Puslapio vaizdai

"You did n't care to go with the others, motoring?" I took my place beside her. "You'd have liked Marjorams. It 's a lovely old place. Some people think it beats Compton Dally, though, naturally, I'm not one of them."

"I'm sure you 're not," said Mollie, laughing a little. "That was one of the things that first struck me about youhow you loved it. I felt that you were a fiercely loyal person."

"I think I am -narrow loyalties, but fierce ones," I said. "But you have n't answered my question."

"About motoring? I don't care much about it, you know. And there really was n't room enough for me."

I knew there had n't been; but I was deliberately eschewing tact.

"Has Captain Thornton gone?" I inquired, knowing, also, that he had n't.

"No; Lady Vera is reading to him in the flagged garden," said Mollie in the voice that showed me how little she had to learn about spiritual control. "Lady Vera is going to take him out for a run in her two-seater before dinner. He enjoys that a great deal more than the big motor."

"It's far pleasanter, certainly," I agreed. And I went on: "They are reading, you mean, in the dream-garden. You must n't forget that it's a dream-garden -where one goes to be alone."

She looked round at me quickly, and after a moment I saw that she faintly colored. She said nothing, leaving it to me. to follow up my graceless gibe. I was quite ready to follow it up.

"As a matter of fact," I said, knitting the loops along the side of my heel, "Vera hardly ever is alone there. It's always, with Vera, a solitude à deux. She's not at all the sort of woman for real solitude. She is the sort of woman who likes to feel, or, rather, to look lonely and not to be ' alone."

To this, after a pause, Mollie said: "She is very charming; Clive finds her very charming." And, forced to it, apparently, by my crudity, she added, "Are n't you fond of her, then?"

"No, I'm not; not particularly," I said. "Especially not just now. Vera is not at her best, to my mind, when she is being angelic to young married men."

Mollie Thornton now blushed deeply. "I am perfectly contented that she should be angelic to Clive," she said.

"You are very loyal," I returned. "But you'll own that he is getting more out of it than you are. It's a place, Compton Dally, for wounded heroes rather than for a wounded hero's wife."

"Do you mean," she asked after a moment, "that I ought n't to have come?" She had indeed owned to everything in the bewilderment of the question. I laughed at it.

"Ought n't to have been with your husband at a time like this! Even Vera could hardly ask that, could she? And that 's my quarrel with her; that it's the time of all times that you should be together and that she never lets you see him, practically."

She looked away, and after a moment I saw that her eyes had filled with tears. "He has n't an idea of it," she said at last.

"That fact does n't make you happier, does it?"


"He thinks I 'm as happy as he is. thinks that we are together in it all, and that she is an angel to me, too," said Mollie. "She always is an angel to me when she sees me."

"All men are rather stupid when it comes to knowing whether their wives are happy," I remarked. "I think your Clive

is a great dear; but I like you best because you see things and he does n't. You, for instance, see that Vera is n't an angel, though she may look like one.”

"He has no reason to think anything else, has he?" said Mollie, and I saw that I had brought her to the point to which I had intended to bring her. "I don't let him guess that I 'm not happy; it would be horrid of me if I did, for it would only mean that he 'd feel at once that we must go away, and all this loveliness would be over for him. A stuffy little flat in Bayswater is n't a very alluring alternative;


"It's my one corner. My one place to be alone.

I don't see people here unless I 've asked them to come""

and that's where we 'd have to go-to my aunt's-till Clive was better."

"How you'd love the stuffy flat! How glad you 'd be to be there with him! And, to do him justice, how happy he'd be there with you! He will be in a month's time. The only question is, the month. No, Vera is n't an angel. If she were an angel, she 'd have seen to it that you were happy here, too. But when it comes to being nice to other women,- really nice, I mean,-she can be a cat. And what I'd like very much to see now is what she'd make of it if you could show her that you could look like an angel, too. It's so much a matter of looks."

"Make of it? But I could n't look like an angel."

"You could look like a rival; that 's another way of doing it. You could look like another woman of her own sort. You could make her see you. She simply does n't see you now. I suspect that if Vera saw you and saw that you were charming, she 'd show her claws. I'd like Captain Thornton to see her showing her claws."

In silent astonishment, her blue eyes fixed upon me, Mollie gazed.

"No, I don't hate Vera, if that's what you 're wondering," I said. "I like you, that 's all, and I don't intend that she shall go on making you unhappy."

"But I don't want Clive made unhappy," Mollie said. "I can't imagine what you mean; but, whatever it is, I don't want it. I could n't bear all this to be spoiled for him. I could n't bear it not to be always, for him, a paradise."

It was my turn to gaze at her, and I gazed penetratingly.

"And what if it all came to mean that you yourself, because of it, were never to be more to him than a second-rate paradise? What if she were to spoil you for him?"

I brought out the cruel questions deliberately, and for a moment Mollie faced them and me.

"Why do you say that? How cruel to say that!" she murmured, and then suddenly she bowed her head upon her hands. "It's been my terror. I've been ashamed

of myself for thinking it. And now-you see it!"

I put my arm around her shoulders. "I'm not cruel. I only want us to see things together. I don't really think they 'd ever come to that; and, at all events, he would never know that they had."

"But I should," Mollie said.

"Yes, you would. And it 's horribly true that real things can be spoiled and blighted by false things. I've often seen it happen. You do see the danger, and you must take up the burden, my dear, of being cleverer than your husband, and save him along with yourself. If Vera were what she looks and seems to him, he might be right in feeling that he found in her something he could n't find in you. You must show him that she is n't what she looks and seems, and you must show him that you can be a first-rate paradise, too."

"In a little flat in Bayswater! On a chicken-farm! No, it can't be done. Paradises of this sort don't grow in such places," poor Mollie moaned.

"You can keep up the real paradise on them-the one he has already-when you get there. The point is that you must show him now that you can look like this one here. And the way to look it is to dress it. I'm sure you 've realized the absolutely supreme importance of dress for women of the paradise type-the women you see here, all these sweet ministering angels to the Tommies and the young husbands. I don't mean to say that, with the exception of Vera, they 're not as nice as you are in spite of being well dressed; but I do mean that if they dressed as you do they'd not be women of the paradise."

Mollie's hands had fallen, and she was gazing again with eyes childlike, astonished, and trusting.

"But, Judith, what do you mean?" she asked. "Dress? Of course you all dress beautifully. Have n't I loved simply looking at you all, as if you 'd been the most exquisite birds? But how could I do it? I have n't the money; I never have had. If one has no money, one must be either

esthetic or dowdy, and I 've always preferred to be dowdy."

"Yes, I saw that; I liked you for that. There's hope for the dowdy, but none for the esthetic; the one is humble, and the other is complacent. Your clothes express renunciation simply-and the summer sales. But though it is a question of money, some women who have masses of money never learn how to dress. They remain mere dressmakers' formulas; and others, with very little, can't be passed by. They count anywhere. You 've noticed my clothes. I 've hardly any money, yet I'm perfect. All my clothes mean just what I intend them to; just as Vera's mean what she intends, and Mrs. TraversCray's and Lady Dighton's, and Milly's, for Milly already is as clever as possible at knowing her thing. But you 've abandoned the attempt to intend. You 've sunk down, and you let the winds rake over you. You 've always made me think of a larkspur, that blue and silver kind, all pensive grace and delicacy; but you 're a larkspur that has n't been staked. Your sprays don't count; they tumble anyhow, and no one sees your shape or color. Last night, for instance- that turquoise-blue chiffon little dress. You must n't wear turquoise-blue chiffon; not turquoise, and not that sort of chiffon."

"I know it. I hated it," she said. "Of course you did, and so does any one who looks at you in it."

"But I could n't afford the better qualities," she appealed. "And in the cheaper ones I could n't get the blue I wanted, the soft Japanese blue."

"No, you could n't. And you thought it would n't show if you had it made up on sateen. It always does show. No, it needs thought and time and computing, too much time, too much thought, to say nothing of too much money for many women, of course; for them it would n't be worth it. There are other things to do than to live in paradise. But for you it is worth it; to show him that you can look like an angel, and to show him that Vera can look like a cat. No, I'll show him; mine is the responsibility. It's worth it,

at all events, to me. I'll put in the stakes, and tie you and loop you and display you. You'll see. I told you I'd a clever little dressmaker. That's an essential. And we 'll scrape up the money. You shall be dressed for once as you intend."

She was bewildered, aghast, tempted, and, on the top of everything, intensely amused. Her face was lighted as I 'd never seen it before with pure mirth, and it looked like still, silver water that becomes suddenly glimmering, quivering, eddying, and sunlit. She was charming thus lighted. It was a sort of illumination of which Vera's face is incapable; her gaiety is always clouded with irony.

"It is all too kind, too astonishing, too funny for words," Mollie said. "Of course I should love to be well dressed for once, and I can't see why I should n't avail myself of your little dressmaker now, -especially now, since, as you tell me, I offend through my dowdiness. And I do really need some new clothes. I'm wearing out my trousseau ones, you know. Yes; was n't it a horrid little trousseau? But, don't you see," and the sunlight faded, "I can't be real; not a real angel, not a real paradise. It 's much deeper. It's a question of roots. It's the way they smile, the way they walk, the way they know what they want to say and what they don't want to say."

I nodded. "You know, too, and you 'd say it, if people saw you and cared to hear what you said."

"That would help, of course. I 've never felt so stupid in my life as here. But, oh, it 's deeper!" said Mollie. "I don't belong to it. How they all make me feel it! I'm an outsider; and why should. I pretend not to be?"

"It would n't be pretending anything to dress as you 'd like to dress. No one who sees is an outsider nowadays, if they can contrive to make themselves seen. That's the whole point. And there's nothing you don't see. You see far more than Vera does. Don't bother about the roots. Take care of the flowers, and the roots will take care of themselves; that 's another modern maxim for you. Your flow

ers are there, and all that we need think of now is how to show them. Wait. You 'll see. We'll go up to London to-morrow," I said; "and this very evening we 'll have a talk about your hair."

You may be sure that I was on the spot to see a week or so later my larkspur's début as an angel. We were all assembled in the drawing-room before dinner, and she was a little late, as I, not she, had intended that she should be. It was precisely the moment for a mild sensation. The day had been hot and long. Everybody, apart from being anxious, - for everybody was anxious, Sir Francis and Mrs. Travers-Cray with sons at the front and Lady Dighton's husband in the Dardanelles, -apart from that ever-present strain, everybody to-day was a little jaded, blank, and tired of one another. There reigned, as a symptom, that silence that in the moments before dinner falls sometimes upon people who know each other too well for surmise or ceremony. They stood about looking at the evening newspapers; they picked up a book; they sat side by side, knitting without speaking. Vera, sunken in a deep chair near my sofa, yawned wearily. No one, in fact, had anything to look to before bedtime except the stimulant of the consommé or a possible surprise in the way of sweets.

I had known that I could count upon Mollie not to be self-conscious when she appeared in her new array, but I had n't counted upon such complete and pensive simplicity. Her eyes were on me as she entered, her husband limping behind her, and they seemed to ask me, with a halfwistful amusement, if she came up to my expectations. She far surpassed them. I never saw a woman to whom it made more difference. "It," on this occasion, was blue—the blue of a night sky and the blue of a sky at dawn, the blue, too, of my larkspurs, lapping at the edges here and there, as delicately as filaments of cloud crossing the sky, into white. And it flowed and fell, and it curved and clung, and it made one think, soft, suave triumph that it was, of breezes over the sea at

dawn and of a crescent moon low on a horizon and of white shores and blue Grecian hills; at least it made me think of these things, it and Mollie together; and with it went the alteration of her hairbands of folded gold swathed round and round her little head. No one but myself had ever seen before that Mollie had the poise and lightness of a Tanagra figure nor that the shape of her face was curious and her eyes strange and her skin like silver; but I knew, as she advanced down the long room, that Vera, sunken in her chair, saw it all at last, drank in every drop of it, with an astonishment that, though it expressed itself in no gesture, I was able to gage from her very stillness, her concentration of stillness, as she watched the relegated belonging, visible at last. It's not pleasant for anybody to have to own that they 've been blind and made a mistake, and Vera was specially fond of discovering oddity and charm and of claiming and displaying and discussing a discovAnd here was oddity an charm which she had not only failed to discover, but had helped to obscure. Mollie was indeed visible, and every eye was on her as she drifted quietly forward in the evening light and sat down beside me. She was mine, and no one else's; that was quite evident, too.


That Captain Thornton had received something of a revelation was also evident, though it had not probably amounted to more than seeing, and saying, that Mollie looked awfully well to-night; but it expressed itself in the fact that, instead of joining Vera, as was his wont, he came and sat down next to Mollie on my sofa. We began to talk, and, though the watching pause was prolonged for yet another moment, the others then began to talk, too. It was as if, not quite knowing what had happened to them, they were all a little cheered and exhilarated; as if they 'd had their consommé and as if the sweet had been altogether a surprise. A spectacle of any sort has this effect upon a group of jaded people. Only Vera kept her ominous silence.

Dinner was announced, and we all got

« AnkstesnisTęsti »