My Life and Loves, by Frank Harris

Chapter xi.

My First Venus.

Venus toute entiere a sa proie attchee.

I meant to write nothing but the truth in these pages; yet now I’m conscious that my memory has played a trick on me: it is an artist in what painters call foreshortening: events, that is, which took months to happen, it crushes together into days, passing, so to speak, from mountain top to mountain top of feeling, and so the effect of passion is heightened by the partial elimination of time. I can do nothing more than warn my readers that in reality some of the love passages I shall describe were separated by weeks and sometimes by months, that the nuggets of gold were occasional “finds” in a desert. After all, it cannot matter to my “gentle readers” and my good readers will have already divined the fact, that when you crush eighteen years into nine chapters, you must leave out all sorts of minor happenings while recording chiefly the important — fortunately these carry the message.

It was with my knowledge as with my passions: day after day I worked feverishly: whenever I met a passage such as the building of the bridge in Caesar, I refused to burden my memory with the dozens of new words because I thought, and still think, Latin comparatively unimportant: the nearest to a great man the Latins ever produced being Tacitus or Lucretius. No sensible person would take the trouble to master a language in order to gain acquaintance with the second-rate. But new words in Greek were precious to me like new words in English and I used to memorize every passage studded with them save choruses like that of the birds in Aristophanes, where he names birds unfamiliar to me in life. Smith, I found, knew all such words in both languages. I asked him one day and he admitted that he had read everything in ancient Greek, following the example of Hermann, the famous German scholar, and believed he knew almost every word.

I did not desire any such pedantic perfection. I make no pretension to scholarship of any sort and indeed learning of any kind leaves me indifferent unless it leads to a fuller understanding of beauty or that widening of the spirit by sympathy that is another name for wisdom. But what I wish to emphasize here is that in the first year with Smith I learned by heart dozens of choruses from the Greek dramatists and the whole of the “Apologia” and “Crito” of Plato, having guessed then and still believe that the “Crito” is a model short story, more important than any of even Plato’s speculations. Plato and Sophocles! it was worth while spending five years of hard labor to enter into their intimacy and make them sister-spirits of one’s soul. Didn’t Sophocles give me Antigone, the prototype of the new woman for all time, in her sacred rebellion against hindering laws and thwarting conventions, the eternal model of that dauntless assertion of love that is beyond and above sex, the very heart of the Divine!

And the Socrates of Plato led me to that high place where man becomes God, having learned obedience to law and the cheerful acceptance of Death; but even there I needed Antigone, the twin sister of Bazaroff, at least as much, realising intuitively that my life-work, too, would be chiefly in revolt and that the punishment Socrates suffered and Antigone dared, would almost certainly be mine; for I was fated to meet worse opponents; after all, Creon was only stupid whereas Sir Thomas Horridge was malevolent to boot and Woodrow Wilson unspeakable!

Again I am outrunning my story by half a century!

But in what I have written of Sophocles and Plato, the reader will divine, I hope, my intense love and admiration for Smith who led me, as Vergil led Dante, into the ideal world that surrounds our earth as with illimitable spaces of purple sky, wind-swept and star-sown!

If I could tell what Smith’s daily companionship now did for me, I would hardly need to write this book; for like all I have written, some of the best of it belongs as much to him as to me. In his presence for the first year and a half, I was merely a sponge, absorbing now this truth, now that, hardly conscious of an original impulse. Yet all the time, too, as will be seen, I was advising him and helping him from my knowledge of life. Our relation was really rather like that of a small, practical husband with some wise and infinitely learned Aspasia! I want to say here in contempt of probability that in all our years of intimacy, living together for over three years side by side, I never found a fault in him of character or of sympathy, save the one that drew him to his death.

Now I must leave him for the moment and turn again to Mrs. Mayhew. Of course I went to her that next afternoon even before three. She met me without a word so gravely that I did not even kiss her: but began explaining what Smith was to me and how I could not do enough for him who was everything to my mind as she was (God help me!) to my heart and body, and I kissed her cold lips while she shook her head half sadly.

“We have a sixth sense, we women, when we are in love”, she began: “I feel a new influence in you; I scent danger in the air you bring with you: don’t ask me to explain: I can’t; but my heart is heavy and cold as death . . . If you leave me, there’ll be a catastrophe: the fall from such a height of happiness must be fatal . . . If you can feel pleasure away from me, you no longer love me. I feel none except in having you, seeing you, thinking of you — none. Oh! why can’t you love like a woman loves, No! like I love: it would be heaven; for you and you alone satisfy the insatiable; you leave me bathed in bliss, sighing with satisfaction, happy as the Queen of Heaven!”

“I have much to tell you, new things to say”, I began in haste.

“Come upstairs,” I broke in interrupting myself “I want you as you are now, with the color in your cheeks, the light in your eyes, the vibration in your voice, come!”

And she came like a sad sybil. “Who gave you the tact?” she began while we were undressing, “the tact to praise always?” I seized her and stood naked against her body to body: “What new thing have you to tell me?” I asked, lifting her into the bed and getting in beside her, cuddling up to her warmer body.

“There’s always something new in my love,” she cried, cupping my face with her slim hands and taking my lips with hers.

“Oh, how I desired you yesternoon, for I took the letter to your house myself and I heard you talking in your room perhaps with Smith”, she added, sounding my eyes with hers; “I’m longing to believe it; but when I heard your voice, or imagined I did, I felt the lips of my sex open and shut and then it began to burn and itch intolerably. I was on the point of going in to you; but instead, turned and hurried away, raging at you and at myself — ”

“I will not let you even talk such treason,” I cried, separating her soft thighs, as I spoke, and sliding between them. In a moment my sex was in her and we were one body, while I drew it out slowly and then pushed it in again, her naked body straining to mine.

“Oh” she cried, “as you draw out, my heart follows your sex in fear of losing it and as you push in again, it opens wide in ecstasy and wants you all, all — “ and she kissed me with hot lips.

“Here is something new,” she exclaimed, “food for your vanity from my love! Mad as you make me with your love-thrusts, for at one moment I am hot and dry with desire, the next wet with passion, bathed in love, I could live with you all my life without having you, if you wished it, or if it would do you good. Do you believe mef ’

“Yes,” I replied, continuing the love-game: but occasionally withdrawing to rub her clitoris with my sex and then slowly burying him in her cunt again to the hilt.

“We women have no souls but love,” she said faintly, her eyes dying as she spoke:

“I torture myself to think of some new pleasure for you, and yet you’ll leave me, I feel you will, for some silly girl who can’t feel a tithe of what I feel or give you what I give — “ she began here to breathe quickly: “I’ve been thinking how to give you more pleasure; let me try. Your seed, darling, is dear to me: I don’t want it in my sex; I want to feel you thrill and so I want your sex in my mouth, I want to drink your essence and I will — “ and suiting the action to the word she slipped down in the bed and took my sex in her mouth and began rubbing it up nnd down till my seed spirted in long jets, filling her mouth while she swallowed it greedily.

“Now do I love you, Sir!” she exclaimed, drawing herself up on me again and nestling against me: “wait till some girl does that to you and you’ll know she loves you to distraction or better still to self-destruction.”

“Why do you talk of any other girl!” I chided her, “I don’t imagine you going with any other man, why should you torment yourself just as causelessly?”

She shook her head: “My fears are prophetic”, she sighed, “I’m willing to believe it hasn’t happened yet though — Ah God, the torturing thought! the mere dread of your going with another drives me crazy; I could kill her, the bitch: why doesn’t she get a man of her own? How dare she even look at you?” and she clasped me tightly to her. Nothing loath, I pushed my sex into her again and began the slow movement that excited her so quickly and me so gradually for even while using all my skill to give her the utmost pleasure, I could not help comparing and I realised surely enough that Kate’s pussy was smaller and firmer and gave me infinitely more pleasure; still I kept on for her delight. And now again she began to pant and choke and as I continued ploughing her body and touching her womb with every slow thrust she began to cry inarticulately with little short cries growing higher in intensity till suddenly she squealed like a shot rabbit and then shrieked with laughter, breaking down in a storm of sighs and sobs and floods of tears.

As usual, her intensity chilled me a little; for her paroxysm aroused no corresponding heat in me, tending even to check my pleasure by the funny, irregular movements she made!

Suddenly I heard steps going away from the door, light stealing steps: who could it be? The servant? or —?

Lorna had heard them too, and though still panting and swallowing convulsively, she listened intently while her great eyes wandered in thought. I knew I could leave the riddle to her: it was my task to reassure and caress her.

I got up and went over to the open window for a breath of air and suddenly I saw Lily run quickly across the grass and disappear in the next house: so she was the listener! When I recalled Lorna’s gasping cries, I smiled to myself. If Lily tried to explain them to herself, she would have an uneasy hour, I guessed.

When Lorna had dressed, and she dressed quickly, and went downstairs hastily to convince herself, I think, that her darky had not spied on her, I waited in the sitting-room: I must warn Lorna that my “studies” would only allow me to give one day a week to our pleasures.

“Oh!” she cried, turning pale as I explained, “didn’t I know it!”

“But Lorna,” I pleaded, “didn’t you say you could do without me altogether if ’twas for my good!”

“No, no, no! a thousand times no!” she cried, “I said if you were with me always, I could do without passion; but this starvation fare once a week! Go, go!” she cried, “or I’ll say something I’ll regret. Go!”

and she pushed me out of the door and thinking it better in view of the future, I went.

The truth is, I was glad to get away: novelty is the soul of passion. There’s an old English proverb: “fresh cunt, fresh courage”. On my way home I thought oftener of the slim, dark figure of Lily than of the woman every hill and valley of whose body was now familiar to me, whereas Lily with her narrow hips and straight flanks must have a tiny sex I thought; — “D n Lily” and I hastened to Smith.

We went down to supper together and I introduced Smith to Kate: they were just polite; but when she turned to me she scanned me curiously, her brows lifting in a gesture of “I know what I know” which was to become familiar to me in the sequel.

After supper I had a long talk with Smith in his room, a heart to heart talk which altered our relations.

I have already mentioned that Smith got ill every fortnight or so. I had no inkling of the cause, no notion of the scope of the malady. This evening he grew reminiscent and told me everything.

He had thought himself very strong, it appeared, till he went to Athens to study. There he worked prodigiously and almost at the beginning of his stay came to know a Greek girl of a good class who talked Greek with him and finally gave herself to him passionately. Being full of youthful vigor always quickened by vivid imaginings, he told me that he usually came the first time almost as soon as he entered and that in order to give his partner pleasure, he had to come two or three times and this drained and exhausted him. He admitted that he had abandoned himself to this fierce love-play day after day in and out of season. When he returned to the United States, he tried to put his Greek girl out of his head; but in spite of all he could do, he had love-dreams that came to an orgasm and ended in emissions of seed about once a fortnight. And after a year or so these fortnightly emissions gave him intense pains in the small of his back which lasted some twenty-four hours, evidently till some more seed had been secreted. I could not imagine how a fortnightly emission could weaken and distress a young man of Smith’s vigor and health; but as soon as I had witnessed his suffering I set my wits to work and told him of the trick by which I had brought my wet-dreams to an end in the English school.

Smith at once consented to try my remedy and as the fortnight was about up, I went at once in search of whipcord, and tied up his unruly member for him night after night. For some days the remedy worked, then he went out and spent the afternoon and night at Judge Stevens’ and he was ill again. Of course, there had been no connection: indeed, in my opinion, it would have been much better for Smith if there had been, but the propinquity of the girl he loved and, of course, the kissings that are always allowed to engaged couples by American custom, took place unchecked and when he went to sleep, his dreaming ended in an orgasm. The worst of it was that my remedy having prevented his dreaming from reaching a climax for eighteen or twenty days, he dreamed a second time and had a second wet dream, which brought him to misery and even intenser pain than usual.

I combatted the evil with all the wit I possessed. I got Ned Stevens to lend the Professor a horse; I had Blue Devil out and we went riding two or three times a week. I got boxing gloves too and soon either Ned or I had a bout with Smith every day: gradually these exercises improved his general health; and when I could tie on the whipcord every night for a month or two, he put on weight and gained strength surprisingly.

The worst of it was that this improvement in health always led to a day or two spent with his betrothed, which undid all the good. I advised him to marry and then control himself rigorously; but he wanted to get well first and be his vigorous self again. I did all I knew to help him but for a long time I had no suspicion that an occasional wet-dream could have serious consequences. We used to make fun of them as schoolboys: how could I imagine — but as it is the finest, most highly strung natures that are most apt to suffer in this way, I will tell what happened step by step: suffice it to say here that he was in better health when staying with me at the Gregory’s than he had been before and I continually hoped for a permanent improvement.

After our talk that first night in Gregory’s, I went downstairs to the dining-room, hoping to find Kate alone: I was lucky: she had persuaded her mother, who was tired, to go to bed and was just finishing her tidying up.

“I want you so, Kate,” I said, trying to kiss her: she drew her head aside: “That’s why you’ve kept away all afternoon” I suppose; and she looked at me with sidelong glance. An inspiration came to me: “Kate”, I exclaimed, “I had to be fitted for my new clothes!” “Forgive me”, she cried at once, that excuse being valid: “I thought, I feared — oh I’m suspicious without reason, I know, am jealous without cause, there! I confess!” and the great hazel eyes turned on me full of love.

I played with her breasts, whispering “When am I to see you naked, Kate? I want to; when?” “You’ve seen most of me!” and she laughed joyously!

“All right,” I said, turning away, “if you are resolved to make fun of me and be mean to me — ”

“Mean to you!” she cried, catching me and swinging me round, “I could easier be mean to myself. I’m glad you want to see me, glad and proud, and tonight, if you’ll leave your door open, I’ll come to you: mean, oh —” and she gave her soul in a kiss. “Isn’t it risky?” I asked.

“I tried the stairs this afternoon,” she glowed, “they don’t creak: no one will hear, so don’t sleep or I’ll surprise you” — By way of sealing the compact, I put my hand up her clothes and caressed her sex; it was hot and soon opened to me.

“There now, Sir, go!” she smiled, “or you’ll make me very naughty and I have a lot to do!”

“How do you mean ‘naughty’,” I said, “tell me what you feel? please!”

“I feel my heart beating”, she said, “and, and — oh! wait till tonight and I’ll try to tell you, dear!” and she pushed me out of the door.

For the first time in my life I notice here that the writer’s art is not only inferior to reality in keenness of sensation and emotion; but also more same, monotonous even, because incapable of showing the tiny, yet ineffable differences of the same feeling which difference of personality brings with it. I seem to be repeating myself in describing Kate’s love after Mrs. Mayhew’s, making the girl’s feelings a fainter replica of the woman’s. In reality the two were completely different. Mrs. Mayhew’s feelings long repressed flamed with the heat of an afternoon in July or August; while in Kate’s one felt the freshness and cool of a summer morning, shot through with the suggestion of heat to come. And this comparison even is inept because it leaves out of the account, the effect of Kate’s beauty, the great hazel eyes, the rosied skin, the superb figure. Besides there was a glamour of the spirit about Kate: Lorna Mayhew would never give me a new note that didn’t spring from passion; in Kate I felt a spiritual personality and the thrill of undeveloped possibilities. And still using my utmost skill, I haven’t shown my reader the enormous superiority of the girl and her more unselfish love. But I haven’t finished yet.

Smith had given me “The Mill on the Floss” to read; I had never tried George Eliot before and I found that this book almost deserved Smith’s praise. I had read till about one o’clock when my heart heard her; or was it some thrill of expectance! The next moment my door opened and she came in with the mane of hair about her shoulders and a long dressing gown reaching to her stockinged feet. I got up like a flash; but she had already closed the door and bolted it; I drew her to the bed and stopped her from throwing off the dressing-gown: “let me take off your stockings first”, I whispered, “I want you all imprinted on me!”

The next moment, she stood there naked, the flickering flame of the candle throwing quaint arabesques of light and shade on her beautiful ivory body: I gazed and gazed: from the navel down she was perfect; I turned her round and the back too, the bottom even was faultless though large; but alas! the breasts were far too big for beauty, too soft to excite! I must think only of the bold curve of her hips, I reflected, the splendor of the firm thighs, the flesh of which had the hard outline of marble and her — sext I put her on the bed and opened her thighs: her pussy was ideally perfect.

At once I wanted to get into her; but she pleaded: “please, dear, come into bed: I’m cold and want you.” So in I got and began kissing her.

Soon she grew warm and I pulled off my night-shirt and my middle finger was caressing her sex that opened quickly: “E— E!” she said drawing in her breath quickly: “it still hurts.” I put my sex gently against hers, moving it up and down slowly till she drew up her knees to let me in; but as soon as the head entered, her face puckered a little with pain and as I had had a long afternoon, I was the more inclined to forbear and accordingly I drew away and took place beside her:

“I cannot bear to hurt you,” I said, “love’s pleasure must be mutual”.

“You’re sweet!” she whispered, “I’m glad you stopped; for it shows you really care for me and not just for the pleasure!” and she kissed me lovingly.

“Kate, reward me,” I said, “by telling me just what you felt when I first had you” and I put her hand on my hot stiff sex to encourage her.

“It’s impossible,” she said, flushing a little, “there was such a throng of new feelings; why, this evening waiting in bed for the time to pass and thinking of you, I felt a strange prickling sensation in the inside of my thighs that I never felt before and now” — and she hid her glowing face against my neck, “I feel it again!”

“Love is funny, isn’t itf” she whispered the next moment: “now the pricking sensation is gone and the front part of my sex burns and itches, Oh! I must touch it!”

“Let me,” I cried, and in a moment I was on her, working my organ up and down on her clitoris, the porch, so to speak, of Love’s temple. A little later she herself sucked the head into her hot, dry pussy and then closed her legs as if in pain to stop me going further; but I began to rub my sex up and down on her tickler, letting it slide right in, every now and then, till she panted and her love-juice came and my weapon sheathed itself in her naturally. I soon began the very slow and gentle in-and-out movements which increased her excitement steadily while giving her more and more pleasure, till I came and immediately she lifted my chest up from her breasts with both hands and showed me her glowing face. “Stop, boy,” she gasped, “please: my heart’s fluttering so! I came too, you know, just with you” and indeed I felt her trembling all over convulsively.

I drew out and for safety’s sake got her to use the syringe, having already explained its efficacy to her; she was adorably awkward and when she had finished I took her to bed again and held her to me, kissing her. “So you really love me, Kate!”

“Really,” she said, “you don’t know how much!”

“I’ll try never to suspect anything or be jealous again,” she went on, “it’s a hateful feeling, isn’t it? But I want to see your class-room: would you take me up once to the University?”

“Why, of course”, I cried, “I should be only too glad; I’ll take you tomorrow afternoon, or better still”, I added, “come up the hill at four o’clock and I’ll meet you at the entrance.”

And so it was settled and Kate went back to her room as noiselessly as she had come.

The next afternoon I found her waiting in the University Hall ten minutes before the hour; for our lectures beginning at the hour always stopped after forty-five minutes to give us time to be punctual at any other class-room. After showing her everything of interest, we walked home together laughing and talking, when, a hundred yards from Mrs. Mayhew’s, we met that lady, face to face. I don’t know how I looked, for being a little short-sighted I hadn’t re cognized her till she was within ten yards of me; but her glance pierced me. She bowed with a look that look us both in, I lifted my hat and we passed on.

“Who’s that?” exclaimed Kate, “what a strange look she gave us!”

“She’s the wife of a gambler,” I replied as indifferently as I could, “he gives me work now and then” I went on, strangely forecasting the future. Kate looked at me probing, then: “I don’t mind; but Tin glad she’s quite old!”

“As old as both of us put together!” I added traitorously, and we went on.

These love-passages with Mrs. Mayhew and Kate, plus my lessons and my talks with Smith, fairly represent my life’s happenings for this whole year from seventeen to eighteen, with this solitary qualification that my afternoons with Lorna became less and less agreeable to me. But now I must relate happenings that again affected my life.

I hadn’t been four mouths with the Gregorys when Kate told me that my brother Willie had ceased to pay my board for more than a fortnight; she added sweetly:

“It doesn’t matter, dear, but I thought you ought to know and I’d hate any one to hurt you, so I took it on myself to tell you”. I kissed her, said it was sweet of her, and went to find Willie; he made excuses voluble but not convincing and ended up by giving me a cheque while begging me to tell Mrs. Gregory that he, too, would come and board with her.

The incident set me thinking. I made Kate promise to tell me if he ever failed again to pay what was due and I used the happening to excuse myself to Lorna. I went to see her and told her that I must think at once of earning my living. I had still some five hundred dollars left but I wanted to be beforehand with need: besides it gave me a good excuse for not visiting her even weekly. “I must work!” I kept repeating though I was ashamed of the lie.

“Don’t whip me, dear!” she pleaded; “my impotence to help you is painful enough; give me time to think. I know Mayhew is quite well off: give me a day or two, but come to me when you can. You see, I’ve no pride where you are concerned: I just beg like a dog for kind treatment for my love’s sake. I wouldn’t have believed that I could be so transformed. I was always so proud: my husband calls me ‘proud and cold, me cold! It’s true I shiver when I hear your voice, but it’s the shivering of fever. When you came in just now unexpectedly and kissed me, waves of heat swept over me: my womb moved inside me. I never felt that till I had loved you and now, of course, my sex burns — I wish I were cold: a cold woman could rule the world —

“But no! I wouldn’t change. Just as I never wished to be a man, never; though other girls used to say they would like to change their sex; I, never! And since I’ve been married, less than ever. What’s a man? His love is over before ours begins — ”

“Really!” I broke in grinning.

“Not you, my beloved!” she cried, “oh, not you; but then you are more than man! Come, don’t let us waste time in talk. Now I have you, take me to our Heaven. I’m ready, ‘ripe-ready’ is your word: I go to our bed as to an altar. If I’m only to have you even less than once a week, don’t come again for ten days: I shall be well again then and you can surely come to me a few days running: I want to reach the heights and hug the illusion, cramming one hot week with bliss and then death for a fortnight. What rags we women are! Come, dear, I will be your sheath and you shall be the sword and drive right into me —

But I’ll help you”, she cried suddenly: “Was it that girl told you, you owed money for food? (I nodded and she glowed.) Oh, I’ll help, never fear! I never liked that girl: she’s brazen and conceited and — Oh! Why did you walk with her?”

“She wanted to see the University”, I said, “and I could not well refuse her.” “Oh, pay her” she cried, “but don’t walk with her. She’s a common thing, fancy her mentioning money to you, my dear!”

That same evening I got a note from Lorna, saying her husband wanted to see me.

I met the little man in the sitting-room and he proposed that I should come to his rooms every evening after supper and sit in a chair near the door reading; but with a Colt’s revolver handy so that no one could rob him and get away with the plunder.

“I’d feel safer”, he ended up, “and my wife tells me you’re a sure shot and used to a wild life: what do you say? I’d give you sixty dollars a month and more than half the time you’d be free before midnight.”

“It’s very kind of you”, I exclaimed with hot cheeks, “and very kind of Mrs. Mayhew too: I’ll do it and I beg you to believe that no one will bother you and get away with a whole skin”, and so it was settled.

Aren’t women wonderful! In half a day she had solved my difficulty and I found the hours spent in Mayhew’s gambling rooms were more valuable than I had dreamed. The average man reveals himself in gaming more than in love or drink and I was astonished to discover that many of the so-called best citizens had a flutter with Mayhew from time to time. I don’t believe they had a fair deal, he won too constantly for that; but it was none of my business so long as the clients accepted the results: and he often showed kindness by giving back a few dollars after he had skinned a man of all he possessed.

Naturally the fact that I was working with her husband threw me more into Mrs. Mayhew’s society: twice or so a week I had to spend the afternoon with her, and the constraint irked me. Kate, too, objected to my visits: she had too much pride to speak openly but one day she had seen me go in to Mrs. Mayhew’s and I think divined the rest; for at first she was cold to me and drew away even from my kisses: “you’ve chilled me”, she cried, “I don’t think I shall ever love you again entirely.” But when I got into her and really excited her, she suddenly kissed me fervently and her glorious eyes had heavy tears in them. “Why do you cry, dearl” I asked. “Because I cannot make you mine as I am all yours!” she cried. “Oh!” she went on, clutching me to her, “I think the pleasure is increased by the dreadful fear — and the hate — oh, love me and me only, love mine!” Of course, I promised fidelity; but I was surprised to feel that my desire for Kate, too, was beginning to cool.

The arrangement with the Mayhews came to an unexpected and untimely end. Mayhew now and then had a tussle with another gambler and after I had been with him about three months, a gambler from Denver had a great contest with him and afterwards proposed that they should join forces and Mayhew should come to Denver. “More money to be made there in a week”, he declared, “than in Lawrence in a month.” Finally he persuaded Mayhew, who was wise enough to say nothing to his wife till the whole arrangement was fixed. She raved but could do nothing save give in, and so we had to part. Mayhew gave me one hundred dollars as a bonus, and Lorna one unforgettable, astonishing afternoon which I must now try to describe.

I did not go near the Mayhews’ the day after his gift, leaving Lorna to suppose that I looked upon everything as ended. But the day after that I got a word from her, an imperious:

“Come at once, I must see you!”

Of course I went though reluctantly.

As soon as I entered the room she rose from the sofa and came to me: “if I get you work in Denver, will you come out?”

“How could I?” I asked in absolute astonishment, “you know I’m bound here to the University and then I want to go into a law-office as well: besides I could not leave Smith: I’ve never known such a teacher: I don’t believe his equal can be found anywhere.”

She nodded her head: “I see”, she sighed, “I suppose it’s impossible; but I must see you”, she cried, “if I haven’t the hope, what do I say! the certainty of seeing you again, I shan’t go. I’d rather kill myself! I’ll be a servant and stay with you, my darling, and take care of you! I don’t care what I do so long as we are together: I’m nearly crazed with fear that I shall lose you.”

“It’s all a question of money”, I said quietly, for the idea of her staying behind scared me stiff: “if I can earn money, I’d love to go to Denver in my holidays. It must be gorgeous there in summer six thousand odd feet above sea-level: I’d delight in it.”

“If I send you the money, you’ll cornel” she asked briefly.

I made a face: “I can’t take money from — a love”, (I said “love” instead of “woman”: it was not so ugly) I went on, “but Smith says he can get me work and I have still a little: I’ll come in the holidays.”

“Holy days they’ll be to me!” she said solemnly, and then with quick change of mood, “I’ll make a beautiful room for our love in Denver; but you must come for Christmas, I could not wait till midsummer: oh, how I shall ache for you — ache!”

“Come upstairs”, I coaxed and she came, and we went to bed: I found her mad with desire; but after I had brought her in an hour to hysteria and she lay In my arms crying, she suddenly said: “he promised to come home early this afternoon and I said I’d have a surprise for him. When he finds us together like this, it’ll be a surprise, won’t it?”

“But you’re mad!” I cried, getting out of bed in a flash, “I shall never be able to visit you in Denver if we have a row here!”

“That’s true”, she said as if in a dream, “that’s true: it’s a pity: I’d love to have seen his foolish face stretched to wonder; but you’re right. Hurry!” she cried and was out of the room in a twinkling. When she returned, I was dressed. “Go downstairs and wait for me”, she commanded, “on our sofa. If he knocks, open the door to him; that’ll be a surprise, though not so great a one as I had planned”, she added, laughing shrilly.

“Are you going without kissing me?” she cried when I was at the door, “Well, go, it’s all right, go! for if I felt your lips again, I might keep you.”

I went downstairs and in a few moments she followed me. “I can’t bear you to go!” she cried, “how partings hurt!” she whispered. “Why should we part again, love mine?” and she looked at me with rapt eyes.

“This life holds nothing worth having but love; let us make love deathless, you and I, going together to death. What do we lose? Nothing! This world is an empty shell! Come with me, love, and we’ll meet Death together!”

“Oh, I want to do such a lot of things first”, I exclaimed, “Death’s empire is eternal; but this brief taste of life, the adventure of it, the change of it, the huge possibilities of it beckon me — I can’t leave it.”

“The change!” she cried with dilating nostrils while her eyes darkened, “the change!”

“You are determined to misunderstand me,” I cried, “is not every day a change?”

“I am weary”, she cried, “and beaten: I can only beg you not to forget your promise to come — ah!” and she caught and kissed me on the mouth: “I shall die with your name on my lips”, she said, and turned to bury her face in the sofa cushion. I went: what else was there to do?

I saw them off at the station: Lorna had made me promise to write often, and swore she would write every day and she did send me short notes daily for a fortnight: then came gaps ever lengthening: “Denver society was pleasant and a Mr. Wilson, a student, was assiduous: he comes every day”, she wrote. Excuses finally, little hasty notes, and in two months her letters were formal, cold; in three months they had ceased altogether.

The break did not surprise me: I had taught her that youth was the first requisite in a lover for a woman of her type: she had doubtless put my precepts into practice: Mr. Wilson was probably as near the ideal as I was and very much nearer to hand.

The passions of the senses demand propinquity and satisfaction and nothing is more forgetful than pleasures of the flesh. If Mrs. Mayhew had given me little, I had given her even less of my better self.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55