By the firelight and the twilight, the Young Lady is finishing a letter to Herbert,—writing it, literally, on her knees, transforming thus the simple deed into an act of devotion. Mandeville says that it is bad for her eyes, but the sight of it is worse for his eyes. He begins to doubt the wisdom of reliance upon that worn apothegm about absence conquering love.
Memory has the singular characteristic of recalling in a friend absent, as in a journey long past, only that which is agreeable. Mandeville begins to wish he were in New South Wales.
I did intend to insert here a letter of Herbert’s to the Young Lady, —obtained, I need not say, honorably, as private letters which get into print always are,—not to gratify a vulgar curiosity, but to show how the most unsentimental and cynical people are affected by the master passion. But I cannot bring myself to do it. Even in the interests of science one has no right to make an autopsy of two loving hearts, especially when they are suffering under a late attack of the one agreeable epidemic.
All the world loves a lover, but it laughs at him none the less in his extravagances. He loses his accustomed reticence; he has something of the martyr’s willingness for publicity; he would even like to show the sincerity of his devotion by some piece of open heroism. Why should he conceal a discovery which has transformed the world to him, a secret which explains all the mysteries of nature and human-ity? He is in that ecstasy of mind which prompts those who were never orators before to rise in an experience-meeting and pour out a flood of feeling in the tritest language and the most conventional terms. I am not sure that Herbert, while in this glow, would be ashamed of his letter in print, but this is one of the cases where chancery would step in and protect one from himself by his next friend. This is really a delicate matter, and perhaps it is brutal to allude to it at all.