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VI. The White Blot Henry van Dyke

Section III.

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The soft sea-fog clothed the night with clinging darkness; the faded leaves hung slack and motionless from the trees, waiting for their fall; the tense notes of the surf beyond the sand-dunes vibrated through the damp air like chords from some mighty VIOLONO; large, warm drops wept from the arbour while I sat in the garden, holding the poor little book, and thinking of the white blot in the record of a life that was too proud to bend to the happiness that was meant for it.

There are men like that: not many perhaps, but a few; and they are the ones who suffer most keenly in this world of half-understanding and clouded knowledge. There is a pride, honourable and sensitive, that imperils the realization of love, puts it under a spell of silence and reserve, makes it sterile of blossoms and impotent of fruits. For what is it, after all, but a subtle, spiritual worship of self? And what was Falconer's resolve not to tell this girl that he loved her until he had won fame and position, but a secret, unconscious setting of himself above her? For surely, if love is supreme, it does not need to wait for anything else to lend it worth and dignity. The very sweetness and power of it lie in the confession of one life as dependent upon another for its fulfilment. It is made strong in its very weakness. It is the only thing, after all, that can break the prison bars and set the heart free from itself. The pride that hinders it, enslaves it. Love's first duty is to be true to itself, in word and deed. Then, having spoken truth and acted verity, it may call on honour to keep it pure and steadfast.

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If Falconer had trusted Claire, and showed her his heart without reserve, would she not have understood him and helped him? It was the pride of independence, the passion of self-reliance that drew him away from her and divided his heart from hers in a dumb isolation. But Claire,--was not she also in fault? Might she not have known, should not she have taken for granted, the truth which must have been so easy to read in Falconer's face, though he never put it into words? And yet with her there was something very different from the pride that kept him silent. The virgin reserve of a young girl's heart is more sacred than any pride of self. It is the maiden instinct which makes the woman always the shrine, and never the pilgrim. She is not the seeker, but the one sought. She dares not take anything for granted. She has the right to wait for the voice, the word, the avowal. Then, and not till then, if the pilgrim be the chosen one, the shrine may open to receive him.

Not all women believe this; but those who do are the ones best worth seeking and winning. And Claire was one of them. It seemed to me, as I mused, half dreaming, on the unfinished story of these two lives that had missed each other in the darkness, that I could see her figure moving through the garden, beyond where the pallid bloom of the tall cosmos-flower bent to the fitful breeze. Her robe was like the waving of the mist. Her face was fair, and very fair, for all its sadness: a blue flower, faint as a shadow on the snow, trembled at her waist, as she paced to and fro along the path.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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