Shelley was away--why, nobody can divine. Clothes were scattered about, there were books on every side: "Wherever a book could be laid was an open book turned down on its face to keep its place." It seems plain that the wife was not invited. No, not that; I think she was invited, but said to herself that she could not bear to go there and see another young woman touching heads with her husband over an Italian book and making thrilling hand-contacts with him accidentally.

As remarked, he was a frequent visitor there, "where he found an easeful resting-place in the house of Mrs. Boinville--the white-haired Maimuna-- and of her daughter, Mrs. Turner." The aged Zonoras was deceased, but the white-haired Maimuna was still on deck, as we see. "Three charming ladies entertained the mocker (Hogg) with cups of tea, late hours, Wieland's Agathon, sighs and smiles, and the celestial manna of refined sentiment."

"Such," says Hogg, "were the delights of Shelley's paradise in Bracknell."

The white-haired Maimuna presently writes to Hogg:

"I will not have you despise home-spun pleasures. Shelley is making a trial of them with us--"

A trial of them. It may be called that. It was March 11, and he had been in the house a month. She continues:

Shelley "likes then so well that he is resolved to leave off rambling--"

But he has already left it off. He has been there a month.

"And begin a course of them himself."

But he has already begun it. He has been at it a month. He likes it so well that he has forgotten all about his wife, as a letter of his reveals.

"Seriously, I think his mind and body want rest."

Yet he has been resting both for a month, with Italian, and tea, and manna of sentiment, and late hours, and every restful thing a young husband could need for the refreshment of weary limbs and a sore conscience, and a nagging sense of shabbiness and treachery.

"His journeys after what he has never found have racked his purse and his tranquillity. He is resolved to take a little care of the former, in pity to the latter, which I applaud, and shall second with all, my might."

But she does not say whether the young wife, a stranger and lonely yonder, wants another woman and her daughter Cornelia to be lavishing so much inflamed interest on her husband or not. That young wife is always silent--we are never allowed to hear from her. She must have opinions about such things, she cannot be indifferent, she must be approving or disapproving, surely she would speak if she were allowed--even to-day and from her grave she would, if she could, I think--but we get only the other side, they keep her silent always.

"He has deeply interested us. In the course of your intimacy he must have made you feel what we now feel for him. He is seeking a house close to us--"

Ah! he is not close enough yet, it seems--

"and if he succeeds we shall have an additional motive to induce you to come among us in the summer."

The reader would puzzle a long time and not guess the biographer's comment upon the above letter. It is this:

"These sound like words of s considerate and judicious friend."

That is what he thinks. That is, it is what he thinks he thinks. No, that is not quite it: it is what he thinks he can stupefy a particularly and unspeakably dull reader into thinking it is what he thinks. He makes that comment with the knowledge that Shelley is in love with this woman's daughter, and that it is because of the fascinations of these two that Shelley has deserted his wife--for this month, considering all the circumstances, and his new passion, and his employment of the time, amounted to desertion; that is its rightful name. We cannot know how the wife regarded it and felt about it; but if she could have read the letter which Shelley was writing to Hogg four or five days later, we could guess her thought and how she felt.

In Defense of Harriet Shelley Page 09

Mark Twain

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