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Alexander's Bridge

Happiness like that makes one insolent. I used to think these four walls could
stand against anything. And now I scarcely know myself here. Now I know that
no one can build his security upon the nobleness of another person. Two people,
when they love each other, grow alike in their tastes and habits and pride, but
their moral natures (whatever we may mean by that canting expression) are
never welded. The base one goes on being base, and the noble one noble, to the
end.
The last week has been a bad one; I have been realizing how things used to be
with me. Sometimes I get used to being dead inside, but lately it has been as if a
window beside me had suddenly opened, and as if all the smells of spring blew in
to me. There is a garden out there, with stars overhead, where I used to walk at
night when I had a single purpose and a single heart. I can remember how I used
to feel there, how beautiful everything about me was, and what life and power
and freedom I felt in myself. When the window opens I know exactly how it would
feel to be out there. But that garden is closed to me. How is it, I ask myself, that
everything can be so different with me when nothing here has changed? I am in
my own house, in my own study, in the midst of all these quiet streets where my
friends live. They are all safe and at peace with themselves. But I am never at
peace. I feel always on the edge of danger and change.
I keep remembering locoed horses I used to see on the range when I was a boy.
They changed like that. We used to catch them and put them up in the corral,
and they developed great cunning. They would pretend to eat their oats like the
other horses, but we knew they were always scheming to get back at the loco.
It seems that a man is meant to live only one life in this world. When he tries to
live a second, he develops another nature. I feel as if a second man had been
grafted into me. At first he seemed only a pleasure-loving simpleton, of whose
company I was rather ashamed, and whom I used to hide under my coat when I
walked the Embankment, in London. But now he is strong and sullen, and he is
fighting for his life at the cost of mine. That is his one activity: to grow strong. No
creature ever wanted so much to live. Eventually, I suppose, he will absorb me
altogether. Believe me, you will hate me then.
And what have you to do, Hilda, with this ugly story? Nothing at all. The little boy
drank of the prettiest brook in the forest and he became a stag. I write all this
because I can never tell it to you, and because it seems as if I could not keep
silent any longer. And because I suffer, Hilda. If any one I loved suffered like this,
I'd want to know it. Help me, Hilda!
B.A.
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