Thereafter Felix Kennaston wrote no more books. He revised painstakingly, for the uniform edition of his works, the "privately printed" volumes of his remote youth; he collected a body of miscellaneous verse in the curiously unequal Chimes at Midnight : but after The Tinctured Veil he wrote nothing more save only those occasional papers which later were assembled in How Many Angels. "I am afraid to write against the author of Men Who Loved Alison," he was wont to flippantly d eclare. And a few of us suspected even then that he spoke the plain truth.
For this Kennaston to us seemed like an instrument that had been used to accomplish a needed bit of work, and, when the work was done, had been put by. And he did not matter: what only mattered was the fact that we possessed Men Who Loved Alison. A quota of youngsters here and there, I know, begin to assert that we have in The Tinctured Veil an affair of even more grave importance, and they may be right. It is a question which will for our generation remain unsettled.
Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Kennaston continued their round of decorous social duties: their dinner-parties were chronicled in the Lichfield Courier-Herald; and Kennaston delivered, by request, two scholarly addresses before the Lichfield Woman's Club , was duly brought forward to shake hands with all celebrities who visited the city, and served acceptably in the vestry of his church.
Was Felix Kennaston content?--that is a question he alone could have answered.
"But why shouldn't I have been?" he said, a little later, in reply to the pointblank query. "I had a handsome home, two motors, money in four banks, and a good-looking wife who loved and coddled me. The third prince gets no more at the end of any fairy tale. Still, the old woman spoke the truth, of course--one pays as one goes out.... Oh, yes, one pays!--that is an inevitable rule; but what you have to pay is not exorbitant, all things considered.... So, be off with your crude pessimisms, Harrowby!"< p> And indeed, when one comes to think, he was in no worse case than any other husband of his standing. "Who wins his love must lose her," as no less tunefully than wisely sings one of our poets--a married bard, you may be sure--and all experience tends to prove his warbling perfectly veracious. Romancers, from Time's nonage, have invented and have manipulated a host of staple severances for their puppet lovers--sedulously juggling, ever since Menander's heyday, with compromising letters and unscrupulous r ivals and shipwrecks and wills and testy parents and what not--and have contrived to show love over-riding these barriers plausibly enough. But he must truly be a bold-faced rhapsodist who dared at outset marry his puppets, to each other, and tell you ho w their love remained unchanged.
I am thus digressing, in obsolete Thackerayan fashion, to twaddle about love-matches alone. People marry through a variety of other reasons, and with varying results: but to marry for love is to invite inevitable tragedy. There needs no side-glancing h ere at such crass bankruptcies of affection as end in homicide or divorce proceedings, or even just in daily squabbling: these dramas are of the body. They may be taken as the sardonic comedies, or at their most outrageous as the blustering cheap melodr amas, of existence; and so lie beyond the tragic field. For your true right tragedy is enacted on the stage of a man's soul, with the man's reason as lone auditor.
And being happily married--but how shall I word it? Let us step into the very darkest corner. Now, my dear Mr. Grundy, your wife is a credit to her sex, an ornament to her circle, and the mainstay of your home; and you, sire, are proverbially the most c omplacent and uxorious of spouses. But you are not, after all, mariied to the girl you met at the chancel-rail, so long and long ago, with unforgotten tremblings of the the knees. Your wife, that estimable matron, is quite another person. And you live in the same house, and you very often see her with her hair uncombed, or even with a disheveled temper; you are familiar with her hours of bathing, her visits to the dentist, and a host of other physical phenomena we need not go into; she does not appreci ate your jokes; she peeps into your personal correspondence; she keeps the top bureau-drawer in a jumble of veils and gloves and powder-rags and hair-pins and heaven knows what; her gowns continually require to be buttoned up the back in an insane incalcu lable fashion; she irrationally orders herring for breakfast, though you never touch it:--and, in fine, your catalogue of disillusionments is endless.
Hand upon heart, my dear Mr. Grundy, is this the person to whom you dispatched those letters you wrote before you were married? Your wife has these epistles safely put away somewhere, you may depend on it: and for what earthly consideration would you re ad them aloud to her? Some day, when one or the other of you is dead, those letters will ring true again and rouse a noble sorrow; and the survivor will be all the better for reading them. But now they only prove you were once free of uplands which you do not visit nowadays: and this common knowledge is a secret every wife must share half-guiltily with her husband--even in your happiest matrimonial ventures--as certainly as it is the one topic they may not ever discuss with profit.
For you are married, you and she: and you live, contentedly enough, in a four-square world, where there is the rent and your social obligations and the children's underclothing to be considered, long and long before indulgence in rattle-pate mountain-cli mbing. And people glibly think of you as Mr. and Mrs. Grundy now, almost as a unit: but do you really know very much about that woman whose gentle breathing--for we will not crudely call it snoring--you are privleged, now, to hear every night until the o ne or the other of you is done with breathing? Suppose, by a wild flight of fancy, that she is no more honest with you than you are with her?
So to Kennaston his wife remained a not unfriendly mystery. They had been demi-gods for a little while; and the dream had faded, to leave it matters not what memories; and they were only Mr. and Mrs. Felix Bulmer Kennaston. Of all of us, my fellow failu res in the great and hopeless adventure of matrimony, this apologue is narrated.
Yet, as I look into my own wife's face--no more the loveliest, but still the dearest of all earthly faces, I protest--and as I`wonder how much she really knows about me or the universe at large, and have not the least notion--why, I elect to believe that, in the ultimate, Kennaston was not dissatisfied. For all of us the dream-haze merges into the glare of common day: the dea certe, whom that fled roseate light transfigured, stands confessed a simple loving woman, a creature of like flesh and limi tations as our own: but who are we to mate with goddesses? It is enough that much in us which is not merely human has for once found exercise--has had its high-pitched outing, however fleet--and that, because of many abiding memories, we know, assuredly , the way of flesh is not a futile scurrying through dining-rooms and offices and shops and parlors, and thronged streets and restaurants, "and so to bed."