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PAGE 2

The Fulness of Life
by [?]

“And so death is not the end after all,” in sheer gladness she heard herself exclaiming aloud. “I always knew that it couldn’t be. I believed in Darwin, of course. I do still; but then Darwin himself said that he wasn’t sure about the soul–at least, I think he did–and Wallace was a spiritualist; and then there was St. George Mivart–“

Her gaze lost itself in the ethereal remoteness of the mountains.

“How beautiful! How satisfying!” she murmured. “Perhaps now I shall really know what it is to live.”

As she spoke she felt a sudden thickening of her heart-beats, and looking up she was aware that before her stood the Spirit of Life.

“Have you never really known what it is to live?” the Spirit of Life asked her.

“I have never known,” she replied, “that fulness of life which we all feel ourselves capable of knowing; though my life has not been without scattered hints of it, like the scent of earth which comes to one sometimes far out at sea.”

“And what do you call the fulness of life?” the Spirit asked again.

“Oh, I can’t tell you, if you don’t know,” she said, almost reproachfully. “Many words are supposed to define it–love and sympathy are those in commonest use, but I am not even sure that they are the right ones, and so few people really know what they mean.”

“You were married,” said the Spirit, “yet you did not find the fulness of life in your marriage?”

“Oh, dear, no,” she replied, with an indulgent scorn, “my marriage was a very incomplete affair.”

“And yet you were fond of your husband?”

“You have hit upon the exact word; I was fond of him, yes, just as I was fond of my grandmother, and the house that I was born in, and my old nurse. Oh, I was fond of him, and we were counted a very happy couple. But I have sometimes thought that a woman’s nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes in going in and out; the drawing- room, where one receives formal visits; the sitting-room, where the members of the family come and go as they list; but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; no one knows the way to them, no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes.”

“And your husband,” asked the Spirit, after a pause, “never got beyond the family sitting-room?”

“Never,” she returned, impatiently; “and the worst of it was that he was quite content to remain there. He thought it perfectly beautiful, and sometimes, when he was admiring its commonplace furniture, insignificant as the chairs and tables of a hotel parlor, I felt like crying out to him: ‘Fool, will you never guess that close at hand are rooms full of treasures and wonders, such as the eye of man hath not seen, rooms that no step has crossed, but that might be yours to live in, could you but find the handle of the door?'”

“Then,” the Spirit continued, “those moments of which you lately spoke, which seemed to come to you like scattered hints of the fulness of life, were not shared with your husband?”

“Oh, no–never. He was different. His boots creaked, and he always slammed the door when he went out, and he never read anything but railway novels and the sporting advertisements in the papers–and–and, in short, we never understood each other in the least.”

“To what influence, then, did you owe those exquisite sensations?”

“I can hardly tell. Sometimes to the perfume of a flower; sometimes to a verse of Dante or of Shakespeare; sometimes to a picture or a sunset, or to one of those calm days at sea, when one seems to be lying in the hollow of a blue pearl; sometimes, but rarely, to a word spoken by someone who chanced to give utterance, at the right moment, to what I felt but could not express.”