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The Secret

By T. Mackenzie

YES, you would have me know that it is within the little casket
held level below your tiny, pointed chin, but you forget I
can look into your solemn, omniscient eyes, and read that the
secret lies within them too. Never was mystery more safe than
in your keeping, you weird little creature, with- eyes of a Sphinx
and mouth of a baby. Was your secret known to the artist who
painted you, to him who gave you that thrilling look, over-
teeming with what you can never tell ? Where two persons
know, there concealment is weak, so I am assured that neither
the painter who conceived you, nor I who am in love with you,
can share the knowledge you were created to hide. You are so
sure of it that you look me through and through, guiltless of
having any treasure which no one may share. ” Why need I
fear you ? ” I read in your eyes, ” I hold what you can never
know. I am Mystery, and exist only so long as no one has my

Little positive negation ! Like to-morrow, which never is but
always to be with us, you offer perpetually what you will never
grant. Do you know that you tempt me well-nigh beyond
endurance with that wistful, eldritch beauty, and, madman that I
become, I would that you were a living thing that I might kill


                        234 The Secret

you, and so annihilate the rigid negation of your obstinate self-
control. Have you no compassion for us poor humanity, with
our infinite capacity for needing, that you should sur-taunt us with
that inexorable look of denial ? You glory in your power, there
is satisfaction about your lips, and you hold the casket lightly to
show that it is hopelessly beyond our reach. Indeed, it seems to
me at times, that you are offering the little bronze treasure to the
world at large, saying :

” Here, take my Secret ! ” knowing that you but invite in order
to refuse.

I wonder did you ever live on earth ? Sometimes you seem to
me to be a worldly little person, made to drive a man distracted
for the want of you. It gives you more satisfaction to say No
than Yes ; your baby mouth may be willing and weak, yet your
eyes are always stern, and see too far to care for what is near.
Who once gained your soul, however, would gain it for all
eternity. Steadfast is the watchword of that soul, union or
purpose, oneness of design, truth absolute are its attributes.

I like to sit here beside you, while the dim light of London day
suggests the neutral hue of dusky hair that might be brown and
shadowed eyes that might be blue, and fancy that once you were
a living girl, an artist’s model, and, had you lived, might still be
in the fulness of sweet womanhood.

I am sure that you are dead. I like to fancy that you fulfilled
one duty to the artist and that then you died. Life could not
have wanted you longer, having made you what the picture on
my wall reflects. For all trivial purpose in the world, surely of
all maids you were most unfit. When I think of you as leading
the life of any girl whom fate has brought near my path, I can-
not but smile at the incongruity of the notion. That you lived
is, I grant, a fair thought, but that you should be and act as


                        235 T. Mackenzie

other women is an absurd one. Who ever possessed a personality
like yours that you should be expected to resemble another ? I
would as lief imagine that I had two mothers, that two moons
ruled the sea’s tide, as fancy that any one like you in being and
in face ever set foot upon this stony world of stumbling. The
very sweep of your hair falling parted round your face is unique,
the colour of your eyes, neither blue nor green nor grey is un-
paralleled. Who else had hands like those upholding the casket,
unless perhaps it were he, whose stroke upon the lyre made the
mountain tops to bow in adoration ?

All around you is dark, mystic, suggestive ; the delicate tender-
ness of your face against the gloomy canvas is like the petal of a
wild rose adrift upon a murky stream, white and pink and leaf-

* * * *

There are those to whom Mystery is a thing of horror. The
unseen offers suggestions so unthinkable that the mind turns
drowning to what is comprehensible. To such as these my
picture will never be a thing of joy. It offers nothing that the
mind of man can fathom, and the thoughts it awakens bear no

Some there are, and I am or this category, to whom pure
happiness is only possible when all that pertains to the intellect of
man is in abeyance, and the unreasoning, unstudied, uncalculating
part of him is in the ascendant, jubilant in the recklessness of
nature—divinely the brute. Ascetism may recoil at the words,
philosophy be shocked, nevertheless our most glorious passions are
those which are instinctive. Motherhood, Heroism, Love, do
they spring from the intellect ? Irrational, if you will so name
them, these instinctive, animal feelings have not lowered man-

                                                kind ;

                        236 The Secret

kind ; contrariwise, they have prompted him to Godlike action
when reason would have made him coward.

We may revel in our science, classify and label our emotions,
we can never argue away the beauty of what passes the under-
standing, and to say that Mystery is an abomination is to despise
God and Life and Love and Hope.

With dismay I think on the dissatisfaction inevitably linked
with the solving of what was unknown, that bitter taste under-
lying so much that is rapturous on earth, and I look up at my
maiden with her Secret, and know that the greatest wisdom in
the world is hers.

MLA citation:

Mackenzie, T. “The Secret.” The Yellow Book, vol. 11, October 1896, pp. 233-236. Yellow Book Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010-2014. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020.