METAPHYSICS is contagious. I caught it from Barbara, and I cannot resist the impulse to pass it on, and to you of all others.
The mood leapt upon Barbara out of the pages of "Katia," a story by Tolstoy. To my mind, it is a painful tale of lovers who out live their love, killing it with their own hands, but the author means it to be a happily ending novel. Tolstoy attempts to show that men and women can find happiness only when they grow content to give over seeking love from one another. They may keep the memory but must banish the hope." Hereafter, think of me only as the father of your children," and the woman who had pined for that which had been theirs in the beginning of their union
weeps softly, and agrees. Tolstoy calls this peace, but for Barbara and me this gain is loss, this end an end indeed, replete with all the tragedy of ending.
I found Barbara to-day on the last page of "Katia," and much disturbed. "Dear, I saw a spirit break," she said. I waited before asking whose, and when I did, she answered, That of three-quarters of the world. The ghost of a Dream walked to-day — when after the spirit broke, I saw it — and myself and my Earl vanished in shadow. We and our love thinned away before the thought-shape."
"Your dreaming, Barbara, can scarce be better than your living."
We looked long at each other. She knew herself a happy woman, yet to-day the ghost had walked in the light, and her eyes were not held, and she saw. Even her life was not sufficient, even her plans were paltry, even her heart's love was cramped. Such times of seeing come to happy men and to happy women. Barbara was reading the opinions of the world and the acceptances of the world, and in disliking them she came to doubt herself. Perhaps
she, too, should be less at peace, she too may be amongst Pharisees a Pharisee.
"In the midst of the breaking of spirit, how can I know?" she demanded. "Love is sure," I prompted, my hand on her forehead. "Earl and I are sure, dear," she laughed low, and a drift of sobbing swept through the music; "it is not that we are in doubt about ourselves, but sometimes, like to-day, you understand, one finds oneself bitten by the sharp tooth of the world, and a despair courses through the veins and blinds the eyes, and then, in the midst of the bitterest throe, comes a great visioning."
I heard her and understood, and my heart leapt as it had not done for long. Think of it, Herbert, fifty-three and still young! When was it that I last fluttered with joy? Ah, yes, that time the summer and the woods had a great deal to do with it, and a few words spoken by a boy. I think Barbara's majesty of attainment through vicarious breaking of spirit a greater cause for rejoicing.
And then, in the midst of the bitterest throe, came a great visioning. When pain is good and to be thanked for, how good life is! By this
alone may you know the proportion and the value of the good of being. Three-quarters of the world are broken spirited, but from out the wreckage a thought-shape, and it is well. The Vision fastens upon us, and what was full seems shrunken, what whole and of all time a passing bit, an untraceable flash. And that is well, for the dream recalls the hope, and the heart grows hardy with hoping and dreaming.
And you? You do not repine because of these things. Let the Grand Mujik mutter a thousand heresies, let three-quarters of the world accept and live them, you would not think the unaspiring three-quarters broken spirited. You would hail them right practical. And if you held a thought as firmly as your sister holds the thought of love, and you found yourself alone in your esteem of it, you would part from it and go over to the others. You would not be the fanatic your sister is, to stay so much the closer by it that of necessity she must doubt her own allegiance, fearing in her devotion that, without knowing it, she, too, is cold and but half alive. You would not see visions that would put your best to shame. The thought-shape of the more you could be, were you and the whole world finer and greater, would not walk before you. You would rest content and assured, and — I regret your assurance.