The Muse's Tragedy by Edith Wharton
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
“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
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
“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
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
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?”
“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.
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
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
“You ought to write a book about him,” she went on gently.
Danyers started; he was beginning to dislike Rendle's way of walking
“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.
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
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
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
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
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....