
    Letters_. Her name was enshrined in some of the noblest English verse of
    the nineteenth century--and of all past or future centuries, as Danyers,
    from the stand-point of a maturer judgment, still believed. The first
    reading of certain poems--of the _Antinous_, the _Pia Tolomei_, the
    _Sonnets to Silvia_,--had been epochs in Danyers's growth, and the verse
    seemed to gain in mellowness, in amplitude, in meaning as one brought to
    its interpretation more experience of life, a finer emotional sense.
    Where, in his boyhood, he had felt only the perfect, the almost austere
    beauty of form, the subtle interplay of vowel-sounds, the rush and fulness
    of lyric emotion, he now thrilled to the close-packed significance of each
    line, the allusiveness of each word--his imagination lured hither and
    thither on fresh trails of thought, and perpetually spurred by the sense
    that, beyond what he had already discovered, more marvellous regions lay
    waiting to be explored. Danyers had written, at college, the prize essay
    on Rendle's poetry (it chanced to be the moment of the great man's death);
    he had fashioned the fugitive verse of his own storm-and-stress period on
    the forms which Rendle had first given to English metre; and when two
    years later the _Life and Letters_ appeared, and the Silvia of the sonnets
    took substance as Mrs. A., he had included in his worship of Rendle the
    woman who had inspired not only such divine verse but such playful,
    tender, incomparable prose.

    Danyers never forgot the day when Mrs. Memorall happened to mention that
    she knew Mrs. Anerton. He had known Mrs. Memorall for a year or more, and
    had somewhat contemptuously classified her as the kind of woman who runs
    cheap excursions to celebrities; when one afternoon she remarked, as she
    put a second lump of sugar in his tea:

    "Is it right this time? You're almost as particular as Mary Anerton."

    "Mary Anerton?"

    "Yes, I never _can_ remember how she likes her tea. Either it's lemon
    _with_ sugar, or lemon without sugar, or cream without either, and
    whichever it is must be put into the cup before the tea is poured in; and
    if one hasn't remembered, one must begin all over again. I suppose it was
    Vincent Rendle's way of taking his tea and has become a sacred rite."

    "Do you _know_ Mrs. Anerton?" cried Danyers, disturbed by this careless
    familiarity with the habits of his divinity.

    "'And did I once see Shelley plain?' Mercy, yes! She and I were at school
    together--she's an American, you know. We were at a _pension_ near Tours
    for nearly a year; then she went back to New York, and I didn't see her
    again till after her marriage. She and Anerton spent a winter in Rome
    while my husband was 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
    he mentions 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 so engrossed, so preoccupied, that one felt one wasn't wanted.
    The fact is, she cared only about his friends--she separated herself
    gradually from all her own people. Now, of course, it's different; she's
    desperately lonely; she's taken to writing to me now and then; and last
    year, when she heard I was going abroad, she asked me to meet her in
    Venice, and I spent a week with her there."

    "And Rendle?"

    Mrs. Memorall smiled and shook her head. "Oh, I never was allowed a peep
    at _him_; none of her old friends met him, except by accident. Ill-natured
    people say that was the reason she kept him so long. If one happened in
    while he was there, he was hustled into Anerton's study, and the husband
    mounted guard till the inopportune visitor had departed. Anerton, you
    know, was really much more ridiculous about it than his wife. Mary was too
    clever to lose her head, or at least to show she'd lost it--but Anerton
    couldn't conceal his pride in the conquest. I've seen Mary shiver when he
    spoke of Rendle as _our poet_. Rendle always had to have a certain seat at
    the dinner-table, away from the draught and not too near the fire, and a
    box of cigars that no one else was allowed to touch, and a writing-table
    of his own in Mary's sitting-room--and Anerton was always telling one of
    the great man's idiosyncrasies: how he never would cut the ends of his
    cigars, though Anerton himself had given him a gold cutter set with 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
    before emptying 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,
    he was very fond of his wife."

    "And she?"

    "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
    husband had died some years before her poet, now divided her life between
    Rome, where she had a small apartment, and England, where she occasionally
    went to stay with those of her friends who had been Rendle's. She had been
    engaged, for some time after his death, in editing some juvenilia which he
    had bequeathed to her care; but that task being accomplished, she had been
    left without definite 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
    she ought to marry."

    "Oh!"

    "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 not accept the inevitable and begin over again? All the
    King's horses and all the King's men won't bring Rendle to life-and
    besides, she didn't marry _him_ when she had the chance."

    Danyers winced slightly at this rude fingering of his idol. Was it
    possible that Mrs. Memorall did not see what an anti-climax such a
    marriage would have been? Fancy Rendle "making an honest woman" of Silvia;
    for so society would have viewed it! How such a reparation would have
    vulgarized their past--it would have been like "restoring" a masterpiece;
    and how exquisite must have been the perceptions of the woman who, in
    defiance of appearances, and perhaps of her own secret inclination, chose
    to go down to posterity as Silvia rather than 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 he patiently plodded in the hope of finding embedded amid layers of
    dusty twaddle some 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 on Rendle figured among a dozen, somewhat
    overstudied "appreciations," he offered a copy to Mrs. Memorall; who
    surprised him, the next time they met, with the announcement that she had
    sent the book to Mrs. Anerton.

    Mrs. Anerton in due time wrote to thank her friend. Danyers was privileged
    to read the few lines in which, in terms that suggested the habit of
    "acknowledging" similar tributes, she spoke of the author's "feeling and
    insight," and was "so glad of the opportunity," etc. He went away
    disappointed, without clearly knowing what else he had expected.

    The following spring, when he went abroad, Mrs. Memorall offered him
    letters to everybody, from the Archbishop of Canterbury to Louise Michel.
    She did not include Mrs. Anerton, however, and Danyers knew, from a
    previous conversation, that Silvia objected to people who "brought
    letters." He knew also that she travelled during the summer, and was
    unlikely to return to Rome before the term of his holiday should be
    reached, and the hope of meeting her was not included among his
    anticipations.

    The lady whose entrance broke upon his solitary repast in the restaurant
    of the Hotel Villa d'Este had seated herself in such a way that her
    profile was detached against the window; and thus viewed, her domed
    forehead, small arched nose, and fastidious lip suggested a silhouette of
    Marie Antoinette. In the lady's dress and movements--in the very turn of
    her wrist as she poured out her coffee--Danyers thought he detected the
    same fastidiousness, the same air of tacitly excluding the obvious and
    unexceptional. Here was a woman who had been much bored and keenly
    interested. The waiter brought her a _Secolo,_ and as she bent above it
    Danyers noticed that the hair rolled back from her forehead was turning
    gray; but her figure was straight and slender, and she had the invaluable
    gift of a girlish back.

    The rush of Anglo-Saxon travel had not set toward the lakes, and with the
    exception of an Italian family or two, and a hump-backed youth with an
    _abbe_, 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 at one of the little tables at the edge of the lake. She was
    writing, and a heap of books and newspapers lay on the table at her side.
    That evening they met again in the garden. He had strolled out to smoke a
    last cigarette before dinner, and under the black vaulting of ilexes, near
    the steps leading down to the boat-landing, he found her leaning on the
    parapet above the lake. At the sound of his approach she turned and looked
    at him. She had thrown a black lace scarf over her head, and in this
    sombre setting her face seemed thin and unhappy. He remembered afterwards
    that her eyes, as they met his, expressed not so much sorrow as profound
    discontent.

    To his surprise she stepped toward him with a detaining gesture.

    "Mr. Lewis Danyers, I believe?"

    He bowed.

    "I am Mrs. Anerton. I saw your name on the visitors' list and wished to
    thank you for an essay on Mr. Rendle's poetry--or rather to tell you how
    much I appreciated it. The book was sent to me last winter by Mrs.
    Memorall."

    She spoke in even melancholy tones, as though the habit of perfunctory
    utterance had robbed her voice of more spontaneous accents; but her smile
    was charming. They sat down on a stone bench under the ilexes, and she
    told him how much pleasure his essay had given her. She thought it the
    best in the book--she was sure he had put more of himself into it than
    into any other; was she 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, in some ways, he had penetrated the poet's
    inner meaning more completely than any other critic. There were certain
    problems, of course, that he had left untouched; certain aspects of that
    many-sided mind that he had perhaps failed to 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."

    II

    She stayed a month at Villa d'Este, and Danyers was with her daily. She
    showed an unaffected pleasure in his society; a pleasure so obviously
    founded on their common veneration of Rendle, that the young man could
    enjoy it without fear of fatuity. At first he was merely one more grain of
    frankincense on the altar of her insatiable divinity; but gradually a more
    personal note crept into their intercourse. If she still liked him only
    because he appreciated Rendle, she at least perceptibly distinguished him
    from the herd of Rendle's appreciators.

    Her attitude toward the great man's memory struck Danyers as perfect. She
    neither proclaimed nor disavowed her identity. She was frankly Silvia to
    those who knew and cared; but there was no trace of the Egeria in her
    pose. She spoke often of Rendle's books, but seldom of himself; there was
    no posthumous conjugality, no use of the possessive tense, in her
    abounding reminiscences. Of the master's intellectual life, of his habits
    of thought and work, she never wearied of talking. She knew the history of
    each poem; by what scene or episode each image had been evoked; how many
    times the words in a certain line had been transposed; how long a certain
    adjective had been sought, and what had 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 Old Odysseus_.

    Danyers felt that in talking of these things she was no mere echo of
    Rendle's thought. If her identity had appeared to be merged in his it was
    because they thought alike, not because he had thought for her. Posterity
    is apt to regard the women whom poets have sung as chance pegs on which
    they hung their garlands; but Mrs. Anerton's mind was like some fertile
    garden wherein, inevitably, Rendle's imagination had rooted itself and
    flowered. Danyers began to see how many threads of his complex mental
    tissue the poet had owed to the blending of her temperament with his; in a
    certain sense Silvia had herself created the _Sonnets to Silvia_.

    To be the custodian of Rendle's inner self, the door, as it were, to the
    sanctuary, had at first seemed to Danyers so comprehensive a privilege
    that he had the sense, as his friendship with Mrs. Anerton advanced, of
    forcing his way into a life already crowded. What room was there, among
    such towering memories, for so small an actuality as his? Quite suddenly,
    after this, he discovered that Mrs. Memorall knew better: his fortunate
    friend was bored as well as lonely.

    "You have had more than any other woman!" he had exclaimed to her one day;
    and her smile flashed a derisive light on his blunder. Fool that he was,
    not to have seen that she had not had enough! That she was young still--do
    years count?--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
    one of the little ruined temples, or watching, through a ripple of
    foliage, the remote blue flash of the lake, they did not always talk of
    Rendle or of literature. She encouraged Danyers to speak of himself; to
    confide his ambitions to her; she asked him the questions which are the
    wise woman's substitute for advice.

    "You must write," she said, administering the most exquisite flattery that
    human lips could give.

    Of course he meant to write--why not to do something great in his turn?
    His best, at least; with the resolve, at the outset, that his best should
    be _the_ best. Nothing less seemed possible with that mandate in his ears.
    How she had divined him; lifted and disentangled his groping ambitions;
    laid the awakening touch 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 in
    unannounced.

    "You ought to do it," she insisted. "A complete interpretation--a summing-
    up of his style, his purpose, his theory of life and art. No one else
    could do it as 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
    in Venice. There they were to talk about the book.

    III

    _Lago d'Iseo, August 14th_.

    When I said good-by to you yesterday I promised to come back to Venice in
    a week: I was to give you your answer then. I was not honest in saying
    that; I didn't mean to go back to Venice or to see you again. I was
    running away from you--and I mean to keep on running! If _you_ won't, _I_
    must. Somebody must save you from marrying a disappointed woman of--well,
    you say years don't count, and why 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
    had our month together in Venice (such a good month, was it not?) and now
    you are to go home and write a book--any book but the one we--didn't talk
    of!--and I am to 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 so
    little hope for you. I had had what I wanted to the full; wasn't that what
    you said? It is just when a man begins to think he understands a woman
    that he may be sure he doesn't! It is because Vincent Rendle _didn't love
    me_ that there is no hope for you. I never had what I wanted, and never,
    never, never will I stoop to wanting anything else.

    Do you begin to understand? It was all a sham then, you say? No, it was
    all real 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 the labyrinth of human nature; but didn't it strike you,
    sometimes, that I never told you any foolish little anecdotes about him?
    His trick, for instance, of twirling a paper-knife round and round between
    his thumb and forefinger while he talked; his mania for saving the backs
    of notes; his greediness for wild strawberries, the little pungent Alpine
    ones; his childish delight in acrobats and jugglers; his way of always
    calling me _you--dear you_, every letter began--I never told you a word
    of all that, did I? Do you suppose I could have helped telling you, if he
    had loved me? These little things would have been mine, then, a part of my
    life--of our life--they would have slipped out in spite of me (it's only
    your unhappy woman who is always reticent and dignified). But there 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
    with me, you would let me hurt you! I shall never be quite so lonely
    again, now that some one knows.

    Let me begin at the beginning. When I first met Vincent Rendle I was not
    twenty-five. That was twenty years ago. From that time until his death,
    five years ago, we were fast friends. He gave me fifteen years, perhaps
    the best fifteen years, of his life. The world, as you know, thinks that
    his greatest poems 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 was almost complete; my mind must have been to him (I
    fancy) like some perfectly tuned instrument on which he was never tired of
    playing. Some one told me of his once saying of me that I "always
    understood;" it is the only praise I ever heard of his giving me. I don't
    even know if he thought me pretty, though I hardly think my appearance
    could have been disagreeable to him, for he hated to be with ugly people.
    At all events he fell into the way of spending more and more of his time
    with me. He liked our house; our ways suited him. He was nervous,
    irritable; people bored him and yet he disliked solitude. He took
    sanctuary with us. When we travelled he went with us; in the winter he
    took rooms near us in Rome. In England or on the continent he was always
    with us for 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--he liked to have me share in all he was doing or thinking; he
    was impatient for my criticism of every new book that interested him; I
    was a part of his intellectual life. The pity of it was that I wanted to
    be something more. I was a young woman and I was in love with him--not
    because he was Vincent Rendle, but just because he was himself!

    People began to talk, of course--I was Vincent Rendle's Mrs. Anerton; when
    the _Sonnets to Silvia_ appeared, it was whispered that I was Silvia.
    Wherever he went, 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 with their assiduities. I hugged my
    success, for I knew what it meant--they thought that Rendle was in love
    with me! Do you know, at times, they almost made me think so too? Oh,
    there was no phase of folly I didn't go through. You can't imagine the
    excuses a woman will invent for a man's not telling her that he loves
    her--pitiable arguments that she would see through at a glance if any
    other woman used them! But all the while, deep down, I knew he had never
    cared. 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 so little to what people said; and cared still less, when he
    heard. He was always quite honest and straightforward with me; he treated
    me as one man treats another; and yet at times I felt he _must_ see that
    with me it was different. If he did see, he made no sign. Perhaps he never
    noticed--I am sure he never meant to be cruel. He had never made love to
    me; it was no fault of his if I wanted more 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 seem to 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 in these days!) in omitting from the correspondence all
    personal allusions, all those _details intimes_ which should be kept
    sacred from the public gaze. They referred, of course, to the asterisks in
    the letters to Mrs. A. Those letters I myself prepared for publication;
    that is to say, I copied them out for the editor, and every now and then I
    put in a line of asterisks to make it appear that something had been left
    out. You understand? The asterisks were a sham--_there was nothing to
    leave out_.

    No one but a woman could understand what I went through during those
    years--the moments of revolt, when I felt I must break away from it all,
    fling the truth in his face and never see him again; the inevitable
    reaction, when not to see him seemed the one unendurable thing, and I
    trembled lest a look or word of mine should disturb the poise of our
    friendship; the silly days when I hugged the delusion that he _must_ love
    me, since everybody thought he did; the long periods 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 so perfect that I forgot
    everything else in the joy of feeling myself lifted up on 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 he spent it all on me. Yes, you were right when you said that I have
    had more than any other woman. _Il faut de l'adresse pour aimer_, Pascal
    says; and I was so quiet, so cheerful, so frankly affectionate with him,
    that in all those years I am almost sure I never bored him. Could I have
    hoped as much if he had loved me?

    You mustn't think of him, though, as having been tied to my skirts. He
    came and went as he pleased, and so did his fancies. There was a girl once
    (I am telling you everything), a lovely being who called his poetry "deep"
    and gave him _Lucile_ on his birthday. He followed her to Switzerland one
    summer, and all the time that he was dangling after her (a little too
    conspicuously, I always thought, 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 were dated from the very places where I
    knew they went and sat by waterfalls together and he thought out
    adjectives for her hair. He talked to me about it quite frankly
    afterwards. She was perfectly beautiful and it had been a pure delight to
    watch her; but she _would_ talk, and her mind, he said, was "all elbows."
    And yet, the next year, when her marriage was announced, he went away
    alone, quite suddenly ... and it was just afterwards that he published
    _Love's Viaticum_. Men are queer!

    After my husband died--I am putting things crudely, you see--I had a
    return of hope. It was because he loved me, I argued, that he had never
    spoken; because he had always hoped some day to make me his wife; because
    he wanted to spare me the "reproach." Rubbish! I knew well enough, in my
    heart of hearts, that my one chance lay in the force of habit. He had
    grown used to me; he was no longer young; he dreaded new people and new
    ways; _il avait pris son pli_. Would it not be easier to marry me?

    I don't believe he ever thought of it. He wrote me what people call "a
    beautiful 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 heard later 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 I had given up hoping. Then he died.

    After his death--this is curious--there came to me a kind of mirage of
    love. All the books and articles written about him, all the reviews of the
    "Life," were full of discreet allusions to Silvia. I became again the Mrs.
    Anerton of the glorious days. Sentimental girls and dear lads like you
    turned pink when somebody whispered, "that was Silvia you were talking
    to." Idiots begged for my autograph--publishers urged me to write my
    reminiscences of him--critics consulted me about the reading of doubtful
    lines. And I knew that, to all these 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 intellectual
    union counted for nothing now. It had been soul to soul, but never hand in
    hand, 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 a
    snow-hut. I hated my solitude and yet dreaded any one who disturbed it.
    That phase, of course, passed like the others. I took up life again, and
    began to read the papers and consider the cut of my gowns. But there was
    one question that I could not be rid of, that haunted me night and day.
    Why had he never loved me? Why had I been so much to him, and no more? Was
    I so ugly, so essentially unlovable, that though a man might cherish me as
    his mind's comrade, he could not care for me as a woman? I can't tell you
    how that question tortured me. It became an obsession.

    My poor friend, do you begin to see? I had to find out what some other man
    thought of me. Don't be too hard on me! Listen first--consider. When I
    first met Vincent Rendle I was a young woman, who had married early and
    led the quietest kind of life; I had had no "experiences." From the hour
    of our first meeting to the day of his death I never looked at any other
    man, and never noticed whether any other man looked at me. When he died,
    five years ago, I knew 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, like a woman in a book. Life is so much more complex than any
    rendering of it can be. I liked you from the first--I was drawn to you
    (you must have seen that)--I wanted you to like me; it was not a mere
    psychological experiment. And yet in a sense it was that, too--I must be
    honest. I had to have an answer to that question; 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 I was Silvia, that you loved me because you thought Rendle had
    loved me. I began to 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 me you meant to follow me to Venice.

    After our parting at Villa d'Este my old doubts reasserted themselves.
    What did I know of your feeling for me, after all? Were you capable of
    analyzing it yourself? Was it not likely to be two-thirds vanity and
    curiosity, and one-third literary sentimentality? You might easily fancy
    that you cared for Mary Anerton when you were really in love with Silvia--
    the heart is such a hypocrite! Or you might be more calculating than I had
    supposed. Perhaps it was 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 a margin.

    When you arrived in Venice and we met again--do you remember the music on
    the lagoon, that evening, from my balcony?--I was so afraid you would
    begin to talk about 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--might remind 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, during that month in Venice?

    I have read my letter over; and now I wish that I had said this to you
    instead of writing it. I could have felt my way then, watching your face
    and seeing if you understood. But, no, I could not go back to Venice; and
    I could not tell you (though I tried) while we were there together. I
    couldn't spoil that month--my one month. It was so good, for once in my
    life, to get away from literature....

    You will be angry with me at first--but, alas! not for long. What I have
    done would have been cruel if I had been a younger woman; as it is, the
    experiment will hurt no one but myself. And it will hurt me horribly (as
    much as, in your first anger, you may perhaps wish), because it has shown
    me, for the first time, all that I have missed....
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 1
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