A Strange Story, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Chapter 69.

I had hoped that the voyage would produce some beneficial effect upon Lilian; but no effect, good or bad, was perceptible, except, perhaps, a deeper silence, a gentler calm. She loved to sit on the deck when the nights were fair, and the stars mirrored on the deep. And once thus, as I stood beside her, bending over the rail of the vessel, and gazing on the long wake of light which the moon made amidst the darkness of an ocean to which no shore could be seen, I said to myself, “Where is my track of light through the measureless future? Would that I could believe as I did when a child! Woe is me, that all the reasonings I take from my knowledge should lead me away from the comfort which the peasant who mourns finds in faith! Why should riddles so dark have been thrust upon me — me, no fond child of fancy; me, sober pupil of schools the severest? Yet what marvel — the strangest my senses have witnessed or feigned in the fraud they have palmed on me — is greater than that by which a simple affection, that all men profess to have known, has changed the courses of life prearranged by my hopes and confirmed by my judgment? How calmly before I knew love I have anatomized its mechanism, as the tyro who dissects the web-work of tissues and nerves in the dead! Lo! it lives, lives in me; and, in living, escapes from my scalpel, and mocks all my knowledge. Can love be reduced to the realm of the senses? No; what nun is more barred by her grate from the realm of the senses than my bride by her solemn affliction? Is love, then, the union of kindred, harmonious minds? No, my beloved one sits by my side, and I guess not her thoughts, and my mind is to her a sealed fountain. Yet I love her more — oh, ineffably more! — for the doom which destroys the two causes philosophy assigns to love — in the form, in the mind! How can I now, in my vain physiology, say what is love, what is not? Is it love which must tell me that man has a soul, and that in soul will be found the solution of problems never to be solved in body or mind alone?”

My self-questionings halted here as Lilian’s hand touched my shoulder. She had risen from her seat, and had come to me.

“Are not the stars very far from earth?” she said.

“Very far.”

“Are they seen for the first time to-night?”

“They were seen, I presume, as we see them, by the fathers of all human races!”

“Yet close below us they shine reflected in the waters; and yet, see, wave flows on wave before we can count it!”

“Lilian, by what sympathy do you read and answer my thought?”

Her reply was incoherent and meaningless. If a gleam of intelligence had mysteriously lighted my heart to her view, it was gone. But drawing her nearer towards me, my eye long followed wistfully the path of light, dividing the darkness on either hand, till it closed in the sloping horizon.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31