If perchance you gaze upon the disfigured visage of your partner, a writhing horror may twist itself across your features, like a snake gliding swiftly over them, causing your face to darken with powerful emotion; nevertheless, you must instantaneously control that emotion by an effort of thy will, so that your expression might pass for calmness, your revulsion become imperceptible, and subside finally into the depths of your nature.
Does the sun, which shines so brightly everywhere else, really fall upon her? Or is there, as it rather seems, a circle of ominous shadow moving along with her deformity whichever way she turns herself? Will she spread her bat’s wings and flee away, looking so much the more repugnant the higher she rises toward heaven? Thou must dwell no longer on such questions. Consider instead the aspects of your companion which irresistibly took possession of your thoughts from the very instant you laid your eyes upon them.
Art thou not afraid of nightmares and hideous dreams? What, in heaven’s name, is she? An abomination, a thing of unimaginable wretchedness! A poor forlorn creature, odious in the sight of every man, a grisly phantom, a thousand phantoms conjoined into one! Your response must be to shudder, but then must you strive to convert your dread into a kind of lurid triumph.
Surely thou hast chastised thyself, striking thy hand against thy forehead: “Am I mad? What is this that tempts me thus?” Thou hast put a cheat upon thyself for the sake of some momentary relief. Good heavens! Gazeth thou upon a visage that falls upon the eye of the beholder like a rough blow upon an ulcerated wound. “Have I then sold myself to Satan for the sake of mere transitory pleasures?” Whoever takes this path should look well to himself, or he may find the bargain to go hard against him. Thou must call upon thy sturdy force, thy courage and constancy, thy self-reliance, and all else that gives the emphasis to manly character.
Yet, indeed, there is a fiend at thine elbow, who permits the whole evil within her to be written on her features! But let the black flower blossom as it may. Doth the universe lie within the compass of yonder countenance? Is the world so narrow? Nay, it goes beyond that compass; some slight distance hence, thou shall find no vestige of the wreck and ruin from which the world turns aside in fear and detestation. There thou art free! She to whom thou dare not lift thine eyes is not all of one nature. Touch with thy finger to assure yourself: there are her realities—all else has vanished!
The man who is weak in mind often reviles the hand that is stretched forth to succor him, his coarse intellect observing only the revolting physiognomy made from the selfsame flesh and blood as that succoring hand. Such men are blind and foolish. These men do not realize that they have only to seek eligible shelter and concealment—they do not realize that they may, for a time, vanish out of the sight of mankind as completely as if they indeed lay at the bottom of the ocean; and at the bottom of the ocean, let us not forget, are pearls as valuable as any delight we may ever aim at or conceive of.
Though sorely tempted, do not say harshly to your companion: “Woman, the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of the countenance upon which it is asked to shine.” Say instead, but only to thyself, “This woman, repulsive as they deem her—all unsightly as she seems in that unearthly countenance—hath a bodily frame of unparalleled comeliness.” Go now and revel, friend. Life will never bring thee a more satisfying hour. Linger if thou desirest. Design another visit thither, with a view to gaining similar favors. The night will flee away, as if it were a wingèd steed; morning will come and peep, blushing, through the curtains; and at last sunrise will throw a golden beam upon the countenance upon which it has been asked to shine. But if thou hast but a single golden grain of practical wisdom, thou will have departed long ere the sunshine comes to its senses and flees in horror.