And afterwards, he would not own it, but he was rather ashamed of himself, and prostrated himself before Miriam. Then again he rebelled.
“It’s not religious to be religious,” he said. “I reckon a crow is religious when it sails across the sky. But it only does it because it feels itself carried to where it’s going, not because it thinks it is being eternal.”
But Miriam knew that one should be religious in everything, have God, whatever God might be, present in everything.
“I don’t believe God knows such a lot about Himself,” he cried. “God doesn’t know things, He is things. And I’m sure He’s not soulful.”
And then it seemed to her that Paul was arguing God on to his own side, because he wanted his own way and his own pleasure. There was a long battle between him and her. He was utterly unfaithful to her even in her own presence; then he was ashamed, then repentant; then he hated her, and went off again. Those were the ever-recurring conditions.
She fretted him to the bottom of his soul. There she remained—sad, pensive, a worshipper. And he caused her sorrow. Half the time he grieved for her, half the time he hated her. She was his conscience; and he felt, somehow, he had got a conscience that was too much for him. He could not leave her, because in one way she did hold the best of him. He could not stay with her because she did not take the rest of him, which was three-quarters. So he chafed himself into rawness over her.
When she was twenty-one he wrote her a letter which could only have been written to her.
“May I speak of our old, worn love, this last time. It, too, is changing, is it not? Say, has not the body of that love died, and left you its invulnerable soul? You see, I can give you a spirit love, I have given it you this long, long time; but not embodied passion. See, you are a nun. I have given you what I would give a holy nun—as a mystic monk to a mystic nun. Surely you esteem it best. Yet you regret—no, have regretted—the other. In all our relations no body enters. I do not talk to you through the senses—rather through the spirit. That is why we cannot love in the common sense. Ours is not an everyday affection. As yet we are mortal, and to live side by side with one another would be dreadful, for somehow with you I cannot long be trivial, and, you know, to be always beyond this mortal state would be to lose it. If people marry, they must live together as affectionate humans, who may be commonplace with each other without feeling awkward—not as two souls. So I feel it.
“Ought I to send this letter?—I doubt it. But there—it is best to understand. Au revoir.”
Miriam read this letter twice, after which she sealed it up. A year later she broke the seal to show her mother the letter.
“You are a nun—you are a nun.” The words went into her heart again and again. Nothing he ever had said had gone into her so deeply, fixedly, like a mortal wound.