“What a lucky, lucky girl you are!”
But the excitement which had hitherto buoyed me up was partly dispelled by this time, and I was beginning to feel some doubt of it.
As my wedding-day approached and time ran short, the air of joy which had pervaded our house was driven out by an atmosphere of irritation. We were all living on our nerves. The smiles that used to be at everybody’s service gave place to frowns, and, in Aunt Bridget’s case, to angry words which were distributed on all sides and on all occasions.
As a consequence I took refuge in my room, and sat long hours there in my dressing-gown and slippers, hearing the hubbub that was going on in the rest of the house, but taking as little part in it as possible. In this semi-conventual silence and solitude, the excitement which had swept me along for three weeks subsided rapidly.
I began to think, and above all to feel, and the one thing I felt beyond everything else was a sense of something wanting.
I remembered the beautiful words of the Pope about marriage as a mystic relation, a sacred union of souls, a bond of love such as Christ’s love for His Church, and I asked myself if I felt any such love for the man who was to become my husband.
I knew I did not. I reminded myself that I had had nearly no conversation with him, that our intercourse had been of the briefest, that I had seen him only three times altogether, and that I scarcely knew him at all.
And yet I was going to marry him! In a few days more I should be his wife, and we should be bound together as long as life should last!
Then I remembered what Father Dan had said about a girl’s first love, her first love-letter, and all the sweet, good things that should come to her at the time of her marriage.
None of them had come to me. I do not think my thoughts of love were ever disturbed by any expectation of the delights of the heart—languors of tenderness, long embraces, sighs and kisses, and the joys and fevers of the flesh—for I knew nothing about them. But, nevertheless, I asked myself if I had mistaken the matter altogether. Was love really necessary? In all their busy preparations neither my father, nor my husband, nor the lawyers, nor the Bishop himself, had said anything about that.
I began to sleep badly and to dream. It was always the same dream. I was in a frozen region of the far north or south, living in a ship which was stuck fast in the ice, and had a great frowning barrier before it that was full of dangerous crevasses. Then for some reason I wanted to write a letter, but was unable to do so, because somebody had trodden on my pen and broken it.
It seems strange to me now as I look back upon that time, that I did not know what angel was troubling the waters of my soul—that Nature was whispering to me, as it whispers to every girl at the first great crisis of her life. But neither did I know what angel was leading my footsteps when, three mornings before my wedding-day, I got up early and went out to walk in the crisp salt air.