Love’s Ideals

All men, and more especially those of a sympathetic nature, have in their youth not one divinity only, but many, toward which their minds turn with love and fond entreaty. Afterward, when these romantic attachments have given place to other and more serious things, our lives are still colored by them, and to our lasting benefit. For such attachments, however evanescent, shape the destinies of men and sweeten their lives as with the gentle fragrance of a flower.
Nor are we less sincere in youth because the glass that reflects the image of our love to-day shadows forth another picture quite as attractive on the morrow. All are real, and add to the attractiveness of men’s lives, as does every comforting or ennobling thought. The opening prospect of youth ever mirrors the present to the exclusion of the future, for which it has no thought; and, similarly, the newness of the world and its constant changes crowd out the imagery of yesterday with the expectations of to-day. For that which is past there is, for the present, no retrospective glance. Its attachments and delusions, however, are none the less real, and though seemingly without purpose, serve to enrich the heart and build up a love of life’s graces that sweetens and softens the character of men forever afterward. Lacking such food, the mind and heart are deficient in the things that make men something more than animals. For the imagery of life, be it good or bad, has its growth in youth, but its pictures pass so quickly, one upon the other, that only in after years do they recur to charm our lives with their reflected glow or darken it with their somber shadows.
These thoughts, however trite they may be, recur to me now when I recall the memory of my mother. So long as she lived she possessed my tenderest affection, and nowhere except in her could I discern all that was good and beautiful in woman. While, however, I set her thus apart, a being to revere and worship, other imaginings of which I was not conscious were already beginning to light the fires of love along the pathway of my opening life. Looking back now over the fast-fading years of my youth, I cannot recall any period that did not thus have its imagery of love—its reflection of a youthful face set about with some sweet femininity that attracted and held me, but unobtrusively as a lily might take my fancy or the green of a meadow bordered about with trees and flowers. Such impressions have no consciousness at the time, and are doubly tender and lasting because thus expressionless; for woven in with the little things of life, they form the ideals of our youth and the tender strands that expand the heart and make mature existence tolerable.
5In my mother I saw perfection, and if I found in another some sweet intrusion of character or line of beauty, it was but a reflection of something more perfect in her. Because of this great love, I have ever esteemed it the most happy circumstance of my being that at the time of losing her there should have come into my life one who was like her in gentleness and sweetness of character. So that while I ever cherished her memory with tenderest affection, I could never afterward picture her as different in any way from the sweet being who now came to take her place in all the dreams and longings of my life.
Such was Constance Seymour, of whom I speak; and it being true that we were both motherless and in a measure forlorn in the world, we straightway came to love each other, and in that sweet solace of life found the contentment and happiness our hearts so greatly craved; and it was wholly due to her love and gentle nature that I did not lose interest in the soft amenities of life after my mother’s death or cease to make some effort to fulfill the aims to which she had so hopefully looked forward. Thus buoyed and cheered in my new life, and with my heart overflowing with love for the sweet creature, and desire above all things for her good opinion, I was able to look upon the mishaps that befell me as things not worth considering in comparison with the happiness of being thought well of by her.