Book IV Chapter I
SIX YEARS AFTER
This book is like a woman's letter. The most important part of it is the postscript
Six years lie between the end of the last chapter and the beginning of this. Meanwhile, I had moved to sociable chambers within sound of the city clocks, and had lived the life of a lonely man about town, sinking more and more into the comfortable sloth of bachelorhood. I had long come to look back upon my pilgrimage as a sort of Indian-summer youth, being, as the reader can reckon for himself, just on thirty-seven. As one will, with one's most serious experiences, hastening to laugh lest one should weep, as the old philosopher said, I had made some fun out of my quest, in the form of a paper for a bookish society to which I belonged, on "Woman as a Learned Pursuit." It is printed among the transactions of the society, and is accessible to the curious only by loan from the members, and I regret that I am unable to print any extracts here. Perhaps when I am dead the society will see the criminal selfishness of reserving for itself what was meant for mankind.
Meanwhile, however, it is fast locked and buried deep in the archives of the club. I have two marriages to record in the interval: one that of a young lady whom I must still think of as
`Nicolete' to Sir Marmaduke Pettigrew, Bart., of Dultowers Hall, and the other the well-known marriage of Sylvia Joy . . .
Sylvia Joy married after all her fine protestations! Yes! but I'm sure you will forgive her, for she was married to a lord. When one is twenty and romantic one would scorn a woman who would jilt us for wealth and position; at thirty, one would scorn any woman who didn't. Ah me! how one changes! No one, I can honestly say, was happier over these two weddings than I, and I sent Sylvia her petticoat as a wedding present.
But it was to tell of other matters that I reopen this book and once more take up my pen--matters so near to my heart that I shrink from writing of them, and am half afraid that the attempt may prove too hard for me after all, and my book end on a broken cry of pain. Yet, at the same time, I want to write of them, for they are beautiful and solemn, and good food for the heart.
Besides, though my pilgrimage had been ended so long, they are really a part, yea, the part for which, though I knew it not, all the rest has been written--for they tell how I came to find by accident her whom so long I had sought of design.
How shall I tell of Thee who, first and last of all women, gave and awoke in me that love which is the golden key of the world, the mystic revelation of the holy meaning of life, love that alone may pass through the awful gates of the stars, and gaze unafraid into the blue abysses beyond?
Ah! Love, it seemed far away indeed from the stars, the place where we met, and only by the light of love's eyes might we have found each other--as only by the light of love's eyes . . . But enough, my Heart, the world waits to hear our story,--the world once so unloving to you, the world with a heart so hard and anon so soft for love. When the story is ended, my love, when the story is ended--Next