"My dearest—dearest,—you might go to Pisa without shoes,—or feet to wear them, for aught I know, since you may have wings, only folded away from me—but without your Wilson, or some one in her capacity, you .. no, I will not undertake to speak of you,—then, I, should be simply, exactly, INSANE to move a step; I would rather propose, let us live on bread and water, and sail in the hold of a merchant-ship,—THIS CANNOT be dispensed with!– It is most fortunate, most providential, that Wilson is inclined to go– I am very happy: for a new servant, with even the best dispositions, would never be able to anticipate your wants & wishes during the voyage, at the very beginning– Yet you write of this to me so, my Ba! I think I will, in policy, begin the anger at a good place. Yes, all the anger I am capable of descends on the head—(not in kisses, whatever you may fancy)–"
Well, that seems pretty well settled, I mean I think so, don't you? Then the question of the vicious attack dog, Flush:
"And so poor Flush suffered after all! Dogs that are dog-like would be at no such pains to tell you they would not see you with comfort approached by a stranger who might be—! A “muzzle”? oh, no—but suppose you have him removed next time, and perhaps the next, till the whole occurrence is out of his mind as the fly bite of last week—because, if he sees me and begins his barking and valiant snapping, and gets more and heavier vengeance down stairs, perhaps,—his transient suspicion of me, will confirm itself into absolute dislike,—hatred! Whereas, after an interval, we can renew acquaintance on a better footing. Dogs have such memories! My sister told me last week she saw in a Provincial Newspaper an anecdote of one,—a miller’s dog, that was a good fellow in the main but chose to take an especial dislike to one of his master’s customers, whom he invariably flew at and annoyed—so much so that the man declared he must carry his custom elsewhere unless the dog was parted with: this the miller was unwilling to do,—so he hit on an expedient—by some contrivance, the dog was suffered to fall into a deep well, and bark himself hoarse there in vain—no help came—till the obnoxious individual arrived, let himself down and brought up the prisoner– From which time, nothing could exceed the devotion of the dog to his rescuer,—whom he always insisted henceforth on accompanying as far as his home, for one instance of it."
Another typical Browning story, but you would think that the dog would then hate whoever threw him in the well. Hey, I'm just sayin'.
Miss Barrett, in the mean time, is awaiting her daily letter which has not arrived!
"No letter for me tonight! not a word!– Perhaps the post is sinning again– If so, I shall hear tomorrow morning, if not .. may it be anything rather than that you are more unwell than usual! anything!...
Dearest, did I annoy you .. frighten you, .. about Wilson yesterday? Did that prevent you from writing to me today——if really you did not write to me today? It yet was the merest question, .. I wished you to understand——the merest question for a yes or a no—and I shall not mind, however you may answer, be certain. I have been thinking today that it would be possible enough to leave a direction which might supply everything, & so escape inflicting the injury apprehended—yes, and as for myself, I shall manage perfectly– Observe how I pinned your coat, miraculously pricking you at the same moment. I shall do for myself & by myself, as well as possible. And therefore, judge, speak your thoughts out to the purpose & without drawback. I shall always feel to thank you for speaking the truth, even where it goes against me– But this will not go against me, however you speak it, .. understand.
And as for what my sisters think, it is nothing to the purpose. Say your ‘no’, & they never shall hear it .. I will avoid the subject from henceforth, with them .. that is all."
Oh dear, the missing letter has caused a fright. He is either angry, sick or the mail has sinned, so she covers all three possibilities.
"And take care of Mr Kenyon tomorrow. I feel afraid of Mr Kenyon. But take care of yourself most—look well that you never let me do, in the least or greatest matter, what would seem better undone hereafter– Not in the least, not in the greatest. For me if I am to be thought of, remember that you kill me, if you suffer me to injure you. That is for me.
See how I exhort people who do not write to me!. Ah no! It must be the post’s fault. You could not be very much vexed with me, I think, for a mere proposal about Wilson. And the rest of my letter was all made up of assent & agreement– You could not be vexed about Wilson—— And you shall not be ill, because I cannot bear to think of it– Which, dearest, is a good reason & irrefragable."
All this angst does not sit well with Browning who responds immediately:
Sweet, sweet, sweet Ba, look to be kissed to-morrow till it hurts you,—punished you ought to be for such a letter! When the ancients were in doubt about a man’s identity (the ancient fathers) they called him “aut Erasmus (or whoever it might be) aut—diabolus! [Either Erasmus or the devil]”—no gradation, no mean between best and worst! Or do you think Flush bit me and inoculated me with super-cynical snappishness?– Well, I do think I should not have conducted myself as you consider highly possible,—even if you had made,—let me say at once, the most preposterous of proposals, even that of going without Wilson, or her substitute,—I think and am sure I should, like a rational being, write all the faster to try and get you to reconsider the matter—convinced as I should be that your perfect good sense would, after a few minutes examination, see that I could no more take you away without such assistance than desire you to perform the passage of the Montcénis on foot. Do I not remember that you intended to be thus accompanied even when your sister was to be of the party? But the absolute necessity of what you fancy I may object to .. it is not that, I complain about—but of the strange notion, that whenever Fate shall decree that you say, or do, or think anything, from which I shall be forced to differ,—my proceedings will needs take this fashion and colour—I shall “sulk” and say nothing,—or perhaps turn aside grandly offended and meditative of noble vengeance! Oh, Ba, dearest, dearest beyond all words, come for once and always into the heart which is your own, and see how full it is of you—and, if you say, that does not prevent the head being weak and acting accordingly, I will begin exemplifying the very point I want to convince you of, by at once writing and speaking and by every imaginable means making you know, that the heart does teach the head better than such foolishness—ought to do it, and does do it!
Do you believe me, Ba, my own? Or, what nonsense!– Did you wonder at my letter when it did come? Or did it come? It was duly posted at Deptford– Moreover the “Thursday” at the top was written “Wednesday”—because all day long I was in that error—having been used to see you on Mondays, and to calculate my time by the number of days since I saw you—whence, knowing to my cost that two days had gone by since such an event, I thought what I wrote–
Now kiss me, my very own, for an end to every thing,—your doubt and my impudent making the most of it,—for I do not doubt you, sweetest, truest, best love!
To-morrow brings me to you, Ba, I trust– I will be careful to-day, never fear your
own devoted RB"
Yes, he did take impudent advantage of her nervousness but that was certainly what she deserved. She certainly loves to torment him.