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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 1 - Chapter 10. Clarke's Wooing
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The Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 1 - Chapter 10. Clarke's Wooing Post by :p00kie Category :Long Stories Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :2000

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The Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 1 - Chapter 10. Clarke's Wooing

BOOK I CHAPTER X. CLARKE'S WOOING

Mrs. Lambert was face to face with a decision of almost equal moment--was, indeed, in the midst of formulating the question which perplexed her, in order that she might lay it before her invisible guides for their consideration. She had just written upon a slate these words: "Shall I take Viola and go East, or shall I send her on alone?" when Clarke's foot was heard outside her door. Hastily hiding the slate, she rose to meet her visitor.

He was very pale, and something in his glance made her aware that his call was of no ordinary intent.

"Where is Viola?" he asked, abruptly.

"She has gone to the street with a friend. She will return soon."

"I am glad you are alone; I want to talk with you. I don't like the condition of mind Viola is in to-day. The coming of this Eastern professor seems to have stirred her to another fit of restless desire to go away. I can't think of this, Julia; she is too precious to me to lose. She has become a part of my very heart's blood, and I am afraid to let her go out of my sight. She is young and very impressionable. If she goes away into the city we may both lose her forever. The time has come to tell you that I love her--not precisely as I loved Adele, but deeply, passionately. I want her as my wife. I ask your consent to tell her so--to-night. Will you give that permission?"

Mrs. Lambert gazed up at him with such fixity of surprise that the rush of his forthright appeal weakened towards its end. She was overwhelmed by the intensity of passion in his voice, as well as by surprise that he, so soon after his bitter loss, could turn to another--to her daughter, a child. And, at last, she whispered, "What will _they say, Anthony?"

This question he had anticipated, and his reply was ready. "_They will advise it, I am sure. For does it not fit to their purpose? Does not my great book depend on Viola's daily co-operation? I have no fear of _their answer; I fear what she will say." He began to pace up and down the room. "What, from _their point of view, does her musical education signify? Think of it! She holds the key to the gates of death. On her the hopes of millions hang. She is the most wonderful organism in this world--so normal in all other ways, so trustworthy. She will convince all who come into her presence; and then, have not her 'controls' chosen me to publish their discoveries to the world? It is ordained that we work together in this way. She must not go to New York, that vast caldron which destroys all that is spiritual. She should go only when closely guarded by those who love her and understand her exquisite nature, her gifts. Some day I will take her there. Alone she will be prevented from her grand mission, her message lost, her faith destroyed. Can't you see she must not go?"

"I have done my best to keep her."

"I know you have," he answered, quickly; "and now you must give me authority over her--the authority of a husband. I am willing to put the whole matter to the test this night. She knows that I love her, and I think she honors and respects me--perhaps she may already love me, unworthy as I am."

The mother began now to tremble. "I don't know, Anthony; she thought--we all understood--that you--"

"I know what you mean," he irritably exclaimed. "Why will you persist in misreading me? I am not disloyal to Adele. Can't you see that my devotion for her remains, and that my regard for Viola is no treason to the dead? Adele will understand how vital, how necessary, Viola is to me, for does she not know that I could not even communicate with her if Viola went away? I do not love Viola as a boy loves, but as a man who understands himself and her--as one who understands her duties. It is a different love, but it is just as true, and it is high and holy. Without her I would have gone mad. She saved me from despair. Her union with me will make her an evangel to the earth-bound millions."

Flattered as well as awed by this disclosure of her daughter's power, the mother consented to his demand. Marriage with him would safe-harbor Viola, would establish her in life, and would also carry forward the work which she, too, considered of greater importance than any other concern of her life.

"I don't know her mind, Anthony," she said, after a silence. "She worries and puzzles me lately by her opposition to all our plans; but I don't think she is attached to any of the young men she knows. Still, she is not one to speak of such things. And if she consents--"

"When she comes, leave her to me," answered he, with returning confidence. Deep in the man's egotistic soul lay the thought, "I know why this girl is restless and uneasy--I know why she seeks afar off; it is because she thinks me indissolubly bound to Adele. When she finds that I love her, that I want her for my wife, she will come--her vague rebellions will cease. Her longings will close round me--"

When the door opened and Viola stepped into the room, so tall, so vivid, so tingling with life, the very force of his desire rendered Clarke outwardly humble, drove him to a feigning of sadness and to the voicing of desolate weakness. After the mother left them alone he began speaking in a low voice with deep-dropping cadences.

"Viola, I have something important to say to you. I am much disturbed over your renewed determination to go away. In the face of the great work which is yours to do I do not understand how you can think of dropping it in mid-air, so to speak, to go away on an errand which is essentially selfish--as well as most unwise and full of danger. I don't understand this renewal of restlessness on your part."

The girl's face was clouded, for she had just learned of Serviss's departure and was deeply hurt. She drew the pin from her hat and silently laid it on the table, and in this gesture was something of the resolution of the warrior who divests himself of his cumbering plumed helmet. "It's very simple," she curtly answered. "I want to get away from here for a while. I can't endure my life here any longer."

"Why not? Why are you so unhappy?" he asked, with an accent of stern reproof. "It is a beautiful land--you are among your own people, you have your music, your work, and you are young. You ought to be happy."

"That's just it," she interrupted, quite fiercely. "It is because I am young that I want to do something. It seems to me to-day as if I were losing the best years of my life here in this little town, and I want to get away. I _must get away!"

"Does your work with me seem of no value?" His glowing eyes sought hers. He approached her. "Do I weary you? Am I an irritation?"

Her face softened. "No, you have helped me very much. I couldn't have endured this life without you and my music; but this other life--these sittings--I can't go on with them."

"Don't you feel that you must? Don't you feel their enormous importance?"

"No, I don't! I begin to doubt myself--everybody. What have _they done for you, for anybody, that I should sacrifice nay whole life to them and their wishes?"

"They brought me healing; they made Dr. Randall happy in his last years; they are a daily solace to your mother; they will comfort millions through our agency." He bent towards her. "Viola, my girl, God has designed for you and me a closer union than even this. You say I have comforted you, that I have made life happier for you. I have come to-night to tell you that I love you, and that I want you to be my wife."

The girl recoiled from the touch of his hand, uttering a low cry of surprise, of question.

He went on: "Yes, I have grown to care for you beyond any other human being. You are my staff, my stay. God sent you to my spiritual healing. I should have gone mad but for you." He bent upon her a look of passion and command. "You must not think of going away. You belong to me." Her face warned him that his appeal was being misinterpreted, and he added, quickly: "I know this comes to you abruptly, and yet you must have felt my love, you must have read my heart."

"Not in that way," she answered, in a low voice. "I thought you--I always understood--" The memory of his professed suffering, his oft-expressed adoration for the dead Adele, checked her, filled her with a storm of doubt, and she could not finish her accusation.

He caught up the thread she dropped. "I _did love Adele, I love her still--a holy, mysterious love--a love you cannot understand; my feeling for you is different, but no less high. It is the cry of a lonely, desolate man. Come to me, Viola; do not question; follow your heart's leadings, as I do." The light of her accusing young eyes pierced the armor of his defence, and he fell upon his knees before her. "I can't explain it, but it is true, Viola. I have not deceived you. I loved her--I love her still. She is vital in my life. I was sincere in all I said; but you are flesh and she is spirit. Don't you see? You can comfort me--assist me, work with me as she cannot."

As he poured out his passionate plea, a sense of injury, of disillusionment, overran the girl. She revolted from the touch of his head against her knee. "You must not talk to me that way--you belong to her." She pushed him away. "Get up. Go away from me. I hate you now."

There was something so final, so convicting in her gesture of repulsion that the man's head dropped. He covered his face and uttered a groaning cry, and so lay silently sobbing, while she looked down at him--woman-grown in that instant. His passion moved her to pity, not to love, and she put him aside gently and left the room without further word. Her master, her highest earthly guide, had fallen from his lofty place and lay grovelling at her feet. This conception, vague but massive, oppressed her heart, and lay upon her brain like a leaden cap.

At the moment she, too, despaired of life and knew not where to turn for aid.

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