Puslapio vaizdai

waters, the clear pink-and-white of Kitty's chintz, the limpid surface of the oak, the broken burning of all the gay reflected colors in the paneled walls. I said to myself, "If everything else goes, there is always this to fall back on," and I went on, pleased that I was wearing delicate stuffs and that I had a smooth skin, pleased that the walls of the corridor were so soft a twilight blue, pleased that through a far-off open door there came a stream of light that made the carpet blaze its stronger blue. And when I saw that it was the nursery door that was open, and that Kitty was sitting in Nanny's big chair by the window, I did not care about the peaked face she lifted, its fairness palely gilt by the March sunlight, or the tremendous implications of the fact that she had come to her dead child's nursery although she had not washed her hair. I said sternly, because she had forgotten that we lived in the impregnable fort of a gracious life:

"O Kitty, that poor battered thing outside!"

She stared so grimly out into the garden that my eyes followed her stare.

It was one of those draggled days, common at the end of March, when a garden looks at its worst. The wind that was rolling up to check a show of sunshine had taken away the cedar's dignity of solid blue shade, had set the black firs beating their arms together, and had filled the sky with glaring gray clouds that dimmed the brilliance of the crocuses. It was to give gardens a point on days such as these, when the planned climax of this. flower-bed and that stately tree goes for nothing, that the old gardeners raised statues in their lawns and walks, large things with a subject, mossy Tritons or nymphs with an urn, that held the eye. Even so in this unrestful garden one's eyes lay on the figure in the yellow raincoat. that was standing still in the middle of the lawn.

How her near presence had been known by Chris I do not understand, but there he was, running across the lawn as night after night I had seen him in my dreams

running across no-man's-land. I knew that so he would close his eyes as he ran; I knew that so he would pitch on his knees when he reached safety. I assumed naturally that at Margaret's feet lay safety even before I saw her arms brace him under the armpits with a gesture that was not passionate, but rather the movement of one carrying a wounded man from under fire. But even when she had raised his head to the level of her lips, the central issue was not decided. I covered my eyes and said aloud, "In a minute he will see her face, her hands." But although it was a long time before I looked again, they were still clinging breast to breast. It was as though her embrace fed him, he looked so strong as he broke away. They stood with clasped hands looking at one another. They looked straight, they looked delightedly! And then, as if resuming a conversation tiresomely interrupted by some social obligation, they drew together again, and passed under the tossing branches of the cedar to the wood beyond. I reflected, while Kitty shrilly wept, how entirely right Chris had been in his assertion that to lovers innumerable things do not matter.


AFTER the automobile had taken Margaret away Chris came to us as we sat in the drawing-room, and, after standing for a while in the glow of the fire, hesitantly said:

"I want to tell you that I know it is all right. Margaret has explained to me."

Kitty crumpled her sewing into a white ball.

"You mean, I suppose, that you know I'm your wife. I'm pleased that you describe that as knowing 'it's all right,' and grateful that you have accepted it at last-on Margaret's authority. This is an occasion that would make any wife proud."

Her irony was as faintly acrid as a caraway-seed, and never afterward did she reach even that low pitch of violence;

for from that mild, forward droop of the head with which he received the mental lunge she realized suddenly that this was no pretense and that something as impassable as death lay between them. Thereafter his proceedings evoked no comment but suffering. There was nothing to say when all day, save for those hours of the afternoon that Margaret spent with him, he sat like a blind man waiting for his darkness to lift. There was nothing to say when he did not seem to see our flowers, yet kept till they rotted the daffodils which Margaret brought from the garden that looked like an allotment.

So Kitty lay about like a broken doll, face downward on a sofa, with one limp arm dangling to the floor, or protruding stiff feet in fantastic slippers from the end of her curtained bed; and I tried to make my permanent wear that mood which had mitigated the end of my journey with Margaret-a mood of intense perception in which my strained mind settled on every vivid object that came under my eyes and tried to identify myself with its brightness and its lack of human passion. This does not mean that I passed my day in a state of joyous appreciation; it means that many times in the lanes of Harrowweald I have stood for long looking up at a fine tracery of bare boughs against the hard, high spring sky while the cold wind rushed through my skirts and chilled me to the bone, because I was afraid that when I moved my body and my attention I might begin to think. Indeed, grief is not the clear melancholy the young believe it. It is like a siege in a tropical city. The skin dries and the throat parches as though one were living in the heat of the desert; water and wine taste warm in the mouth, and food is of the substance of the sand; one snarls at one's company; thoughts prick one through sleep like mosquitos.

A week after my journey to Wealdstone I went to Kitty to ask her to come for a walk with me and found her stretched on her pillows, holding a review. of her underclothing. She refused bitterly and added:

"Be back early. Remember Dr. Gilbert Anderson is coming at half-past four. He's our last hope. And tell that woman she must see him. He says he wants to see everybody concerned." She continued to look wanly at the frail, luminous silks her maid brought her as a speculator who had cornered an article for which there had been no demand might look at his damnably numerous, damnably unprofitable freights. So I went out alone into a soft day, with the dispelled winter lurking above in high, dark clouds, under which there ran quick, fresh currents of air and broken shafts of insistent sunshine that spread a gray clarity of light in which every color showed sharp and strong. On the breast that Harrowweald turns to the south they had set a lambing-yard. The pale-lavender hurdles and gold-strewn straw were new gay notes on the opaque winter green of the slope, and the apprehensive bleatings of the ewes wound about the hill like a river of sound as they were driven up a lane hidden by the hedge. The lines of bare elms darkening the plains below made it seem as though the tide of winter had fallen and left this bare and sparkling in the spring. I liked it so much that I opened the gate and went and sat down on a tree which had been torn up by the roots in the great gale last year, but had not yet resigned itself to death, and was bravely decking its boughs with purple elm-flowers.

That pleased me, too, and I wished I had some one with me to enjoy this artless little show of the new year. I had not really wanted Kitty; the companions I needed were Chris and Margaret. Chris would have talked, as he loved to do when he looked at leisure on a broad valley, about ideas which he had to exclude from his ordinary hours lest they should break the power of business over his mind, and Margaret would have gravely watched the argument from the shadow of her broad hat to see that it kept true, like a housewife watching a saucepan of milk lest it should boil over. They were naturally my friends, these gentle, speculative people.

Then suddenly I was stunned with jealousy. It was not their love for each other that caused me such agony at that moment; it was the thought of the things their eyes had rested upon together. I imagined that white hawthorn among the poplars by the ferry on which they had looked fifteen years ago at Monkey Island, and it was more than I could bear. I thought how even now they might be exclaiming at the green smoke of the first buds on the brown undergrowth by the pond, and at that I slid off the tree-trunk and began walking very quickly down the hill. The red cows drank from the pond cupped by the willow-roots; a raw-boned stallion danced clumsily because warmth was running through the ground. I found a stream in the fields and followed it till it became a shining dike embanked with glowing green and gold mosses in the midst of woods; and the sight of those things was no sort of joy, because my vision was solitary. I wanted to end my desperation by leaping from a height, and I climbed on a knoll and flung myself face downward on the dead leaves below.

I was now utterly cut off from Chris. Before, when I looked at him, I knew an instant ease in the sight of the short golden down on his cheeks, the ridge of bronze flesh above his thick, fair eyebrows. But now I was too busy reassuring him by showing a steady, undistorted profile crowned by a neat, proud sweep of hair instead of the tear-darkened mask he always feared ever to have enough vitality left over to enjoy his presence. I spoke in a calm voice full from the chest, quite unfluted with agony; I read "Country Life" with ponderous interest; I kept my hands, which I desired to wring, in doeskin gloves for most of the day; I played with the dogs a great deal and wore my thickest tweeds; I pretended that the slight heaviness of my features is a correct indication of my temperament. The only occasion when I could safely let the sense of him saturate me as it used was when I met Margaret in the hall as she came or went. She was very different now; she had a little smile in her eyes, as

though she were listening to a familiar air played far away. Her awkwardness seemed indecision as to whether she should walk or dance to that distant music; her shabbiness was no more repulsive than the untidiness of a child who has been so eager to get to the party that it has not let its nurse finish fastening its frock. Always she extended a hand in an unbuttoned black thread glove and said, "It 's another fine day again," or diffidently, as Kitty continued to withhold her presence, "I hope Mrs. Baldry is keeping well." Then, as our hands touched, he was with us, invoked by our common adoration. I felt his rough male texture and saw the clear warmth of his brown and gold coloring; I thought of him with the passion of exile. To Margaret it was a call, and she moved past me to the garden, holding her hands in front of her as though she bore invisible gifts, and pausing on the step of the French window to smile to herself, as if in her heart she turned over the precious thought: "He is here. This garden holds him." My moment, my small sole subsistence, ended in a feeling of jealousy as ugly and unmental as sickness. This was the saddest spring.

Nothing could mitigate the harshness of our rejection. You may think we were attaching an altogether fictitious importance to what was merely the delusion of a madman. But every minute of the day, particularly at those trying times when he strolled about the house and grounds with the doctors, smiling courteously, but without joy, and answering their questions with the crisp politeness of a man shaking off an inquisitive commercial traveler in a hotel smoking-room, it became plain that if madness means a liability to wild error about the world, Chris was not mad. It was our peculiar shame that he had rejected us when he had attained to something saner than sanity. His very loss of memory was a triumph over the limitations of language which prevent the mass of men from making explicit statements about their spiritual relationships. If he had said to Kitty and me, "I do not know you," we would have gaped; if he had

expanded his meaning and said, "You are nothing to me; my heart is separate from your hearts," we would have wept at an unkindness he had not intended. But by the blankness of those eyes which saw me only as a disregarded playmate and Kitty not at all save as a stranger who had somehow become a decorative presence in his home and the orderer of his meals he let us know completely where we were. Even though I lay weeping at it on the dead leaves I was sensible of the bitter rapture which attends the discovery of any truth. I felt, indeed, a cold intellectual pride in his refusal to remember his prosperous maturity and his determined dwelling in the time of his first love, for it showed him so much saner than the rest of us, who take life as it comes, loaded with the unessential and the irritating. I was even willing to admit that this choice of what was to him reality out of all the appearances so copiously presented by the world, this adroit recovery of the dropped pearl of beauty, was the act of genius I had always expected from him. But that did not make less agonizing this exclusion from his life.

I could not think clearly about it. I suppose that the subject of our tragedy, written in spiritual terms, was that in Kitty he had turned from the type of woman that makes the body conqueror of the soul and in me the type that mediates between the soul and the body and makes them run even and unhasty like a wellmatched pair of carriage horses, and had given himself to a woman whose bleak habit it was to champion the soul against the body. But I saw it just as a fantastic act of cruelty that I could think of only as a conjunction of calamitous images. I think of it happening somewhere behind the front, at the end of a straight road that runs by a line of ragged poplars between mud flats made steel-bright with floods pitted by the soft, slow rain. There, past a church that lacks its tower, stand a score of houses, each hideous with patches of bare bricks that show like sores through the ripped-off plaster and uncovered rafters. that stick out like broken bones. There

are people still living here. A slouchy woman sits at the door of a filthy cottage, counting some dirty linen and waving her bare arm at some passing soldiers. And at another house there is a general store with strings of orange onions and bunches of herbs hanging from the roof, a brown gloom rich with garlic and humming with the flies that live all the year round in French village shops, a black cat rubbing her sleepiness against the lintel. It is in there that Chris is standing, facing across the counter an old man in a blouse, with a scar running white into the gray thickets of his beard, an old man with a smile at once lewd and benevolent, repulsive with dirt and yet magnificent by reason of the Olympian structure of his body. I think he is the soul of the universe, equally cognizant and disregardful of every living thing, to whom I am not more dear than the bare-armed slouchy woman at the neighboring door. And Chris is leaning on the counter, his eyes glazed. (This is his spirit; his body lies out there in the drizzle, at the other end of the road.) He is looking down on the two crystal balls that the old man's foul, strong hands have rolled across to him. In one he sees Margaret, not in her raincoat and her nodding plumes, but as she is transfigured in the light of eternity. Long he looks there; then drops a glance to the other, just long enough to see that in its depths Kitty and I walk in bright dresses through our glowing gardens. We had suffered no transfiguration, for we are as we are, and there is nothing more to us. The whole truth about us lies in our material seeming. ing. He sighs a deep sigh of delight and puts out his hand to the ball where Margaret shines. His sleeve catches the other one and sends it down to crash in a thousand pieces on the floor. The old man's smile continues to be lewd and benevolent; he is still not more interested in me than in the bare-armed woman. Chris is wholly inclosed in his intentness on his chosen crystal. No one weeps for this shattering of our world.

I stirred on the dead leaves as though I had really heard the breaking of the globe

and cried out, "Gilbert Anderson, Gilbert Anderson must cure him." Heaven knows that I had no reason for faith in any doctor, for during the last week so many of them, as sleek as seals with their neatly brushed hair and their frock-coats, had stood round Chris and looked at him with the consequenceless deliberation of a plumber. Their most successful enterprise had been his futile hypnotism. He had submitted to it as a good-natured man submits to being blindfolded at a children's party, and under its influence had recovered his memory and his middle-aged personality, had talked of Kitty with the humorous tenderness of the English husband, and had looked possessively about him. But as his mind came out of the control he exposed their lie that they were dealing with a mere breakdown of the normal process by pushing away this knowledge and turning to them the blank wall, all the blanker because it was unconscious, of his resolution not to know. I had accepted that it would always be so. But at that moment I had so great a need to throw off my mood of despair, so insupportably loaded with all the fantastic images to which my fevered mind. transmuted the facts of our tragedy, that I filled myself with a gasping, urgent faith in this new doctor. I jumped up and pushed through the brambles to the hedge that divided the preserves in which I was trespassing from our own woods, breathless because I had let it go past four and I had still to find Chris and Margaret for the doctor's visit at the half-hour.

There had been a hardening of the light while I slept that made the dear, familiar woods rich and sinister, and to the eye, tropical. The jewel-bright buds on the soot-black boughs, the blue valley distances, smudged here and there with the pink enamel of villa-roofs, and seen between the black-and-white intricacies of the birch-trunks and the luminous gray pillars of the beeches, hurt my wet eyes as might beauty blazing under an equatorial.

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because I feared to come on them when he was speaking to her without looking at her or thinking in silence while he played with her hand. Embraces do not matter; they merely indicate the will to love, and may as well be followed by defeat as victory. But disregard means that now there needs to be no straining of the eyes, no stretching forth of the hands, no pressing of the lips, because theirs is such a union that they are no longer aware of the division of their flesh. I know it must be so; a lonely life gives one opportunities of thinking these things out. I could not have borne to see signs of how he had achieved this intimacy with the woman whom a sudden widening of the downward vista showed as she leaned her bent back, ridged by her cheap stays, against a birch that some special skill of our forester had made wonderful for its straight slenderness. Against the clear colors of the bright bare wood her yellow raincoat made a muddy patch, and as a dead bough dropped near her she made a squalid dodging movement like a hen. She was not so much a person as an implication of dreary poverty, like an open door in a mean house that lets out the smell of cooking cabbage and the screams of children. Doubtlessly he sat somewhere close to her, lumpishly content. I thought distractedly how necessary it was that Gilbert Anderson should cure him, and tried to shout to her, but found my throat full of sobs. So I broke my way down through the fern and bramble and stood level with them, though still divided by some yards of broken ground. It was not utter dullness not to have anticipated the beauty that I saw. one could have told. They had taken the mackintosh rug out of the dinghy and spread it on this little space of clear grass, I think so that they could look at a scattering of early primroses in a pool of white anemones at an oak-tree's foot. She had run her hands over the rug so that it lay quite smooth and comfortable under him when at last he felt drowsy and turned on his side to sleep. He lay there in the confiding relaxation of a sleeping child, his hands unclenched, and his head thrown


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