Little swarms of gossamer gnats danced in the sunlit spaces; when he looked down there was the blue surprise of violets, and anemones nodded dimly out of low shadows. There was a loud shrilling of birds, and the tremulousness of the young leaves seemed to be as much from unseen wings as wind. However, the wind blew hard in soft, frequent gusts, and everything was tilting and bowing and waving.
Jerome looked at it all, and it had a new meaning for him. The outer world is always tinctured more or less to the sight by one’s mental states; but who can say, when it comes to outlooks from the keenest stresses of spirit, how impalpable the boundary-lines between beholder and object may grow? Who knows if a rose does not really cease to be, in its own sense, to a soul in an extremity of joy or grief?
Whatever it might be for others, the spring wood was not to-day what it had ever been before to Jerome. All its shining, and sweetening, and growing were so forced into accord with himself that the whole wood took, as it were, the motion of his own soul. Jerome looked at a fine young poplar-tree, and saw not a tree but a maid, revealing with innocent helplessness her white body through her skirts of transparent green. The branches flung out towards him like a maiden’s arms, with shy intent of caresses. Every little flower upon which his idle gaze fell was no flower, but an eye of love—a bird called to his mate with the call of his own heart. Every sight, and sound, and sweetness of the wood wooed and tempted him, with the reflex motion of his own new ardor of love and passion. He had not gone to meeting lest he see Lucina Merritt again, and wished to drive her image from his mind, and here he was peopling his solitude with symbols of her which were bolder than she, and made his hunger worse to bear.
A childlike wonder was over him at the whole. “Why haven’t I ever felt this way before?” he thought. He recalled all the young men he knew who had married during the last few years, and thought how they must have felt as he felt now, and he had no conception of it. He had been secretly rather proud that he had not encumbered himself with a wife and children, but had given his best strength to less selfish loves. He remembered his scorn of the school-master and his adoring girls, and realized that his scorn had been due, as scorn largely is, to ignorance. Instead of contempt, a fierce pity seized him for all who had given way to this great need of love, and yet he felt strange indignation and shame that he himself had come into the common lot.
“It is no use; I can’t,” he said, quite out loud, and set a hard face against all the soft lights and shadows which moved upon him with the motion of his own desires.