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hold his hands, while fitting on the mask of
indifference and sharpening the gag of silence.
They think they have him safe. Bound hand
and foot, dumb-lipped and stony-eyed, he lies in
sobbing captivity between them; and Prudence
draws her mantle close round her, and Honour
turns his diamond star full into the sunlight,
and they whisper to each other congratulations
on their victory, and dispose of the fate of the
conquered thing between them. Just for a
moment these pæans softly whispered across the
body of Love masked, bound, and sobbing
just for a moment of rest and silencethen up
with the cry, off with the mask, away with the
bondsfree, unbound, eloquent, and confessed,
stands Love; and Prudence and Honour go
shivering and beaten into the waste beyond the
garden. Love! Love! Love! who has ever
bound him? whose mask has ever hidden the
glowing splendour of his face? Prudence and
Honour have sometimes overthrown him in
his tenderest years; Jealousy has transformed
him to the likeness of Hate; he has lain as
if dead under the wounds of Coldness;
Inconstancy has bound his mouth with shame; and
Death has plucked the roses from his cheeks
and the kisses from his lips; but not one of
them all has ever yet been his victor when he
has come to his full strength, and even Death
has not dragged him to annihilation!

Very frail for the most part are the masks of
love; a breath blows them away and a tear
dissolves them into nothingness, they fall off at
the faintest touch of a tender hand, and are
transparent to all but the eyes of the beloved.
But to him by some strange glamour of the
fancy the flimsiest veil that can be worn
becomes as impenetrable as a six-inch plank,
and a hollow mask, loose and slipping aside at
every turn, with the eyes of Love gleaming
through like stars on a winter’s night, is as
firmly fixed as the eternal tombas desolate, as
dark, and as empty. Many are the masks which
maidenly shyness, and many those which
womanly reserve, fashion for love. The most
general pattern is that of indifference, which
often gets itself accepted when it fain would be
refused, and which sometimes puts its wearer to
the embarrassment of unmasking of her own free
will, if she would not be left for ever under her
disguise. Then there is the mask of petulance
which is a kind of baby anger; and the mask of
jealousy which simulates every other passion
under heaven; and the mask of coquetry which
now is burning hot and now ashen cold, leaving
the poor beholder in bewilderment as to which
is the true complexion after all, and what the
real reading of the erotic thermometer. But
still and always, though every one else can see
through the disguise, the Beloved is stone blind;
and the mask, whatever it may be; holds good
for the true face beneath.

Which do you see, a face or a mask, when your
friend tells you he is glad to see youoh!
very glad indeed! smiling floridly and speaking
heartily, when all the while wishing you at the
bottom of the Red Sea? The thing you look
at has the semblance of a face; there are the
eyes, nose, and mouth, the skin and the hair
generally held integral to that part of the
person; but for all truth of meaning, the
face of your friend smiling floridly is a mere
mask showing nothing. How many people
indeed show their true faces in society? The
warm hand press would often, if truthfully
translated, mean a dagger-stab; the glancing
eyes would shoot forth poisoned arrows; the
radiant smile would be a crisped-up sneer; the
cordial welcome a growl of forbidding. The
mask of polite needs and conventional smoothness
hides the most wonderful unlikeness in the
face beneath. Yet if it were not so, we should
be all at fighting distance from each other,
taking aim with bullets, not sugar-comfits, at
each other’s heads. Depend upon it, the
manufacture of passable masks is the secret
work of almost every one’s life; and not what
shall be shown, but what can be concealed, the
problem afflicting most souls. I grant the value
of this masking under many conditions. All
needless anger, all narrow spite, all silly
prejudice, all enmity, malevolence, annoyance, and
contempt, all the range of hostile feelings are
always better for being tight-masked and
impenetrably veiled; but I never have understood
why the gentler emotions, and the joyous,
should be concealed; and why we should not be
allowed to live with open faces, when we have
nothing but love and pleasure to show. We are
so desperately afraid of “committing ourselves,”
as we call it, when we go about the world
unmasked; and I should like to know what great
harm there would be in this self-committal, and
how it is that a mask which does not speak the
truth should be so much more considered than
a face which does. The enigmas which rule
human society, without ever a key to unlock
their hidden meaning, are manifold; but is
there, honestly, one more puzzling than the
regard attached to masks, and the disrepute
into which faces have fallen?

What a mask the unhappy wife is forced for
prudence and self-respect to wear over that poor
tear-dewed face of hers! If she does not wear
it, and if she lets the tears fall down in the
sight of all, burning ploughshares will not be too
hot for her feet to walk on, and she must carry
live coals from the world’s altar, though they
scorch her trembling fingers to the bone. Full
of sympathy as the world is for her sorrows if
only delicately indicatedlifting a mere corner
of the veil daintilyit has neither sympathy nor
respect if broadly shown, and rung into its
ears through a six-foot speaking-trumpet. The
mask of the ill-mated spouse, male or female,
must be of peculiar manufacture and most
careful manipulation; the kind more usually
adopted, because most generally approved of,
being one embodying a gentle patiencea
plaintive manner of martyrdomSaint Cecilia
exhaling her soul in mournful musicSaint
Sebastian lying speechless under the cruel
arrows piercing his heart. By no means a
sturdy denial of pain, but the confession of it