What Dreams May Come by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
Part II. The Discord.
With the exception of the time spent in the dining-room, the young people saw little of Sir Iltyd. That he liked Dartmouth and enjoyed his society were facts he did not pretend to disguise. But the habits of years were too strong, and he always wandered back to his books. He did not trouble himself about proprieties. Weir had grown up and ruled the castle all these years without a chaperon, and he had lived out of the world too long to suggest the advisability of one now. His daughter and her lover experienced no yearning for supervision, and the free, untrammelled life was a very pleasant one, particularly to Dartmouth, who always gave to novelty its just meed of appreciation. At this period, in fact, Dartmouth's frame of mind left nothing to be desired. In the first place, it was a delightful experience to find himself able to stand the uninterrupted society of one woman from morning till night, day after day, without a suggestion of fatigue. And in the second, he found her a charming study. It is true that he was very much in love, very sincerely and passionately in love; but at the same time, his brain had been trained through too many years to the habit of analysis; he could no more help studying Weir and drawing her on to reveal herself than he could help loving her. She was not a difficult problem to solve, individual as she was, because she was so natural. Her experience with the world had been too brief to give her an opportunity to encase herself in any shell which would not fall from her at the first reaction to primitive conditions; and above all, she was in love.
In the love of a woman there is always a certain element of childishness, which has a reflex, if but temporary action upon her whole nature. The phenomenon is due partly to the fact that she is under the dominant influence of a wholly natural instinct, partly to the fact that the object of her love is of stronger make than herself, mentally, spiritually, and physically. This sense of dependence and weakness, and, consequently, of extreme youth, remains until she has children. Then, under the influence of peculiarly strong responsibilities, she gives her youth to them, and with it the plasticity of her nature.
At present Weir was in the stage where she analyzed herself for her lover's benefit, and confided to him every sensation she had ever experienced; and he encouraged her. He had frequently encouraged other women to do the same thing, and in each case, after the first few chapters, he had found it a good deal of a bore. The moment a woman falls in love, that moment she becomes an object of paramount interest in her own eyes. All her life she has regarded herself from the outside; her wants and needs have been purely objective; consequently she has not known herself, and her spiritual nature has claimed but little of her attention. But under the influence of love she plunges into herself, as it were, and her life for the time being is purely subjective. She broadens, expands, develops, concentrates; and her successive evolutions are a perpetual source of delight and absorbing study. Moreover, her sense of individuality grows and flourishes, and becomes so powerful that she is unalterably certain--until it is over--that her experience is an isolated and wholly remarkable one. Naturally she must talk to someone; she is teeming with her discoveries, her excursions into the heretofore unexplored depths of human nature; the necessity for a confidant is not one to be withstood, and who so natural or understanding a confidant as her lover? If the lover be a clever man and an analyst, he is profoundly interested at first, particularly if she have some trick of mind which gives her, or seems to give her, the smack of individuality. If he be a true lover, and a man with any depth of feeling and of mind, he does not tire, of course; but otherwise he eventually becomes either oppressed or frightened; he either wishes that women would not take themselves so seriously and forget to be amusing, or her belief in her peculiar and absolute originality communicates itself to him, and he does not feel equal to handling and directing so remarkable a passion.
There was no question about the strength and verity of Dartmouth's love for Weir, and he had yet to be daunted by anything in life; consequently he found his present course of psychological research without flaw. Moreover, the quaintness of her nature pervaded all her ideas. She had an old-fashioned simplicity and directness which, combined with a charming quality of mind and an unusual amount of mental development, gave her that impress of originality which he had recognized and been attracted by. He was gratified also to find that the old-time stateliness, almost primness, which had been to him from the first her chiefest exterior charm did not disappear with association. She might sit on a rock muffled to her ears in furs, and with her feet dangling in the air, and yet manage to look as dignified as a duchess. She might race with him on horseback and clamber down a cliff with the thoughtlessness of a child, but she always looked as if she had been brought up on a chessboard. Dartmouth used to tell her that her peculiarly erect carriage and lofty fashion of carrying her head gave her the effect of surveillance over an invisible crown with an unreliable fit, and that she stepped like the maiden in the fairy tale who was obliged to walk upon peas. He made a tin halo one day, and put it suddenly on her head when her back was turned, and she avenged herself by wearing it until he went down on his knees and begged her to take it off. When she sat in her carved high-back chair at the head of her father's table, with the deep collar and cuffs of linen and heavy lace to which she was addicted, and her dark, sensuous, haughty, tender face motionless for the moment, against the dark background of the leather, she looked like a Vandyke; and at such times Dartmouth's artistic nature was keenly responsive, and he forgot to chaff.