“She was an elemental force,” wrote the old poet, “and astonished me by her amount of life, when I saw her day after day radiating every instant redundant joy and grace on all around her. Though the bias of her nature was not to thought but to sympathy, yet was she so perfect in her own nature as to meet intellectual persons by the fulness of her heart, warming them by her sentiments, believing, as she did, that by dealing nobly with all, all would show themselves noble.”
And there were sometimes bits of her letters which drove him wild with regret for what he had done.
“Is personal happiness, after all,” she wrote once, “a very important thing? Nothing can ever make me suffer again as I have suffered, for I have learned to use a man’s solace: work; work in which I can go far away from myself and be as impersonal as a problem in geometry. But I ask myself, Is that what was intended? Sometimes I seem to touch the edge of the knowledge that it is (perhaps) greater to be a sad, little, suffering, incompetent mother, than to be the person which trouble and music have made of me.”
But in his self-abasement Frank failed to take into the accounting the stupendous effect which the New York influences and the handling of great affairs had had upon his own character. Day by day he had learned more plainly the lessons of responsibility, of continued and concentrated action, and even McDermott himself could not use Napoleon’s great question, “What has he done?” more meaningly than Frank himself did now.
But with this new manhood came a finer comprehension of his baseness to Katrine, and an emphasized doubt as to whether she ever could forgive the miserable selfishness which he had displayed.
In his visits between the States and England (he made three during Katrine’s stay in Paris, besides the one in which he had met the Countess de Nemours) he went from one side of the question to the other in his thinking, wanting to visit Katrine, but realizing to the full that Mademoiselle Dulany, a singer to the world, or Katrine, adopted daughter of the Countess de Nemours, and a possible duchess, were worlds removed from the little Irish girl who had loved him in the Carolina woods. Fontainebleau! Fontainebleau! Since the day the Countess had told him of Katrine’s being there, the name repeated itself in his head like a song. He remembered the silence of the great trees, the nightingales at dusk among them, and dreamed of a day with Katrine there, hearing her quaint humor, her daring speeches, her tenderness, her selfless view of life, of herself, of everything in all the world save him.
At the Christmas-time of Katrine’s last year in Paris, he received a quaint illumination with the following note of explanation:
MY DEAR UNKNOWN FRIEND,—I
have thought this out and printed it,
too. It is not very well done, but I have tried to make it sincere.
Of course I got the idea of making prayers for myself from R.L.S.