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Love LETTER XV
You told me, dearest, that I should find your mother formidable. It is
true; I did. She is a person very much in the grand pagan style: I admire
it, but I cannot flow in that sort of company, and I think she meant to
crush me. You were very wise to leave her to come alone.

I like her: I mean I believe that under that terribleness she has a
heart of gold, which once opened would never shut: but she has not
opened it to me. I believe she could have a great charity, that no
evil-doing would dismay her: "stanch" sums her up. But I have done
nothing wrong enough yet to bring me into her good graces. Loving her
son, even, though, I fear, a great offense, has done me no good turn.

Perhaps that is her inconsistency: women are sure to be inconsistent
somewhere: it is their birthright.

I began to study her at once, to find _you_: it did not take long. How I
could love her, if she would let me!

You know her far far better than I, and want no advice: otherwise I
would say--never praise me to her; quote my follies rather! To give
ground for her distaste to revel in will not deepen me in her bad books
so much as attempts to warp her judgment.

I need not go through it all: she will have told you all that is to the
purpose about our meeting. She bristled in, a brave old fighting figure,
announcing compulsion in every line, but with all her colors flying. She
waited for the door to close, then said, "My son has bidden me come, I
suppose it is my duty: he is his own master now."

We only shook hands. Our talk was very little of you. I showed her all the
horses, the dogs, and the poultry; she let the inspection appear to
conclude with myself: asked me my habits, and said I looked healthy. I
owned I felt it. "Looks and feelings are the most deceptive things in the
world," she told me; adding that "poor stock" got more than its share of
these. And when she said it I saw quite plainly that she meant me.

I wonder where she gets the notion: for we are a long-lived race, both
sides of the family. I guessed that she would like frankness, and was as
frank as I could be, pretending no deference to her objections. "You
think you suit each other?" she asked me. My answer, "He suits me!"
pleased her maternal palate, I think. "Any girl might say that!" she
admitted. (She might indeed!)

This is the part of our interview she will not have repeated to you.

I was due at Hillyn when she was preparing to go: Aunt N---- came in,
and I left her to do the honors while I slipped on my habit. I rode by
your mother's carriage as far as the Greenway, where we branched. I
suppose that is what her phrase means that you quote about my "making a
trophy of her," and marching her a prisoner across the borders before
all the world!

I do like her: she is worth winning.--Can one say warmer of a future
mother-in-law who stands hostile?

All the same it was an ordeal. I believe I have wept since: for Benjy
scratched my door often yesterday evening, and looked most wistful when
I came out. Merely paltry self-love, dearest:--I am so little accustomed
to not being--liked.

I think she will be more gracious in her own house. I have her formal
word that I am to come. Soon, not too soon, I will come over; and you
shall meet me and take me to see her. There is something in her
opposition that I can't fathom: I wondered twice was lunacy her notion:
she looked at me so hard.

My mother's seclusion and living apart from us was not on _that_
account. I often saw her: she was very dear and sweet to me, and had
quiet eyes the very reverse of a person mentally deranged. My father, I
know, went to visit her when she lay dying; and I remember we all wore
mourning. My uncle has told me they had a deep regard for each other:
but disagreed, and were independent enough to choose living apart.

I do not remember my father ever speaking of her to us as children: but
I am sure there was no state of health to be concealed.

Last night I was talking to Aunt N---- about her. "A very dear woman,"
she told me, "but your father was never so much alive to her worth as
the rest of us." Of him she said, "A dear, fine fellow: but not at all
easy to get on with." Him, of course, I have a continuous recollection
of, and "a fine fellow" we did think him. My mother comes to me more
rarely, at intervals.

Don't talk me down your mother's throat: but tell her as much as she cares
to know of this. I am very proud of my "stock" which she thinks "poor"!

Dear, how much I have written on things which can never concern us
finally, and so should not ruffle us while they last! Hold me in your
heart always, always; and the world may turn adamant to me for aught I
care! Be in my dreams to-night!
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