By this Walter was in love with Lady Lufa. He said as much to himself, at least; and in truth he was almost possessed with her. Every thought that rose in his mind began at once to drift toward her. Every hour of the day had a rose-tinge from the dress in which he first saw her.
One might write a long essay on this they call love, and yet contribute little to the understanding of it in the individual case. Its kind is to be interpreted after the kind of person who loves. There are as many hues and shades, not to say forms and constructions of love, as there are human countenances, human hearts, human judgments and schemes of life. Walter had not been an impressionable youth, because he had an imagination which both made him fastidious, and stood him in stead of falling in love. When a man can give form to the things that move in him, he is less driven to fall in love. But now Walter saw everything through a window, and the window was the face of Lufa. His thinking was always done in the presence and light of that window. She seemed an intrinsic component of every one of his mental operations. In every beauty and attraction of life he saw her. He was possessed by her, almost as some are possessed by evil spirits. And to be possessed, even by a human being, may be to take refuge in the tombs, there to cry, and cut one's self with fierce thoughts.
But not yet was Walter troubled. He lived in love's eternal present, and did not look forward. Even jealousy had not yet begun to show itself in any shape. He was not in Lady Lufa's set, and therefore not much drawn to conjecture what might be going on. In the glamour of literary ambition, he took for granted that Lady Lufa allotted his world a higher orbit than that of her social life, and prized most the pleasures they had in common, which so few were capable of sharing.
She had indeed in her own circle never found one who knew more of the refinements of verse than a school-girl does of Beethoven; and it was a great satisfaction to her to know one who not merely recognized her proficiency, but could guide her further into the depths of an art which every one thinks he understands, and only one here and there does. It was therefore a real welcome she was able to give him when they met, as they did again and again during the season. How much she cared for him, how much she would have been glad to do for him, my reader shall judge for himself. I think she cared for him very nearly as much as for a dress made to her liking. An injustice from him would have brought the tears into her eyes. A poem he disapproved of she would have thrown, aside, perhaps into the fire.
She did not, however, submit much of her work to his judgment. She was afraid of what might put her out of heart with it. Before making his acquaintance, she had a fresh volume, a more ambitious one, well on its way, but fearing lack of his praise, had said nothing to him about it. And besides this diffidence, she did not wish to appear to solicit from him a good review. She might cast herself on his mercy, but it should not be confessedly. She had pride though not conscience in the matter. The mother was capable of begging, not the daughter. She might use fascination, but never entreaty; that would be to degrade herself!
Walter had, of course, taken a second look at her volume. It did not reveal that he had said of it what was not true; but he did see that, had he been anxious to praise, he might have found passages to commend, or in which, at least, he could have pointed out merit. But no allusion was made to the book, on the one hand because Lady Lufa was aware he had written the review, and on the other because Walter did not wish to give his opinion of it. He placed it in the category of first works; and, knowing how poor those of afterward distinguished writers may be, it did not annoy him that one who could talk so well should have written such rubbish.
Lady Lufa had indeed a craze for composition, and the indulgence of it was encouraged by her facility. There was no reason in heaven, earth, or the other place, why what she wrote should see the light, for it had little to do with light of any sort. "Autumn Leaves" had had no such reception as her mother would have Walter believe. Lady Tremaine was one of those good mothers who, like "good churchmen," will wrong any other to get for their own. She had paid her court to Walter that she might gain a reviewer who would yield her daughter what she called justice: for justice' sake she could curry favor! A half-merry, half-retaliative humor in Lufa, may have wrought for revenge by making Walter fall in love with her; at all events it was a consolation to her wounded vanity when she saw him, in love with her; but it was chiefly in the hope of a "good" review of her next book that she cultivated his acquaintance, and now she felt sure of her end.
Most people liked Walter, even when they laughed at his simplicity, for it was the simplicity of a generous nature; we can not therefore wonder if he was too confident, and from Lady Lufa's behavior presumed to think she looked upon him as worthy of a growing privilege. If she regarded literature as she professed to regard it, he had but to distinguish himself, he thought, to be more acceptable than wealth or nobility could have made him. As to material possibilities, the youth never thought of them; a worshiper does not meditate how to feed his goddess! Lady Lufa was his universe and everything in it--a small universe and scantily furnished for a human soul, had she been the prime of women! He scarcely thought of his home now, or of the father who made it home. As to God, it is hardly a question whether he had ever thought of Him. For can that be called thinking of another, which is the mere passing of a name through the mind, without one following thought of relation or duty? Many think it a horrible thing to say there is no God, who never think how much worse a thing it is not to heed Him. If God be not worth minding, what great ruin can it be to imagine His non-existence?
What, then, had Walter made of it by leaving home? He had almost forgotten his father; had learned to be at home in London; had passed many judgments, some of them more or less just, all of them more or less unjust; had printed enough for a volume of little better than truisms concerning life, society, fashion, dress, etc., etc.; had published two or three rather nice songs, and had a volume of poems almost ready; had kept himself the greater part of the time, and had fallen in love with an earl's daughter.
"Everybody is gone," said Lady Lufa, "and we are going to-morrow."
"To-day," he rejoined, "London is full; to-morrow it will be a desert!"
She looked up at him, and did not seem glad.
"I have enjoyed the season so much!" she said.
He thought her lip trembled.
"But you will come and see us at Comberidge, will you not?" she added.
"Do you think your mother will ask me?" he said.
"I think she will. I do so want to show you our library! And I have so many things to ask you!"
"I am your slave, the jin of your lamp."
"I would I had such a lamp as would call you!"
"It will need no lamp to make me come."
Lamps to call moths are plenty, and Lufa was herself one.