SITTING in her bijou apartments, which consisted of a
handsome "Flat" in a quiet and respectable portion of New York, Dolores
seemed lost in pleasant reverie, when her little French maid, Lorrete,
appeared before her.
"Everything is done but the dusting of this room, Madame,"
she said, in her native tongue. "Will Madame sit in the boudoir now--"
"No, Lorrete, you can go," Dolores answered, speaking
French with as fine an accent as the Parisian nee "I will finish
dusting, and as I am to dine out with Monsieur to-day, you need not return
Lorrete, who came every morning to attend to the domestic
duties of the little menage, gladly took her conge, and Dolores flitted
gayly about, dust-brush in hand, singing a merry snatch of opera, pausing
at every sound to listen for a familiar step, the perfect picture of a
happy, expectant housewife making ready for the return of a loved one.
Presently a quick footstep bounded up the stairs, and Dolores flew to tho
door before the latch-key could turn the lock, swung it wide open, and
was closely clasped in the arms of Percy, who greeted her with a gay ''Bon
matin, chere amie! and how have you been all these days?" Then, noticing
the dust-brush on the floor beside her : "Why! how is this? has Lorrete
failed to make her appearance, that my lady-love has to perform her duties?"
"Oh, no! I sent her away," smiled Dolores. "I knew we
did not need her to-day--and" (shyly) "I did not want any third person
to mar our greeting after your long absence."
"Long!" Percy repeated, laughing, as he threw himself
into an easy chair, and drew her down on an ottoman at his side.
"Long? three days, ma petite? I am often absent from you as
long as that."
"You have never before been absent from the city so long
as that, in this year of our new life," she said, as she caressed his hands,
"without taking me with you, mon ami."
"Well, but I often stay away from this charming nest,
that length of time, without seeing you!"
"So long as I know you are in the city I am not lonely.
The air I breathe seems impregnated with your breath, and I am happy and
contented to await your coming. If I walk down street, I feel a kindly
interest in the throngs of people I meet, because perchance you may be
among them. But when you are out of town the whole world seems depopulated.
Yesterday I walked on Broadway a little while, but the people all looked
like ghastly phantoms to me. Because you were not, I knew, among them,
there seemed to be no life, no beauty in the moving shapes. I hurried home
and hid myself in these rooms, so full of memories of you."
Sweet as were her words of love and devotion, they cast
a faint shadow on her listener's face.
''I am afraid you allow yourself to be too melancholy
during my absence!" he said. "It makes me sad to think of you so lonely,
I like to think of you as happy and contented always."
"Oh, I am, I am!" she hastened to reply. "How could I
help being happy in this ideal life of ours? We are so independent of the
world, so in harmony with our own principles, so true to each other--Oh,
Percy! I do not think two people could be happier then we are; do you?
Are you not perfectly happy with me, dear?"
Just for one second Percy hesitated before he replied.
Then he met the anxious look of inquiry in Dolores' eyes, and answered
"Yes, perfectly : or rather, I am happier in my companionship
with you than I have been in many years. I know my life is better, too,
in many ways, and my thoughts fairer, than in my old restless days of adventure.
Yet, of course, no lot is without its annoyances and troubles. Did you
ever think how strange it is, that man expects a whole eternity of unalloyed
bliss, from a Ruler who denies him a single month of it here?"
Dolores shook her golden head.
"I used to speculate a great deal about the next world,"
she said. "I read all kinds of books on the subject, and I grew very much
confused. Finally. I rested back on the orthodox ideas, as quite as sensible
as any. I am sure the world and human nature is inclined to evil. I think
it is a misfortune to exist, and that we need a future life to repay us
for all we endure here. And I am sure it will require a Mediator to ever
reconcile the Creator to us or to give us eternal joy; but we can attain
it if we seek the way."
"I do not believe that we can attain any joys we have
not earned here," Percy replied. "I do not believe in sudden conversions,
or death-bed repentance, or being cleansed by blood. That faith gives a
man too much latitude altogether. Every violated principle, every indulged
appetite, every selfish or mean act or thought, I think will count against
us on the last day, no matter how we repent at death's door, or how we
cry out to be saved. Salvation depends upon ourselves, and the use we make
of our time on earth. We are shaping our spirits by our daily lives while
in the body. Just as we have shaped them--beautiful or hideous, they will
appear before God when our bodies fall away and leave them bare. We cannot
in a moment's space, expect any power to remove the scars we have made
by a life-time of wrongdoing. It would not be a just power if it did. Why
should the man who has lived in sin all his life be cleansed by crying
to Christ on his deathbed--and permitted to enter into just such joys as
the good man has earned by a life of noble deeds? I do not believe
in a creed like that."
Dolores put a soft hand over his mouth.
"Let us not talk religion," she said. "I fear you are
a sad heretic. Yet I agree with you that every violated principle counts
against us. But we need not fear death on that account, Percy. I am living
up to my highest convictions of right : are not you?"
Again Percy hesitated. Then he laid
his hand on her golden head, and looked gravely in her sweet eyes, as he
"Sometimes, Dolores, I do not feel that I am. Sometimes
the fears that you may one day repent our independent course of action,
together with the fact that we are obliged to hide so much of our companionship
from the world, weighs upon me like a burden."
She caught his hand and held it against her cheek.
"It must not, it must not!" she cried. "I shall never
repent these perfect days with you--never. We have violated no principles.
All laws are made by man, and every nation has its own peculiar ideas and
rules upon this subject. I believe God blesses and approves of our companionship.
You tell me that your life is better for it, and I know I am tenfold more
unselfish, and womanly, and sympathetic than ever before. Surely, we have
been a benefit and strength to each other. As for secrecy, I am ready,
and willing to meet the world at any time. Percy,--proudly, as George
Eliot met it. I am not ashamed of my love for you, or my devotion
to you. I have never asked for secrecy."
Percy flushed slightly.
"I know you have not," he answered. "But the world condemns,
without trial, who ever dares defy its opinions. Were we to publicly
declare our ideas, we should be subjected to a thousand annoyances which
we escape now. Cranks and villains would make no distinction
between our sweet comradeship and their own immoral lives while Society
would exile us wholly, and people in general would cry us down. For
your sake, as well as for my own social and business interests, it seems
wiser to keep our pleasant seclusion."
"Yet Society is full of disgraceful intrigue--the very
best of it," cried Dolores, with scorn. "The very people who would condemn
us for our ideas, are hiding shameful infidelities in their own lives."
"Some of them," Percy admitted, "not all. Many a man among
my acquaintances, who would mark my name off his visiting list, if we were
to make our beliefs public, is himself similarly situated, save that he
is also deceiving a wife; while I wrong no third party. But in the eyes
of men, you know, the sin consists in being found out."
"Thank heaven, I arn not in the position of one of those
deceived wives!" cried Dolores, fervently. "At the first moment you tire
of me, or that your heart strays away from me, you are free to go, without
hesitating, and without legal proceedings. I should not want you to remain
after you ceased to love me. You know my maxim is, 'those who love are
wed, and those who no longer love are no longer wed.'"
Dolores really believed what she said. It is so easy to
be liberal and broad in our theories, before our weak, human hearts are
put upon the rack.
Percy, who enjoyed the sensation of liberty which her
words gave him, felt also moved by an affectionate admiration for the lovely
speaker. He reached out his arms and drew her fair head against his heart.
"I shall never tire of you, my royal lady!" he said, kissing
her brow and cheek.
"You combine all the qualities necessary to keep me true.
You are a bright mental companion, a beautiful picture to my eye, and a
fond heart-friend. And then you never hamper my liberty, or fret me by
asking where I have been, or whither I am going, or why I have not come
home sooner, as so many wives do. I appreciate your delightful good sense,
when I see how some of my friends are martyrs to the whims of exacting
"It seems to me," Dolores replied, ''that a woman makes
a great mistake, who expects a man to give up all his old friends, and
pleasures, and devote every moment of his life to her : and to account
to her for every hour passed out of her presence. It must be terribly galling
to a man who has been accustomed to his liberty. I think men are like some
spirited horses--the tighter you draw the rein, the more reckless their
pace : while with an easy rein they jog along very sedately. But speaking
of our happiness, dear, I read a little poem the other day in an old book,
which reminded me of our love. May I read it to you?"
Percy looked at his watch :
"Yes, if it is not very long :" he said. "We must be off
for our drive in half an hour."
Dolores ran and brought an old magazine from her ebony
desk, and, resuming her place at Percy's knees, read the poem.
"The name of the author is not given," she said; ''but
it seemed to me whoever wrote it, had loved as we love, Percy--with every
faculty of his being. It is called
Somewhere I've read a thoughtful mind's reflection:
"All perfect things are three-fold:" and I know
Our love has this rare symbol of perfection:
The brain's response, the warm blood's rapturous glow,
The soul's sweet language, silent and unspoken.
All these unite us, with a deathless tie.
For when our frail, clay tenement is broken,
Our spirits will by lovers still, on high.
My dearest wish, you speak before I word it.
You understand the workings of my heart.
My soul's thought, breathed where only God has heard it,
You fathom with your strange divining art.
And like a fire, that cheers, and lights, and blesses,
And floods a mansion full of happy heat,
So does the subtle warmth of your caresses,
Pervade me with a rapture, keen as sweet.
And so sometimes, as you and I together
Exult in all dear love's three-fold delights,
I cannot help but vaguely wonder whether
When our freed souls, attain their spirit heights,
E'en if we reach that upper realm where God is,
And find the tales of heavenly glory true,
I wonder if we shall not miss our bodies,
And long, at times, for hours on earth we knew.
As now, we sometimes pray to leave our prison
And soar beyond all physical demands,
So may we not sigh, when we have arisen,
For just one old-time touch of lips and hands?
I know, dear heart, a thought like this seems daring
Concerning God's vast Government above,
Yet, even There, I shrink from wholly sparing
One element, from this, our Three-fold Love.
"What a very queer idea!" commented Percy, with a slight
frown, as Dolores finished reading the poem. "It has the merit of being
original, at least, but I cannot say that I like it."
"Still it expresses a great deal : the person who composed
it must have comprehended every phase of love. Do you not think so?"
"It is quite as likely that the author had never loved
at all, save in imagination. And I do not like the idea of ever longing
for my body after I once get through with its troublesome demands. It is
Dolores looked wonderingly at Percy.
"What a strange man you are!" she said, "After all, I
do not think I fully understand you. Sometimes you shock me with your lack
of orthodoxy, and again I feel as if your spiritual nature was far beyond
my own in its development. You are a paradox, mon ami. But there
is the carriage, and I must put on my hat and gloves."