My Friend: Do you think this a cold way of beginning? I do not: is it not the true send-off of love? I do not know how men fall in love: but I could not have had that come-down in your direction without being your friend first. Oh, my dear, and after, after; it is but a limitless friendship I have grown into!
I have heard men run down the friendships of women as having little true substance. Those who speak so, I think, have never come across a real case of woman's friendship. I praise my own sex, dearest, for I know some of their loneliness, which you do not: and until a certain date their friendship was the deepest thing in life I had met with.
For must it not be true that a woman becomes more absorbed in friendship than a man, since friendship may have to mean so much more to her, and cover so far more of her life, than it does to the average man? However big a man's capacity for friendship, the beauty of it does not fill his whole horizon for the future: he still looks ahead of it for the mate who will complete his life, giving his body and soul the complement they require. Friendship alone does not satisfy him: he makes a bigger claim on life, regarding certain possessions as his right.
But a woman:—oh, it is a fashion to say the best women are sure to find husbands, and have, if they care for it, the certainty before them of a full life. I know it is not so. There are women, wonderful ones, who come to know quite early in life that no men will ever wish to make wives of them: for them, then, love in friendship is all that remains, and the strongest wish of all that can pass through their souls with hope for its fulfillment is to be a friend to somebody.
It is man's arrogant certainty of his future which makes him impatient of the word "friendship": it cools life to his lips, he so confident that the headier nectar is his due!
I came upon a little phrase the other day that touched me so deeply: it said so well what I have wanted to say since we have known each other. Some peasant rhymer, an Irishman, is singing his love's praises, and sinks his voice from the height of his passionate superlatives to call her his "share of the world." Peasant and Irishman, he knew that his fortune did not embrace the universe: but for him his love was just that—his share of the world.
Surely when in anyone's friendship we seem to have gained our share of the world, that is all that can be said. It means all that we can take in, the whole armful the heart and senses are capable of, or that fate can bestow. And for how many that must be friendship—especially for how many women!
My dear, you are my share of the world, also my share of Heaven: but there I begin to speak of what I do not know, as is the way with happy humanity. All that my eyes could dream of waking or sleeping, all that my ears could be most glad to hear, all that my heart could beat faster to get hold of—your friendship gave me suddenly as a bolt from the blue.
My friend, my friend, my friend! If you could change or go out of my life now, the sun would drop out of my heavens: I should see the world with a great piece gashed out of its side,—my share of it gone. No, I should not see it, I don't think I should see anything ever again,—not truly.
Is it not strange how often to test our happiness we harp on sorrow? I do: don't let it weary you. I know I have read somewhere that great love always entails pain. I have not found it yet: but, for me, it does mean fear,—the sort of fear I had as a child going into big buildings. I loved them: but I feared, because of their bigness, they were likely to tumble on me.
But when I begin to think you may be too big for me, I remember you as my "friend," and the fear goes for a time, or becomes that sort of fear I would not part with if I might.
I have no news for you: only the old things to tell you, the wonder of which ever remains new. How holy your face has become to me: as I saw it last, with something more than the usual proofs of love for me upon it—a look as if your love troubled you! I know the trouble: I feel it, dearest, in my own woman's way. Have patience.—When I see you so, I feel that prayer is the only way given me for saying what my love for you wishes to be. And yet I hardly ever pray in words.
Dearest, be happy when you get this: and, when you can, come and give my happiness its rest. Till then it is a watchman on the lookout.
"Night-night!" Your true sleepy one.