The advocate looked steadily into my face. I think he understood the situation at last.
“You mean that—really and truly mean it?” he asked.
“I do,” I answered, and unable to say or hear any more without breaking out on him altogether I left the room.
Down to this moment I had put on a brave front though my very heart had been trembling; but now I felt that all the weight of law, custom, parental authority and even religion was bearing me down, down, down, and unless help came I must submit in the long run.
I was back in the small bedroom, with my hot forehead against the cold glass of the window, looking out yet seeing nothing, when somebody knocked at the door, softly almost timidly. It was Father Dan, and the sight of his dear face, broken up with emotion, was the same to me as the last plank of a foundering ship to a sailor drowning at sea.
My heart was so full that, though I knew I ought not, I threw my arms about his neck and burst into a flood of tears. The good old priest did not put me away. He smoothed my drooping head and patted my shoulders and in his sweet and simple way he tried to comfort me.
“Don’t cry! Don’t worry! It will be all right in the end, my child.”
There was something almost grotesque in his appearance. Under his soft clerical outdoor hat he was wearing his faded old cassock, as if he had come away hurriedly at a sudden call. I could see what had happened—my family had sent him to reprove me and remonstrate with me.
He sat on a chair by my bed and I knelt on the floor at his feet, just as my mother used to do when I was a child and she was making her confession. Perhaps he thought of that at the same moment as myself, for the golden light of my mother’s memory lay always about him. For some moments we did not speak. I think we were both weeping.
At length I tried to tell him what had happened—hiding nothing, softening nothing, speaking the simple and naked truth. I found it impossible to do so. My odd-sounding voice was not like my own, and even my words seemed to be somebody else’s. But Father Dan understood everything.
“I know! I know!” he said, and then, to my great relief, interrupting my halting explanations, he gave his own interpretation of my husband’s letter.
There was a higher love and there was a lower love and both were necessary to God’s plans and purposes. But the higher love must come first, or else the lower one would seem to be cruel and gross and against nature.
Nature was kind to a young girl. Left to itself it awakened her sex very gently. First with love, which came to her like a whisper in a dream, like the touch of an angel on her sleeping eyelids, so that when she awoke to the laws of life the mysteries of sex did not startle or appal her.
But sex in me had been awakened rudely and ruthlessly. Married without love I had been suddenly confronted by the lower passion. What wonder that I had found it brutal and barbarous?