“I’ve liked you,” he said, “since the first time we shook hands. There was something honest about your grip I liked, and I go a good deal by these things. It is not many men I would trust with my little Angel; for when you take her, you take her father’s great treasure. Guard her well, dear lad, guard her well.”
THE BOOK OF ANGELICA
The first duty of a poet’s wife is to inspire him. When she ceases to do that—but that is a consideration which need not occupy us in this unsophisticated story. We have already seen that Angelica in this respect early began her wifely duties towards Henry; and that little song he read in chapter twenty-five was but one of many he had written to her in his capacity of man in possession.
The feminine inspirations of his early youth had been numerous, but mediocre in quality. Even in love, as in all else, his opportunities had been second and even third-rate. He had broken his boy’s heart, time after time, for some commonplace, little provincial miss who knew not “the god’s wonder or his woe.” But, at last, in circumstances so unforeseen, the maiden of the Lord had been revealed to him, and with the revelation a great impulse of metrical expression had come upon the young poet. All day long rhythms and fancies were effervescing within him, till at length he had quite a publishable mass of verse for which, it is to be feared, Angelica must be counted responsible.
Of these he was busily making a surreptitious fair copy one morning, when old Mr. Septimus Lingard suddenly visited his seclusion, with the announcement that his task there was at an end, so that he might now return to his regular office. Though, of course, Henry had realised that the present happy arrangement could not go on for ever, the news brought temporary desolation to the two young lovers. For four months their days had been spent within a few yards of each other; and though Angel’s excursions up the yard to Henry’s desk could not be many, or long, each day, yet each was conscious that the other was near at hand. When Angel sang at her housework, it was from the secure sense that Henry was close by. Their separation was little more than that of a husband and wife working in different rooms of the same house. But now their meetings would have to be arranged out somewhere in a cold world, little considerate of the convenience of lovers, and, for whole days of warm proximity, they would have to exchange occasional snatched precarious hours.
Well, the only thing to do was for Henry to work away at their dream of a home together—home together, however little, just four walls to love each other in, away from the gaze of prying eyes, none daring to make them afraid. How that home was to be compassed was far from clear in either of their minds; but vaguely it was felt that it would be brought about by the powerful enchantments of literature. Henry had recently had one of Angel’s poems accepted by a rather good magazine, and the trance of joy in which for fully two hours he had sat gazing at that, his first, proof-sheet, was hardly less rapturous than that into which he had fallen after seeing Angel for the first time,—so dear are the emblems of his craft to the artist, at the beginning, and still at the end, of his career.