FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME.
A Fellowe and his Wife
The boy Ete, whom I inhumanly kept waiting for my letter last night, posted no doubt a foolish kind of message, for which, if it offends, I crave your pardon. Letters written after midnight are apt to be morose or maudlin; and mine, alas, was both, and biographical to boot. How can a man stultify himself more completely than when he attempts to seize the intangible ---your feelings, my feelings, memories, impressions, sympathies ---and categorically label them like apothecaries' vials? We can make no map of our own hearts without writing "unexplored continent" on the greater portion of them. And as for you, your longest established mental boundary lines advance and recede in bewildering fashion. But enough of retrospection. Your letters, bright and sweet as they are, sometimes strike deeper, wilder chords in me than you suspect; and I could better master our problem if it were my neighbor's case.
To-day, by clear sunlight and a cheerful breeze, I hasten to send you a sensible greeting. I have just returned from Ilsenstein. All are well ; and when I see your father's relieved face, with all the haggard lines washed away as if by enchantment, I take courage and think I cannot have made a mistake in persuading you to become Ilse Jaromar. Don't think me ungenerous when I say this. It is not to influence you an atom; but it is the truth nevertheless. He is studying soils like a Liebig, and beginning every imaginable kind of improvement at once. Your mother is well, but how you can prefer Rome and art to Odo Jaromar and our island is a mystery to her---to me too. That mincing horror, Charlotte von Bodenfels, was there. She is the only mortal who thus far has dared to question me about you, but she rushes in where, as the English poet says, angels fear to tread. It is fair to add, she does not remain long. She is promptly shown the door. "How can she go so far from her dear home, and live only among cold statues?" she remarked, with her ogle and infantile lisp. "Why shouldn't she go to Jericho and blow a penny whistle if it pleases her ?" I retorted --- rather brutally, I admit ---as I lighted my cigar and strolled away down the terrace.
Dear, dear Ilse, you know without words how deeply I care for all that you do, and all that you read --- your Shelley studies, your generous enthusiasm in every direction; most of all for your delight in Roman fountains, which I, too, love. I hear that rich, cool, full splashing, in every one of your letters. It is the next best thing to our sea.
You are a most brilliant butterfly, and flit in the sunshine in many directions. I may not always seem to follow you, yet I note everything. I remember, too, that Psyche, the sweet, loving, heroic soul, floated like you on rainbow butterfly-wings.
You ask about Margot. She is older than I thought at first, perhaps seventeen or eighteen, and not so very small now that she is on her feet ; yet she suggests smallness, having a little head and a slight face.
She is a dark, lank child, with a wide, if expressive mouth, and soft, pleading eyes like a dog or a deer. I have written to her people in France and in Dantzig, her father's home, as yet with no result. Meanwhile Walpurga has lost her heart to the little foreign maid, and begs me to keep her here whatever comes. "A bit of a thing like that can't eat or spoil or cost much," my old nurse gravely assures me, "and it's good luck to have something young in the old house again." Not only Walpurga but the entire household, is singularly interested in the stranger and her broken German, which she learns with extraordinary rapidity, and speaks with captivating, gentle grace. Even old Malte's stout heart succumbs. He would walk five miles to hear Margot say, "Thanks," and get one of her faint pretty smiles. There is something plaintive in the child. The sea excited her at first beyond control. But of late she seems reconciled with its solemn insistence, and wanders down to the cliffs often and remains long, listening to the waves and watching the gulls. Malzahn and Freolin are here to dine to-day; some other men coming shortly to shoot partridges. We bachelors shall hold high carnival. "In thy orisons be all our sins remembered." I kiss your clay-tipped fingers, and am,
Iam haunted by a vision of you at the piano, all those men in evening dress stand-ing about and gloating over you, while you sweetly inform them what is the best remedy for the blue-devils. When De Musset wrote your little song he had doubtless been reading his Horace, who, you remember, sings in his own lovely way: ---
But Horace's equable soul never took his Glyceras and Lydias very seriously; poor De Musset's life, whatever consolation he may have derived from la musique et la beauty and the making of exquisite verse, was a sad fiasco; and neither poet, so far as I know, suggests a specific for the melancholy of an every-day fellow whose duller senses are not easily charmed by passing delights, but whose soul-grip is most tenacious of what it once has seized, while all the dulcis amores for which he cares a straw the irony of fate separates from him by half a continent.