She gayly returned my eager look, and then, seeming suddenly to penetrate its meaning, cast down her eyes, while the color mounted into her cheeks. "You thought," she said, almost sternly, "that I did not love my child."
"No," I said half untruthfully.
"I can hardly wonder," she continued, more sadly, "for it is only what I have said to myself a thousand times. Sometimes I think that I have lived in a dream, and one that few share with me. I have questioned others, and never yet found a woman who did not admit that her child was more to her, in her secret soul, than her husband. What can they mean? Such a thought is foreign to my very nature."
"Why separate the two?" I asked.
"I must separate them in thought," she answered, with the air of one driven to bay by her own self-reproaching. "I had, like other young girls, my dream of love and marriage. Unlike all the rest, I believe, I found my visions fulfilled. The reality was more than the imagination; and I thought it would be so with my love for my child. The first cry of that baby told the difference to my ear. I knew it all from that moment; the bliss which had been mine as a wife would never be mine as a mother. If I had not known what it was to adore my husband, I might have been content with my love for Marian. But look at that exquisite creature as she lies there asleep, and then think that I, her mother, should desert her if she were dying, for aught I know, at one word from him!"
"Your feeling does not seem natural," I said, hardly knowing what to answer.
"What good does it serve to know that?" she said, defiantly. "I say it to myself every day. Once when she was ill, and was given back to me in all the precious helplessness of babyhood, there was such a strange sweetness in it, I thought the charm might remain; but it vanished when she could run about once more. And she is such a healthy, self-reliant little thing," added Laura, glancing toward the bed with a momentary look of motherly pride that seemed strangely out of place amid these self-denunciations. "I wish her to be so," she added. "The best service I can do for her is to teach her to stand alone. And at some day," continued the beautiful woman, her whole face lighting up with happiness, "she may love as I have loved."
"And your husband," I said, after a pause,--"does your feeling represent his?"
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