- CHAPTER XXII. THE PHILOSOPHY OF LOVE.
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THE PHILOSOPHY OF LOVE.
MARK wrote briefly and sternly to Victor, telling him of the resolution of Panola to seek a divorce from the bonds which fettered both; and of the death of Chicora. He received several wildly agitated, almost incoherent letters in response, from which he gathered an idea of the condition of mind in which his half-frantic cousin now was living.
Natika had heard in Paris of Victor's marriage. Her first feeling was that of indignant rage at the unexpected escape of the slave, who had given to her his life-long homage. Her second impulse was that she would break up all these impertinent arrangements, and therefore she sailed for America. Besides, she was not well; she had had a very exhausting season; she had been very gay and had latterly felt as if the pursuit of vapid amusements was a great labor. She was thoroughly out of health, and also out of temper. Her physicians prescribed rest and a sea-voyage; so she came home.
On arriving in New Orleans, she ascertained Victor's whereabouts, and she wrote a few hasty lines to him, making no allusion whatever to his marriage, as if she had never heard of it. Victor hesitated about meeting her. He took tip his pen | | 205 to write her to tell her of his marriage; but then a great desire came over him to see, her for himself, and to tell her of it himself. And this feeling was not unmixed with a sensation of bitter curiosity to see how Natika would receive the news of his emancipation from her power. In an evil moment Victor yielded to this impulse, and instead of writing to Natika, went to her. He found her looking badly, pale and thin. She met him with unusual tenderness, and he felt his soul faint within him as he received her affectionate greeting, and thought of what he had to communicate to her. But it had to be done.
Victor stammered out his tale like a culprit. Natika heard it with open scorn and anger--Victor hoped even with some jealousy. She snatched her hand front his after he had made its confession, and with a few bitter, scathing words, she dragged her skirts away from contact with him as he was sitting beside her. Then she burst into tears and quitted the room in a whirlwind of passion and temper. For the first time in his life Victor thought that Natika loved him, and though the first sensation of this made his heart leap as it never had before, yet the next moment, when he recollected the barriers he had placed between Natika aid himself, the very blood seemed to freeze in his veins. He became icy cold. An immense wave of hatred towards Panola, and himself too, surged though him.| | 206
He staggered out of the room and got somehow into his own apartment. He threw himself down in a chair with a groan of utter desperation. He felt half dead and utterly bewildered. He sat so for hours, then, with the strength of despair, he wrote his wild letter to Panola, and one equally wild to Natika; and resolved to put an end to it all, and to himself too. But Natika knew him. He had scarcely closed and sealed his last letter to her, and he had the pistol in his hand to make a finish of all things, when Natika rapped violently at his door. Receiving no response, she forced it open; the key had not caught firmly when he had attempted to lock it with his agitated hand. Natika sprang in and seized the pistol from Victor.
"I knew it!" she exclaimed. "Oh, Victor, what a craven you are! Too weak to live, and yet you would condemn me to eternal misery and infinite remorse by your own fully and madness."
He did not reply. he looked gloomily at Natika.
"What else is left?" he asked.
She saw that he was desperate. She came to him. She put her arms around his neck. She laid her head upon his bosom. Victor embraced her passionately.
"Victor," she said, "you have placed barriers between us that I can not pass. But one thing I can do, and that I will do. I can not give myself | | 207 to you, but I can live for you, and keep myself free from any other ties for your sake; that I will do."
Victor threw himself at her feet and buried his head in the liens of her garment; and he wept bitterly.
"Natika," he sobbed, "Natika, show me how to give my life to you. You know it has always been, yours."
So Natika triumphed, but she continued to play the role of an almost broken-hearted woman, her paleness and emaciation aiding in keeping up the character satisfactorily.
Natika was half deceived herself; she was such a good actress, for the moment she entered so entirely into any impersonation, that she was, pour le moment, that creature of the imagination, whether it was Hermione or Camille, or, as now, a sentimental, much-injured, sensitive woman. And Victor believed in her, and he was so flattered by this late acknowledged love of Natika's. And he knew Panola did not love him! He cursed his fate and his own obstinacy thousands of times; and he eagerly sought the consolation of Natika's tenderness. He felt somehow as if a bond, perhaps of lonely guiltiness, united them the closer. In all mankind he and Natika were alone, even in the general condemnation and social reproach that he knew would follow both. Though Natika had too much self-respect and too much wisdom to give | | 208 herself wholly to him, yet there was a delirious sort of rapture for Victor in merely beholding her and knowing that she never would belong to another.
Very few men or women are really capable of the highest sentiment of love. The majority of both sexes are impelled toward each other by mere instincts, which, of course, are valuable as any other instincts, and quite as necessary as any other impulses to make a perfect man or woman. Human nature is defective without all the passions, but the ordinary impulses must be controlled by education and culture and right reason in order to make a fine human being.
The electric forces which draw man and woman to each other, the general and ordinary magnetism, which may be only physical, or perhaps more justly be called chemical, the affinity which unites atom to atom in all physical nature, which is often experienced in life among human beings, in a stronger or weaker degree, is not the truest and highest sentiment which the human soul is capable of feeling. And the reason why there are so many wretched marriages is because men and women mistake this common and universal magnetism, for real preference, for true sympathy, for holiest love; and it fails them, as all mere physical impulses do; as hunger does when it is satisfied. Most people love "love," not the individual lover. They, like soft tones and tender words and warmth of embraces. But of the | | 209 absolute oneness of soul and sympathy, the inexhaustible fountain of true fellowship, and eternal progression together in love and excellence towards the highest--that few do know, or few pause to think about. Yet this is the only satisfying love; and it is possible! When a soul is so happy as to attain to this love, life is enriched and glorified beyond ordinary conception. Even if the love should never be what is called fortunate--that is, if the two, loving in this holy manner, should never belong to one another-there remains the exquisite bliss of having been once fully comprehended; of being perfectly appreciated and understood. And the parted ones are better and nobler and happier. Their souls can never be utterly lonely. If deprived of the ordinary joys of life, they have the highest and purest still left--a conscious sympathy in progressing towards the goal of the highest possible for humanity.
There is nothing so fearful to man as utter loneliness and isolation from all sympathy. It is a sorrowful fate to be alone; and those men and women who wreck their natures under the leading of lower impulses, miss the deepest joy of life.
Mark, even in his wretchedest hours, felt this. His love for Panola was a distinguishing preference. Out of all the earth she was the one elected woman for him. She, too, was capable of such a love. Natika was not; and he pitied Victor and Natika | | 210 more than he did himself or Panola, as these thoughts rushed often through his mind.
Docteur Canonge was so much grieved by the conduct of Victor and Natika, that he never spoke of them but once to Mark after he heard of their hasty marriage. Then he said, quietly:
"It is exceeding great misfortune for boz of zem, and for zeir offspring. Zey have neider of zem good constitution. Victor have de mos' feeble of zie two. I can foresee no good result from As marriage. I sink, wiz Plato, zat a government--zat is, society--has zie right to forbid such marriages as will entail upon humanity weak and imperfect generation of men and women. In zat I disagree wiz George Sand, and George Eliot, too. George Sand teaches in her novels, wiz her powerful pen, zat zie height of human love is zie imitation of zie Divine love of Christ, and zerefore zie highest love is zat of entire self-abnegation or charitee, in which zie woman sall love her inferior, from whom she can expect nozing, and who will probably repay her devotion wiz ingratitude. So she teaches in 'Lucrezia Floriani,' and ordinarily also in all zat she writes. Her heroes are usually poor sticks. And also George Eliot, she make her women always zie nobler of zie two, like Maggie in 'Zie Mill on zie Floss,' and 'Romola,' and also in her ozer books. Zat is not good instruction for young people. Zie trutt is, zat whatever we cherish as our ideal will generally form our | | 211 character. What we love, we will grow like. Zat is a rule in physics, and also metaphysics. All zie young peoples should be taught zie lessons of psychology and of physiology; and zey should learn to govern zeir impulses wiz right reason. Zey should be instructed zat zey owe someting to humanity, and zat zey must often make great sacrifice for zie good of zie race. Zere can be no compensation to humanity for an imperfect child, and zerefore marriage zould be in some degree a matter of legislation of zie State. Plato is right. Zie charitee or love of Christ, which zie modern writers do hold up for imitation, is good in zie dominion of external brotherhood only. It is not intended to govern, except generally; not zie world of inner life and reproduction of kind. Zie man or zie woman who love, as zeir highest, imperfect and undeveloped beings, lower zan zeirselves, eider physically or morally or mentally, zey show a blunted moral sense. One can pity an inferior, but not love zem wiz zie highest of zie soul-gifts. And it is great wrong to humanity. Of course I do not speak of zie accidents of life-rank, birth or wealth. I do not regard zem. I mean zie personality of zie two. No one should ever marry wizout fullest love and fullest health, both of mind and body. And when zose qualities are found, zen people should marry as a duty to society, wezer zey be rich or poor. Sympathy and | | 212 health, zat is essential, and this should be legislated upon."
"What an old Platonist he is," thought Mark. "And so sweet and good, too."
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