Part 1 out of 5
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THE DARK FLOWER
by John Galsworthy
"Take the flower from my breast, I pray thee,
Take the flower too from out my tresses;
And then go hence, for see, the night is fair,
The stars rejoice to watch thee on thy way."
--From "The Bard of the Dimbovitza."
THE DARK FLOWER
He walked along Holywell that afternoon of early June with his
short gown drooping down his arms, and no cap on his thick dark
hair. A youth of middle height, and built as if he had come of two
very different strains, one sturdy, the other wiry and light. His
face, too, was a curious blend, for, though it was strongly formed,
its expression was rather soft and moody. His eyes--dark grey,
with a good deal of light in them, and very black lashes--had a way
of looking beyond what they saw, so that he did not seem always to
be quite present; but his smile was exceedingly swift, uncovering
teeth as white as a negro's, and giving his face a peculiar
eagerness. People stared at him a little as he passed--since in
eighteen hundred and eighty he was before his time in not wearing a
cap. Women especially were interested; they perceived that he took
no notice of them, seeming rather to be looking into distance, and
making combinations in his soul.
Did he know of what he was thinking--did he ever know quite
definitely at that time of his life, when things, especially those
beyond the immediate horizon, were so curious and interesting?--the
things he was going to see and do when he had got through Oxford,
where everybody was 'awfully decent' to him and 'all right' of
course, but not so very interesting.
He was on his way to his tutor's to read an essay on Oliver
Cromwell; and under the old wall, which had once hedged in the
town, he took out of his pocket a beast. It was a small tortoise,
and, with an extreme absorption, he watched it move its little
inquiring head, feeling it all the time with his short, broad
fingers, as though to discover exactly how it was made. It was
mighty hard in the back! No wonder poor old Aeschylus felt a bit
sick when it fell on his head! The ancients used it to stand the
world on--a pagoda world, perhaps, of men and beasts and trees,
like that carving on his guardian's Chinese cabinet. The Chinese
made jolly beasts and trees, as if they believed in everything
having a soul, and not only being just fit for people to eat or
drive or make houses of. If only the Art School would let him
model things 'on his own,' instead of copying and copying--it was
just as if they imagined it would be dangerous to let you think out
anything for yourself!
He held the tortoise to his waistcoat, and let it crawl, till,
noticing that it was gnawing the corner of his essay, he put it
back into his pocket. What would his tutor do if he were to know
it was there?--cock his head a little to one side, and say: "Ah!
there are things, Lennan, not dreamed of in my philosophy!" Yes,
there were a good many not dreamed of by 'old Stormer,' who seemed
so awfully afraid of anything that wasn't usual; who seemed always
laughing at you, for fear that you should laugh at him. There were
lots of people in Oxford like that. It was stupid. You couldn't
do anything decent if you were afraid of being laughed at! Mrs.
Stormer wasn't like that; she did things because--they came into
her head. But then, of course, she was Austrian, not English, and
ever so much younger than old Stormer.
And having reached the door of his tutor's house, he rang the
bell. . . .
When Anna Stormer came into the study she found her husband
standing at the window with his head a little on one side--a tall,
long-legged figure in clothes of a pleasant tweed, and wearing a
low turn-over collar (not common in those days) and a blue silk
tie, which she had knitted, strung through a ring. He was humming
and gently tapping the window-pane with his well-kept finger-nails.
Though celebrated for the amount of work he got through, she never
caught him doing any in this house of theirs, chosen because it was
more than half a mile away from the College which held the 'dear
young clowns,' as he called them, of whom he was tutor.
He did not turn--it was not, of course, his habit to notice what
was not absolutely necessary--but she felt that he was aware of
her. She came to the window seat and sat down. He looked round at
that, and said: "Ah!"
It was a murmur almost of admiration, not usual from him, since,
with the exception of certain portions of the classics, it was
hardly his custom to admire. But she knew that she was looking her
best sitting there, her really beautiful figure poised, the sun
shining on her brown hair, and brightening her deep-set, ice-green
eyes under their black lashes. It was sometimes a great comfort to
her that she remained so good-looking. It would have been an added
vexation indeed to have felt that she ruffled her husband's
fastidiousness. Even so, her cheekbones were too high for his
taste, symbols of that something in her character which did not go
with his--the dash of desperation, of vividness, that lack of a
certain English smoothness, which always annoyed him.
"Harold!"--she would never quite flatten her r's--"I want to go to
the mountains this year."
The mountains! She had not seen them since that season at San
Martino di Castrozza twelve years ago, which had ended in her
"I don't know what that means--I am homesick. Can we go?"
"If you like--why not? But no leading up the Cimone della Pala for
She knew what he meant by that. No romance. How splendidly he had
led that day! She had almost worshipped him. What blindness!
What distortion! Was it really the same man standing there with
those bright, doubting eyes, with grey already in his hair? Yes,
romance was over! And she sat silent, looking out into the street--
that little old street into which she looked day and night. A
figure passed out there, came to the door, and rang.
She said softly: "Here is Mark Lennan!"
She felt her husband's eyes rest on her just for a moment, knew
that he had turned, heard him murmur: "Ah, the angel clown!" And,
quite still, she waited for the door to open. There was the boy,
with his blessed dark head, and his shy, gentle gravity, and his
essay in his hand.
"Well, Lennan, and how's old Noll? Hypocrite of genius, eh? Draw
up; let's get him over!"
Motionless, from her seat at the window, she watched those two
figures at the table--the boy reading in his queer, velvety bass
voice; her husband leaning back with the tips of his fingers
pressed together, his head a little on one side, and that faint,
satiric smile which never reached his eyes. Yes, he was dozing,
falling asleep; and the boy, not seeing, was going on. Then he
came to the end and glanced up. What eyes he had! Other boys
would have laughed; but he looked almost sorry. She heard him
murmur: "I'm awfully sorry, sir."
"Ah, Lennan, you caught me! Fact is, term's fagged me out. We're
going to the mountains. Ever been to the mountains? What--never!
You should come with us, eh? What do you say, Anna? Don't you
think this young man ought to come with us?"
She got up, and stood staring at them both. Had she heard aright?
Then she answered--very gravely:
"Yes; I think he ought."
"Good; we'll get HIM to lead up the Cimone della Pala!"
When the boy had said good-bye, and she had watched him out into
the street, Anna stood for a moment in the streak of sunlight that
came in through the open door, her hands pressed to cheeks which
were flaming. Then she shut the door and leaned her forehead
against the window-pane, seeing nothing. Her heart beat very fast;
she was going over and over again the scene just passed through.
This meant so much more than it had seemed to mean. . . .
Though she always had Heimweh, and especially at the end of the
summer term, this year it had been a different feeling altogether
that made her say to her husband: "I want to go to the mountains!"
For twelve years she had longed for the mountains every summer, but
had not pleaded for them; this year she had pleaded, but she did
not long for them. It was because she had suddenly realized the
strange fact that she did not want to leave England, and the reason
for it, that she had come and begged to go. Yet why, when it was
just to get away from thought of this boy, had she said: "Yes, I
think he ought to come!" Ah! but life for her was always a strange
pull between the conscientious and the desperate; a queer, vivid,
aching business! How long was it now since that day when he first
came to lunch, silent and shy, and suddenly smiling as if he were
all lighted up within--the day when she had said to her husband
afterwards: "Ah, he's an angel!" Not yet a year--the beginning of
last October term, in fact. He was different from all the other
boys; not that he was a prodigy with untidy hair, ill-fitting
clothes, and a clever tongue; but because of something--something--
Ah! well--different; because he was--he; because she longed to take
his head between her hands and kiss it. She remembered so well the
day that longing first came to her. She was giving him tea, it was
quite early in the Easter term; he was stroking her cat, who always
went to him, and telling her that he meant to be a sculptor, but
that his guardian objected, so that, of course, he could not start
till he was of age. The lamp on the table had a rose-coloured
shade; he had been rowing--a very cold day--and his face was
glowing; generally it was rather pale. And suddenly he smiled, and
said: "It's rotten waiting for things, isn't it?" It was then she
had almost stretched out her hands to draw his forehead to her
lips. She had thought then that she wanted to kiss him, because it
would have been so nice to be his mother--she might just have been
his mother, if she had married at sixteen. But she had long known
now that she wanted to kiss, not his forehead, but his lips. He
was there in her life--a fire in a cold and unaired house; it had
even become hard to understand that she could have gone on all
these years without him. She had missed him so those six weeks of
the Easter vacation, she had revelled so in his three queer little
letters, half-shy, half-confidential; kissed them, and worn them in
her dress! And in return had written him long, perfectly correct
epistles in her still rather quaint English. She had never let him
guess her feelings; the idea that he might shocked her
inexpressibly. When the summer term began, life seemed to be all
made up of thoughts of him. If, ten years ago, her baby had lived,
if its cruel death--after her agony--had not killed for good her
wish to have another; if for years now she had not been living with
the knowledge that she had no warmth to expect, and that love was
all over for her; if life in the most beautiful of all old cities
had been able to grip her--there would have been forces to check
this feeling. But there was nothing in the world to divert the
current. And she was so brimful of life, so conscious of vitality
running to sheer waste. Sometimes it had been terrific, that
feeling within her, of wanting to live--to find outlet for her
energy. So many hundreds of lonely walks she had taken during all
these years, trying to lose herself in Nature--hurrying alone,
running in the woods, over the fields, where people did not come,
trying to get rid of that sense of waste, trying once more to feel
as she had felt when a girl, with the whole world before her. It
was not for nothing that her figure was superb, her hair so bright
a brown, her eyes so full of light. She had tried many
distractions. Work in the back streets, music, acting, hunting;
given them up one after the other; taken to them passionately
again. They had served in the past. But this year they had not
served. . . . One Sunday, coming from confession unconfessed, she
had faced herself. It was wicked. She would have to kill this
feeling--must fly from this boy who moved her so! If she did not
act quickly, she would be swept away. And then the thought had
come: Why not? Life was to be lived--not torpidly dozed through in
this queer cultured place, where age was in the blood! Life was
for love--to be enjoyed! And she would be thirty-six next month!
It seemed to her already an enormous age. Thirty-six! Soon she
would be old, actually old--and never have known passion! The
worship, which had made a hero of the distinguished-looking
Englishman, twelve years older than herself, who could lead up the
Cimone della Pala, had not been passion. It might, perhaps, have
become passion if he had so willed. But he was all form, ice,
books. Had he a heart at all, had he blood in his veins? Was
there any joy of life in this too beautiful city and these people
who lived in it--this place where even enthusiasms seemed to be
formal and have no wings, where everything was settled and
sophisticated as the very chapels and cloisters? And yet, to have
this feeling for a boy--for one almost young enough to be her son!
It was so--shameless! That thought haunted her, made her flush in
the dark, lying awake at night. And desperately she would pray--
for she was devout--pray to be made pure, to be given the holy
feelings of a mother, to be filled simply with the sweet sense that
she could do everything, suffer anything for him, for his good.
After these long prayers she would feel calmed, drowsy, as though
she had taken a drug. For hours, perhaps, she would stay like
that. And then it would all come over her again. She never
thought of his loving her; that would be--unnatural. Why should he
love her? She was very humble about it. Ever since that Sunday,
when she avoided the confessional, she had brooded over how to make
an end--how to get away from a longing that was too strong for her.
And she had hit on this plan--to beg for the mountains, to go back
to where her husband had come into her life, and try if this
feeling would not die. If it did not, she would ask to be left out
there with her own people, away from this danger. And now the
fool--the blind fool--the superior fool--with his satiric smile,
his everlasting patronage, had driven her to overturn her own plan.
Well, let him take the consequences; she had done her best! She
would have this one fling of joy, even if it meant that she must
stay out there, and never see the boy again!
Standing in her dusky hall, where a faint scent of woodrot crept
out into the air, whenever windows and doors were closed, she was
all tremulous with secret happiness. To be with him among her
mountains, to show him all those wonderful, glittering or tawny
crags, to go with him to the top of them and see the kingdoms of
the world spread out below; to wander with him in the pine woods,
on the Alps in all the scent of the trees and the flowers, where
the sun was hot! The first of July; and it was only the tenth of
June! Would she ever live so long? They would not go to San
Martino this time, rather to Cortina--some new place that had no
She moved from the window, and busied herself with a bowl of
flowers. She had heard that humming sound which often heralded her
husband's approach, as though warning the world to recover its good
form before he reached it. In her happiness she felt kind and
friendly to him. If he had not meant to give her joy, he had
nevertheless given it! He came downstairs two at a time, with that
air of not being a pedagogue, which she knew so well; and, taking
his hat off the stand, half turned round to her.
"Pleasant youth, young Lennan; hope he won't bore us out there!"
His voice seemed to have an accent of compunction, to ask pardon
for having issued that impulsive invitation. And there came to her
an overwhelming wish to laugh. To hide it, to find excuse for it,
she ran up to him, and, pulling his coat lapels till his face was
within reach, she kissed the tip of his nose. And then she
laughed. And he stood looking at her, with his head just a little
on one side, and his eyebrows just a little raised.
When young Mark heard a soft tapping at his door, though out of
bed, he was getting on but dreamily--it was so jolly to watch the
mountains lying out in this early light like huge beasts. That one
they were going up, with his head just raised above his paws,
looked very far away out there! Opening the door an inch, he
"Is it late?"
"Five o'clock; aren't you ready?"
It was awfully rude of him to keep her waiting! And he was soon
down in the empty dining-room, where a sleepy maid was already
bringing in their coffee. Anna was there alone. She had on a
flax-blue shirt, open at the neck, a short green skirt, and a grey-
green velvety hat, small, with one black-cock's feather. Why could
not people always wear such nice things, and be as splendid-
looking! And he said:
"You do look jolly, Mrs. Stormer!"
She did not answer for so long that he wondered if it had been rude
to say that. But she DID look so strong, and swift, and happy-
Down the hill, through a wood of larch-trees, to the river, and
across the bridge, to mount at once by a path through hay-fields.
How could old Stormer stay in bed on such a morning! The peasant
girls in their blue linen skirts were already gathering into
bundles what the men had scythed. One, raking at the edge of a
field, paused and shyly nodded to them. She had the face of a
Madonna, very calm and grave and sweet, with delicate arched brows--
a face it was pure pleasure to see. The boy looked back at her.
Everything to him, who had never been out of England before, seemed
strange and glamorous. The chalets, with their long wide burnt-
brown wooden balconies and low-hanging eaves jutting far beyond the
walls; these bright dresses of the peasant women; the friendly
little cream-coloured cows, with blunt, smoke-grey muzzles. Even
the feel in the air was new, that delicious crisp burning warmth
that lay so lightly as it were on the surface of frozen stillness;
and the special sweetness of all places at the foot of mountains--
scent of pine-gum, burning larch-wood, and all the meadow flowers
and grasses. But newest of all was the feeling within him--a sort
of pride, a sense of importance, a queer exhilaration at being
alone with her, chosen companion of one so beautiful.
They passed all the other pilgrims bound the same way--stout square
Germans with their coats slung through straps, who trailed behind
them heavy alpenstocks, carried greenish bags, and marched stolidly
at a pace that never varied, growling, as Anna and the boy went by:
"Aber eilen ist nichts!"
But those two could not go fast enough to keep pace with their
spirits. This was no real climb--just a training walk to the top
of the Nuvolau; and they were up before noon, and soon again
descending, very hungry. When they entered the little dining-room
of the Cinque Torre Hutte, they found it occupied by a party of
English people, eating omelettes, who looked at Anna with faint
signs of recognition, but did not cease talking in voices that all
had a certain half-languid precision, a slight but brisk pinching
of sounds, as if determined not to tolerate a drawl, and yet to
have one. Most of them had field-glasses slung round them, and
cameras were dotted here and there about the room. Their faces
were not really much alike, but they all had a peculiar drooping
smile, and a particular lift of the eyebrows, that made them seem
reproductions of a single type. Their teeth, too, for the most
part were a little prominent, as though the drooping of their
mouths had forced them forward. They were eating as people eat who
distrust the lower senses, preferring not to be compelled to taste
"From our hotel," whispered Anna; and, ordering red wine and
schnitzels, she and the boy sat down. The lady who seemed in
command of the English party inquired now how Mr. Stormer was--he
was not laid up, she hoped. No? Only lazy? Indeed! He was a
great climber, she believed. It seemed to the boy that this lady
somehow did not quite approve of them. The talk was all maintained
between her, a gentleman with a crumpled collar and puggaree, and a
short thick-set grey-bearded man in a dark Norfolk jacket. If any
of the younger members of the party spoke, the remark was received
with an arch lifting of the brows, and drooping of the lids, as who
should say: "Ah! Very promising!"
"Nothing in my life has given me greater pain than to observe the
aptitude of human nature for becoming crystallized." It was the
lady in command who spoke, and all the young people swayed their
faces up and down, as if assenting. How like they were, the boy
thought, to guinea-fowl, with their small heads and sloping
shoulders and speckly grey coats!
"Ah! my dear lady"--it was the gentleman with the crumpled collar--
"you novelists are always girding at the precious quality of
conformity. The sadness of our times lies in this questioning
spirit. Never was there more revolt, especially among the young.
To find the individual judging for himself is a grave symptom of
national degeneration. But this is not a subject--"
"Surely, the subject is of the most poignant interest to all young
people." Again all the young ones raised their faces and moved
them slightly from side to side.
"My dear lady, we are too prone to let the interest that things
arouse blind our judgment in regard to the advisability of
discussing them. We let these speculations creep and creep until
they twine themselves round our faith and paralyze it."
One of the young men interjected suddenly: "Madre"--and was silent.
"I shall not, I think"--it was the lady speaking--"be accused of
licence when I say that I have always felt that speculation is only
dangerous when indulged in by the crude intelligence. If culture
has nothing to give us, then let us have no culture; but if culture
be, as I think it, indispensable, then we must accept the dangers
that culture brings."
Again the young people moved their faces, and again the younger of
the two young men said: "Madre--"
"Dangers? Have cultured people dangers?"
Who had spoken thus? Every eyebrow was going up, every mouth was
drooping, and there was silence. The boy stared at his companion.
In what a strange voice she had made that little interjection!
There seemed a sort of flame, too, lighted in her eyes. Then the
little grey-bearded man said, and his rather whispering voice
sounded hard and acid:
"We are all human, my dear madam."
The boy felt his heart go thump at Anna's laugh. It was just as if
she had said: "Ah! but not you--surely!" And he got up to follow
her towards the door.
The English party had begun already talking--of the weather.
The two walked some way from the 'hut' in silence, before Anna
"You didn't like me when I laughed?"
"You hurt their feelings, I think."
"I wanted to--the English Grundys! Ah! don't be cross with me!
They WERE English Grundys, weren't they--every one?"
She looked into his face so hard, that he felt the blood rush to
his cheeks, and a dizzy sensation of being drawn forward.
"They have no blood, those people! Their voices, their
supercilious eyes that look you up and down! Oh! I've had so much
of them! That woman with her Liberalism, just as bad as any. I
hate them all!"
He would have liked to hate them, too, since she did; but they had
only seemed to him amusing.
"They aren't human. They don't FEEL! Some day you'll know them.
They won't amuse you then!"
She went on, in a quiet, almost dreamy voice:
"Why do they come here? It's still young and warm and good out
here. Why don't they keep to their Culture, where no one knows
what it is to ache and feel hunger, and hearts don't beat. Feel!"
Disturbed beyond measure, the boy could not tell whether it was in
her heart or in his hand that the blood was pulsing so. Was he
glad or sorry when she let his hand go?
"Ah, well! They can't spoil this day. Let's rest."
At the edge of the larch-wood where they sat, were growing numbers
of little mountain pinks, with fringed edges and the sweetest scent
imaginable; and she got up presently to gather them. But he stayed
where he was, and odd sensations stirred in him. The blue of the
sky, the feathery green of the larch-trees, the mountains, were no
longer to him what they had been early that morning.
She came back with her hands full of the little pinks, spread her
fingers and let them drop. They showered all over his face and
neck. Never was so wonderful a scent; never such a strange feeling
as they gave him. They clung to his hair, his forehead, his eyes,
one even got caught on the curve of his lips; and he stared up at
her through their fringed petals. There must have been something
wild in his eyes then, something of the feeling that was stinging
his heart, for her smile died; she walked away, and stood with her
face turned from him. Confused, and unhappy, he gathered the
strewn flowers; and not till he had collected every one did he get
up and shyly take them to her, where she still stood, gazing into
the depths of the larch-wood.
What did he know of women, that should make him understand? At his
public school he had seen none to speak to; at Oxford, only this
one. At home in the holidays, not any, save his sister Cicely.
The two hobbies of their guardian, fishing, and the antiquities of
his native county, rendered him averse to society; so that his
little Devonshire manor-house, with its black oak panels and its
wild stone-walled park along the river-side was, from year's end to
year's end, innocent of all petticoats, save those of Cicely and
old Miss Tring, the governess. Then, too, the boy was shy. No,
there was nothing in his past, of not yet quite nineteen years, to
go by. He was not of those youths who are always thinking of
conquests. The very idea of conquest seemed to him vulgar, mean,
horrid. There must be many signs indeed before it would come into
his head that a woman was in love with him, especially the one to
whom he looked up, and thought so beautiful. For before all beauty
he was humble, inclined to think himself a clod. It was the part
of life which was always unconsciously sacred, and to be approached
trembling. The more he admired, the more tremulous and diffident
he became. And so, after his one wild moment, when she plucked
those sweet-scented blossoms and dropped them over him, he felt
abashed; and walking home beside her he was quieter than ever,
awkward to the depths of his soul.
If there were confusion in his heart which had been innocent of
trouble, what must there have been in hers, that for so long had
secretly desired the dawning of that confusion? And she, too, was
Passing a church with open door in the outskirts of the village,
"Don't wait for me--I want to go in here a little."
In the empty twilight within, one figure, a countrywoman in her
black shawl, was kneeling--marvellously still. He would have liked
to stay. That kneeling figure, the smile of the sunlight filtering
through into the half darkness! He lingered long enough to see
Anna, too, go down on her knees in the stillness. Was she praying?
Again he had the turbulent feeling with which he had watched her
pluck those flowers. She looked so splendid kneeling there! It
was caddish to feel like that, when she was praying, and he turned
quickly away into the road. But that sharp, sweet stinging
sensation did not leave him. He shut his eyes to get rid of her
image--and instantly she became ten times more visible, his feeling
ten times stronger. He mounted to the hotel; there on the terrace
was his tutor. And oddly enough, the sight of him at that moment
was no more embarrassing than if it had been the hotel concierge.
Stormer did not somehow seem to count; did not seem to want you to
count him. Besides, he was so old--nearly fifty!
The man who was so old was posed in a characteristic attitude--
hands in the pockets of his Norfolk jacket, one shoulder slightly
raised, head just a little on one side, as if preparing to quiz
something. He spoke as Lennan came up, smiling--but not with his
"Well, young man, and what have you done with my wife?"
"Left her in a church, sir."
"Ah! She will do that! Has she run you off your legs? No? Then
let's walk and talk a little."
To be thus pacing up and down and talking with her husband seemed
quite natural, did not even interfere with those new sensations,
did not in the least increase his shame for having them. He only
wondered a little how she could have married him--but so little!
Quite far and academic was his wonder--like his wonder in old days
how his sister could care to play with dolls. If he had any other
feeling, it was just a longing to get away and go down the hill
again to the church. It seemed cold and lonely after all that long
day with her--as if he had left himself up there, walking along
hour after hour, or lying out in the sun beside her. What was old
Stormer talking about? The difference between the Greek and Roman
views of honour. Always in the past--seemed to think the present
was bad form. And he said:
"We met some English Grundys, sir, on the mountain."
"Ah, yes! Any particular brand?"
"Some advanced, and some not; but all the same, I think, really."
"I see. Grundys, I think you said?"
"Yes, sir, from this hotel. It was Mrs. Stormer's name for them.
They were so very superior."
There was something unusual in the tone of that little word. And
the boy stared--for the first time there seemed a real man standing
there. Then the blood rushed up into his cheeks, for there she
was! Would she come up to them? How splendid she was looking,
burnt by the sun, and walking as if just starting! But she passed
into the hotel without turning her head their way. Had he
offended, hurt her? He made an excuse, and got away to his room.
In the window from which that same morning he had watched the
mountains lying out like lions in the dim light, he stood again,
and gazed at the sun dropping over the high horizon. What had
happened to him? He felt so different, so utterly different. It
was another world. And the most strange feeling came on him, as of
the flowers falling again all over his face and neck and hands, the
tickling of their soft-fringed edges, the stinging sweetness of
their scent. And he seemed to hear her voice saying: "Feel!" and
to feel her heart once more beating under his hand.
Alone with that black-shawled figure in the silent church, Anna did
not pray. Resting there on her knees, she experienced only the
sore sensation of revolt. Why had Fate flung this feeling into her
heart, lighted up her life suddenly, if God refused her its
enjoyment? Some of the mountain pinks remained clinging to her
belt, and the scent of them, crushed against her, warred with the
faint odour of age and incense. While they were there, with their
enticement and their memories, prayer would never come. But did
she want to pray? Did she desire the mood of that poor soul in her
black shawl, who had not moved by one hair's breadth since she had
been watching her, who seemed resting her humble self so utterly,
letting life lift from her, feeling the relief of nothingness? Ah,
yes! what would it be to have a life so toilsome, so little
exciting from day to day and hour to hour, that just to kneel there
in wistful stupor was the greatest pleasure one could know? It was
beautiful to see her, but it was sad. And there came over Anna a
longing to go up to her neighbour and say: "Tell me your troubles;
we are both women." She had lost a son, perhaps, some love--or
perhaps not really love, only some illusion. Ah! Love. . . . Why
should any spirit yearn, why should any body, full of strength and
joy, wither slowly away for want of love? Was there not enough in
this great world for her, Anna, to have a little? She would not
harm him, for she would know when he had had enough of her; she
would surely have the pride and grace then to let him go. For, of
course, he would get tired of her. At her age she could never hope
to hold a boy more than a few years--months, perhaps. But would
she ever hold him at all? Youth was so hard--it had no heart! And
then the memory of his eyes came back--gazing up, troubled, almost
wild--when she had dropped on him those flowers. That memory
filled her with a sort of delirium. One look from her then, one
touch, and he would have clasped her to him. She was sure of it,
yet scarcely dared to believe what meant so much. And suddenly the
torment that she must go through, whatever happened, seemed to her
too brutal and undeserved! She rose. Just one gleam of sunlight
was still slanting through the doorway; it failed by a yard or so
to reach the kneeling countrywoman, and Anna watched. Would it
steal on and touch her, or would the sun pass down behind the
mountains, and it fade away? Unconscious of that issue, the black-
shawled figure knelt, never moving. And the beam crept on. "If it
touches her, then he will love me, if only for an hour; if it fades
out too soon--" And the beam crept on. That shadowy path of
light, with its dancing dust-motes, was it indeed charged with
Fate--indeed the augury of Love or Darkness? And, slowly moving,
it mounted, the sun sinking; it rose above that bent head, hovered
in a golden mist, passed--and suddenly was gone.
Unsteadily, seeing nothing plain, Anna walked out of the church.
Why she passed her husband and the boy on the terrace without a
look she could not quite have said--perhaps because the tortured
does not salute her torturers. When she reached her room she felt
deadly tired, and lying down on her bed, almost at once fell
She was wakened by a sound, and, recognizing the delicate 'rat-tat'
of her husband's knock, did not answer, indifferent whether he came
in or no. He entered noiselessly. If she did not let him know she
was awake, he would not wake her. She lay still and watched him
sit down astride of a chair, cross his arms on its back, rest his
chin on them, and fix his eyes on her. Through her veil of
eyelashes she had unconsciously contrived that his face should be
the one object plainly seen--the more intensely visualized, because
of this queer isolation. She did not feel at all ashamed of this
mutual fixed scrutiny, in which she had such advantage. He had
never shown her what was in him, never revealed what lay behind
those bright satiric eyes. Now, perhaps, she would see! And she
lay, regarding him with the intense excited absorption with which
one looks at a tiny wildflower through a magnifying-lens, and
watches its insignificance expanded to the size and importance of a
hothouse bloom. In her mind was this thought: He is looking at me
with his real self, since he has no reason for armour against me
now. At first his eyes seemed masked with their customary
brightness, his whole face with its usual decorous formality; then
gradually he became so changed that she hardly knew him. That
decorousness, that brightness, melted off what lay behind, as
frosty dew melts off grass. And her very soul contracted within
her, as if she had become identified with what he was seeing--a
something to be passed over, a very nothing. Yes, his was the face
of one looking at what was unintelligible, and therefore
negligible; at that which had no soul; at something of a different
and inferior species and of no great interest to a man. His face
was like a soundless avowal of some conclusion, so fixed and
intimate that it must surely emanate from the very core of him--be
instinctive, unchangeable. This was the real he! A man despising
women! Her first thought was: And he's married--what a fate! Her
second: If he feels that, perhaps thousands of men do! Am I and
all women really what they think us? The conviction in his stare--
its through-and-through conviction--had infected her; and she gave
in to it for the moment, crushed. Then her spirit revolted with
such turbulence, and the blood so throbbed in her, that she could
hardly lie still. How dare he think her like that--a nothing, a
bundle of soulless inexplicable whims and moods and sensuality? A
thousand times, No! It was HE who was the soulless one, the dry,
the godless one; who, in his sickening superiority, could thus deny
her, and with her all women! That stare was as if he saw her--a
doll tricked out in garments labelled soul, spirit, rights,
responsibilities, dignity, freedom--all so many words. It was
vile, it was horrible, that he should see her thus! And a really
terrific struggle began in her between the desire to get up and cry
this out, and the knowledge that it would be stupid, undignified,
even mad, to show her comprehension of what he would never admit or
even understand that he had revealed to her. And then a sort of
cynicism came to her rescue. What a funny thing was married life--
to have lived all these years with him, and never known what was at
the bottom of his heart! She had the feeling now that, if she went
up to him and said: "I am in love with that boy!" it would only
make him droop the corners of his mouth and say in his most satiric
voice: "Really! That is very interesting!"--would not change in
one iota his real thoughts of her; only confirm him in the
conviction that she was negligible, inexplicable, an inferior
strange form of animal, of no real interest to him.
And then, just when she felt that she could not hold herself in any
longer, he got up, passed on tiptoe to the door, opened it
noiselessly, and went out.
The moment he had gone, she jumped up. So, then, she was linked to
one for whom she, for whom women, did not, as it were, exist! It
seemed to her that she had stumbled on knowledge of almost sacred
importance, on the key of everything that had been puzzling and
hopeless in their married life. If he really, secretly, whole-
heartedly despised her, the only feeling she need have for one so
dry, so narrow, so basically stupid, was just contempt. But she
knew well enough that contempt would not shake what she had seen in
his face; he was impregnably walled within his clever, dull
conviction of superiority. He was for ever intrenched, and she
would always be only the assailant. Though--what did it matter,
Usually swift, almost careless, she was a long time that evening
over her toilette. Her neck was very sunburnt, and she lingered,
doubtful whether to hide it with powder, or accept her gipsy
colouring. She did accept it, for she saw that it gave her eyes,
so like glacier ice, under their black lashes, and her hair, with
its surprising glints of flame colour, a peculiar value.
When the dinner-bell rang she passed her husband's door without, as
usual, knocking, and went down alone.
In the hall she noticed some of the English party of the mountain
hut. They did not greet her, conceiving an immediate interest in
the barometer; but she could feel them staring at her very hard.
She sat down to wait, and at once became conscious of the boy
coming over from the other side of the room, rather like a person
walking in his sleep. He said not a word. But how he looked! And
her heart began to beat. Was this the moment she had longed for?
If it, indeed, had come, dared she take it? Then she saw her
husband descending the stairs, saw him greet the English party,
heard the intoning of their drawl. She looked up at the boy, and
said quickly: "Was it a happy day?" It gave her such delight to
keep that look on his face, that look as if he had forgotten
everything except just the sight of her. His eyes seemed to have
in them something holy at that moment, something of the wonder-
yearning of Nature and of innocence. It was dreadful to know that
in a moment that look must be gone; perhaps never to come back on
his face--that look so precious! Her husband was approaching now!
Let him see, if he would! Let him see that someone could adore--
that she was not to everyone a kind of lower animal. Yes, he must
have seen the boy's face; and yet his expression never changed. He
noticed nothing! Or was it that he disdained to notice?
Then followed for young Lennan a strange time, when he never knew
from minute to minute whether he was happy--always trying to be
with her, restless if he could not be, sore if she talked with and
smiled at others; yet, when he was with her, restless too,
unsatisfied, suffering from his own timidity.
One wet morning, when she was playing the hotel piano, and he
listening, thinking to have her to himself, there came a young
German violinist--pale, and with a brown, thin-waisted coat,
longish hair, and little whiskers--rather a beast, in fact. Soon,
of course, this young beast was asking her to accompany him--as if
anyone wanted to hear him play his disgusting violin! Every word
and smile that she gave him hurt so, seeing how much more
interesting than himself this foreigner was! And his heart grew
heavier and heavier, and he thought: If she likes him I ought not
to mind--only, I DO mind! How can I help minding? It was hateful
to see her smiling, and the young beast bending down to her. And
they were talking German, so that he could not tell what they were
saying, which made it more unbearable. He had not known there
could be such torture.
And then he began to want to hurt her, too. But that was mean--
besides, how could he hurt her? She did not care for him. He was
nothing to her--only a boy. If she really thought him only a boy,
who felt so old--it would be horrible. It flashed across him that
she might be playing that young violinist against him! No, she
never would do that! But the young beast looked just the sort that
might take advantage of her smiles. If only he WOULD do something
that was not respectful, how splendid it would be to ask him to
come for a walk in the woods, and, having told him why, give him a
thrashing. Afterwards, he would not tell her, he would not try to
gain credit by it. He would keep away till she wanted him back.
But suddenly the thought of what he would feel if she really meant
to take this young man as her friend in place of him became so
actual, so poignant, so horribly painful, that he got up abruptly
and went towards the door. Would she not say a word to him before
he got out of the room, would she not try and keep him? If she did
not, surely it would be all over; it would mean that anybody was
more to her than he. That little journey to the door, indeed,
seemed like a march to execution. Would she not call after him?
He looked back. She was smiling. But HE could not smile; she had
hurt him too much! Turning his head away, he went out, and dashed
into the rain bareheaded. The feeling of it on his face gave him a
sort of dismal satisfaction. Soon he would be wet through.
Perhaps he would get ill. Out here, far away from his people, she
would have to offer to nurse him; and perhaps--perhaps in his
illness he would seem to her again more interesting than that young
beast, and then--Ah! if only he could be ill!
He mounted rapidly through the dripping leaves towards the foot of
the low mountain that rose behind the hotel. A trail went up there
to the top, and he struck into it, going at a great pace. His
sense of injury began dying away; he no longer wanted to be ill.
The rain had stopped, the sun came out; he went on, up and up. He
would get to the top quicker than anyone ever had! It was
something he could do better than that young beast. The pine-trees
gave way to stunted larches, and these to pine scrub and bare
scree, up which he scrambled, clutching at the tough bushes,
terribly out of breath, his heart pumping, the sweat streaming into
his eyes. He had no feeling now but wonder whether he would get to
the top before he dropped, exhausted. He thought he would die of
the beating of his heart; but it was better to die than to stop and
be beaten by a few yards. He stumbled up at last on to the little
plateau at the top. For full ten minutes he lay there on his face
without moving, then rolled over. His heart had given up that
terrific thumping; he breathed luxuriously, stretched out his arms
along the steaming grass--felt happy. It was wonderful up here,
with the sun burning hot in a sky clear-blue already. How tiny
everything looked below--hotel, trees, village, chalets--little toy
things! He had never before felt the sheer joy of being high up.
The rain-clouds, torn and driven in huge white shapes along the
mountains to the South, were like an army of giants with chariots
and white horses hurrying away. He thought suddenly: "Suppose I
had died when my heart pumped so! Would it have mattered the least
bit? Everything would be going on just the same, the sun shining,
the blue up there the same; and those toy things down in the
valley." That jealousy of his an hour ago, why--it was nothing--he
himself nothing! What did it matter if she were nice to that
fellow in the brown coat? What did anything matter when the whole
thing was so big--and he such a tiny scrap of it?
On the edge of the plateau, to mark the highest point, someone had
erected a rude cross, which jutted out stark against the blue sky.
It looked cruel somehow, sagged all crooked, and out of place up
here; a piece of bad manners, as if people with only one idea had
dragged it in, without caring whether or no it suited what was
around it. One might just as well introduce one of these rocks
into that jolly dark church where he had left her the other day, as
put a cross up here.
A sound of bells, and of sniffing and scuffling, roused him; a
large grey goat had come up and was smelling at his hair--the
leader of a flock, that were soon all round him, solemnly curious,
with their queer yellow oblong-pupilled eyes, and their quaint
little beards and tails. Awfully decent beasts--and friendly!
What jolly things to model! He lay still (having learnt from the
fisherman, his guardian, that necessary habit in the presence of
all beasts), while the leader sampled the flavour of his neck. The
passage of that long rough tongue athwart his skin gave him an
agreeable sensation, awakened a strange deep sense of comradeship.
He restrained his desire to stroke the creature's nose. It
appeared that they now all wished to taste his neck; but some were
timid, and the touch of their tongues simply a tickle, so that he
was compelled to laugh, and at that peculiar sound they withdrew
and gazed at him. There seemed to be no one with them; then, at a
little distance, quite motionless in the shade of a rock, he spied
the goatherd, a boy about his own age. How lonely he must be up
here all day! Perhaps he talked to his goats. He looked as if he
might. One would get to have queer thoughts up here, get to know
the rocks, and clouds, and beasts, and what they all meant. The
goatherd uttered a peculiar whistle, and something, Lennan could
not tell exactly what, happened among the goats--a sort of "Here,
Sir!" seemed to come from them. And then the goatherd moved out
from the shade and went over to the edge of the plateau, and two of
the goats that were feeding there thrust their noses into his hand,
and rubbed themselves against his legs. The three looked beautiful
standing there together on the edge against the sky. . . .
That night, after dinner, the dining-room was cleared for dancing,
so that the guests might feel freedom and gaiety in the air. And,
indeed, presently, a couple began sawing up and down over the
polished boards, in the apologetic manner peculiar to hotel guests.
Then three pairs of Italians suddenly launched themselves into
space--twirling and twirling, and glaring into each other's eyes;
and some Americans, stimulated by their precept, began airily
backing and filling. Two of the 'English Grundys' with carefully
amused faces next moved out. To Lennan it seemed that they all
danced very well, better than he could. Did he dare ask HER? Then
he saw the young violinist go up, saw her rise and take his arm and
vanish into the dancing-room; and leaning his forehead against a
window-pane, with a sick, beaten feeling, he stayed, looking out
into the moonlight, seeing nothing. He heard his name spoken; his
tutor was standing beside him.
"You and I, Lennan, must console each other. Dancing's for the
Fortunately it was the boy's instinct and his training not to show
his feelings; to be pleasant, though suffering.
"Yes, sir. Jolly moonlight, isn't it, out there?"
"Ah! very jolly; yes. When I was your age I twirled the light
fantastic with the best. But gradually, Lennan, one came to see it
could not be done without a partner--there was the rub! Tell me--
do you regard women as responsible beings? I should like to have
your opinion on that."
It was, of course, ironical--yet there was something in those
"I think it's you, sir, who ought to give me yours."
"My dear Lennan--my experience is a mere nothing!"
That was meant for unkindness to her! He would not answer. If
only Stormer would go away! The music had stopped. They would be
sitting out somewhere, talking! He made an effort, and said:
"I was up the hill at the back this morning, where the cross is.
There were some jolly goats."
And suddenly he saw her coming. She was alone--flushed, smiling;
it struck him that her frock was the same colour as the moonlight.
"Harold, will you dance?"
He would say 'Yes,' and she would be gone again! But his tutor
only made her a little bow, and said with that smile of his:
"Lennan and I have agreed that dancing is for the young."
"Sometimes the old must sacrifice themselves. Mark, will you
Behind him he heard his tutor murmur:
"Ah! Lennan--you betray me!"
That little silent journey with her to the dancing-room was the
happiest moment perhaps that he had ever known. And he need not
have been so much afraid about his dancing. Truly, it was not
polished, but it could not spoil hers, so light, firm, buoyant! It
was wonderful to dance with her. Only when the music stopped and
they sat down did he know how his head was going round. He felt
strange, very strange indeed. He heard her say:
"What is it, dear boy? You look so white!"
Without quite knowing what he did, he bent his face towards the
hand that she had laid on his sleeve, then knew no more, having
Growing boy--over-exertion in the morning! That was all! He was
himself very quickly, and walked up to bed without assistance.
Rotten of him! Never was anyone more ashamed of his little
weakness than this boy. Now that he was really a trifle
indisposed, he simply could not bear the idea of being nursed at
all or tended. Almost rudely he had got away. Only when he was in
bed did he remember the look on her face as he left her. How
wistful and unhappy, seeming to implore him to forgive her! As if
there were anything to forgive! As if she had not made him
perfectly happy when she danced with him! He longed to say to her:
"If I might be close to you like that one minute every day, then I
don't mind all the rest!" Perhaps he would dare say that to-
morrow. Lying there he still felt a little funny. He had
forgotten to close the ribs of the blinds, and moonlight was
filtering in; but he was too idle, too drowsy to get up now and do
it. They had given him brandy, rather a lot--that perhaps was the
reason he felt so queer; not ill, but mazy, as if dreaming, as if
he had lost the desire ever to move again. Just to lie there, and
watch the powdery moonlight, and hear faraway music throbbing down
below, and still feel the touch of her, as in the dance she swayed
against him, and all the time to have the scent about him of
flowers! His thoughts were dreams, his dreams thoughts--all
precious unreality. And then it seemed to him that the moonlight
was gathered into a single slip of pallor--there was a thrumming, a
throbbing, and that shape of moonlight moved towards him. It came
so close that he felt its warmth against his brow; it sighed,
hovered, drew back soundless, and was gone. He must have fallen
then into dreamless sleep. . . .
What time was it when he was awakened by that delicate 'rat-tat' to
see his tutor standing in the door-way with a cup of tea?
Was young Lennan all right? Yes, he was perfectly all right--would
be down directly! It was most frightfully good of Mr. Stormer to
come! He really didn't want anything.
Yes, yes; but the maimed and the halt must be attended to!
His face seemed to the boy very kind just then--only to laugh at
him a very little--just enough. And it was awfully decent of him
to have come, and to stand there while he drank the tea. He was
really all right, but for a little headache. Many times while he
was dressing he stood still, trying to remember. That white slip
of moonlight? Was it moonlight? Was it part of a dream; or was
it, could it have been she, in her moonlight-coloured frock? Why
had he not stayed awake? He would not dare to ask her, and now
would never know whether the vague memory of warmth on his brow had
been a kiss.
He breakfasted alone in the room where they had danced. There were
two letters for him. One from his guardian enclosing money, and
complaining of the shyness of the trout; the other from his sister.
The man she was engaged to--he was a budding diplomat, attached to
the Embassy at Rome--was afraid that his leave was going to be
curtailed. They would have to be married at once. They might even
have to get a special licence. It was lucky Mark was coming back
so soon. They simply MUST have him for best man. The only
bridesmaid now would be Sylvia. . . . Sylvia Doone? Why, she was
only a kid! And the memory of a little girl in a very short
holland frock, with flaxen hair, pretty blue eyes, and a face so
fair that you could almost see through it, came up before him. But
that, of course, was six years ago; she would not still be in a
frock that showed her knees, or wear beads, or be afraid of bulls
that were never there. It was stupid being best man--they might
have got some decent chap! And then he forgot all--for there was
SHE, out on the terrace. In his rush to join her he passed several
of the 'English Grundys,' who stared at him askance. Indeed, his
conduct of the night before might well have upset them. An Oxford
man, fainting in an hotel! Something wrong there! . . .
And then, when he reached her, he did find courage.
"Was it really moonlight?"
"But it was warm!"
And, when she did not answer that, he had within him just the same
light, intoxicated feeling as after he had won a race at school.
But now came a dreadful blow. His tutor's old guide had suddenly
turned up, after a climb with a party of Germans. The war-horse
had been aroused in Stormer. He wished to start that afternoon for
a certain hut, and go up a certain peak at dawn next day. But
Lennan was not to go. Why not? Because of last night's faint; and
because, forsooth, he was not some stupid thing they called 'an
expert.' As if--! Where she could go he could! This was to treat
him like a child. Of course he could go up this rotten mountain.
It was because she did not care enough to take him! She did not
think him man enough! Did she think that he could not climb what--
her husband--could? And if it were dangerous SHE ought not to be
going, leaving him behind--that was simply cruel! But she only
smiled, and he flung away from her, not having seen that all this
grief of his only made her happy.
And that afternoon they went off without him. What deep, dark
thoughts he had then! What passionate hatred of his own youth!
What schemes he wove, by which she might come back, and find him
gone-up some mountain far more dangerous and fatiguing! If people
did not think him fit to climb with, he would climb by himself.
That, anyway, everyone admitted, was dangerous. And it would be
her fault. She would be sorry then. He would get up, and be off
before dawn; he put his things out ready, and filled his flask.
The moonlight that evening was more wonderful than ever, the
mountains like great ghosts of themselves. And she was up there at
the hut, among them! It was very long before he went to sleep,
brooding over his injuries--intending not to sleep at all, so as to
be ready to be off at three o'clock. At NINE o'clock he woke. His
wrath was gone; he only felt restless and ashamed. If, instead of
flying out, he had made the best of it, he could have gone with
them as far as the hut, could have stayed the night there. And now
he cursed himself for being such a fool and idiot. Some little of
that idiocy he could, perhaps, retrieve. If he started for the hut
at once, he might still be in time to meet them coming down, and
accompany them home. He swallowed his coffee, and set off. He
knew the way at first, then in woods lost it, recovered the right
track again at last, but did not reach the hut till nearly two
o'clock. Yes, the party had made the ascent that morning--they had
been seen, been heard jodelling on the top. Gewiss! Gewiss! But
they would not come down the same way. Oh, no! They would be
going home down to the West and over the other pass. They would be
back in house before the young Herr himself.
He heard this, oddly, almost with relief. Was it the long walk
alone, or being up there so high? Or simply that he was very
hungry? Or just these nice friendly folk in the hut, and their
young daughter with her fresh face, queer little black cloth sailor
hat with long ribbons, velvet bodice, and perfect simple manners;
or the sight of the little silvery-dun cows, thrusting their broad
black noses against her hand? What was it that had taken away from
him all his restless feeling, made him happy and content? . . . He
did not know that the newest thing always fascinates the puppy in
its gambols! . . . He sat a long while after lunch, trying to draw
the little cows, watching the sun on the cheek of that pretty
maiden, trying to talk to her in German. And when at last he said:
"Adieu!" and she murmured "Kuss die Hand. Adieu!" there was quite
a little pang in his heart. . . . Wonderful and queer is the heart
of a man! . . . For all that, as he neared home he hastened, till
he was actually running. Why had he stayed so long up there? She
would be back--she would expect to see him; and that young beast of
a violinist would be with her, perhaps, instead! He reached the
hotel just in time to rush up and dress, and rush down to dinner.
Ah! They were tired, no doubt--were resting in their rooms. He
sat through dinner as best he could; got away before dessert, and
flew upstairs. For a minute he stood there doubtful; on which door
should he knock? Then timidly he tapped on hers. No answer! He
knocked loud on his tutor's door. No answer! They were not back,
then. Not back? What could that mean? Or could it be that they
were both asleep? Once more he knocked on her door; then
desperately turned the handle, and took a flying glance. Empty,
tidy, untouched! Not back! He turned and ran downstairs again.
All the guests were streaming out from dinner, and he became
entangled with a group of 'English Grundys' discussing a climbing
accident which had occurred in Switzerland. He listened, feeling
suddenly quite sick. One of them, the short grey-bearded Grundy
with the rather whispering voice, said to him: "All alone again to-
night? The Stormers not back?" Lennan did his best to answer, but
something had closed his throat; he could only shake his head.
"They had a guide, I think?" said the 'English Grundy.'
This time Lennan managed to get out: "Yes, sir."
"Stormer, I fancy, is quite an expert!" and turning to the lady
whom the young 'Grundys' addressed as 'Madre' he added:
"To me the great charm of mountain-climbing was always the freedom
from people--the remoteness."
The mother of the young 'Grundys,' looking at Lennan with her half-
closed eyes, answered:
"That, to me, would be the disadvantage; I always like to be mixing
with my own kind."
The grey-bearded 'Grundy' murmured in a muffled voice:
"Dangerous thing, that, to say--in an hotel!"
And they went on talking, but of what Lennan no longer knew, lost
in this sudden feeling of sick fear. In the presence of these
'English Grundys,' so superior to all vulgar sensations, he could
not give vent to his alarm; already they viewed him as unsound for
having fainted. Then he grasped that there had begun all round him
a sort of luxurious speculation on what might have happened to the
Stormers. The descent was very nasty; there was a particularly bad
traverse. The 'Grundy,' whose collar was not now crumpled, said he
did not believe in women climbing. It was one of the signs of the
times that he most deplored. The mother of the young 'Grundys'
countered him at once: In practice she agreed that they were out of
place, but theoretically she could not see why they should not
climb. An American standing near threw all into confusion by
saying he guessed that it might be liable to develop their
understandings. Lennan made for the front door. The moon had just
come up over in the South, and exactly under it he could see their
mountain. What visions he had then! He saw her lying dead, saw
himself climbing down in the moonlight and raising her still-
living, but half-frozen, form from some perilous ledge. Even that
was almost better than this actuality of not knowing where she was,
or what had happened. People passed out into the moonlight,
looking curiously at his set face staring so fixedly. One or two
asked him if he were anxious, and he answered: "Oh no, thanks!"
Soon there would have to be a search party. How soon? He would,
he must be, of it! They should not stop him this time. And
suddenly he thought: Ah, it is all because I stayed up there this
afternoon talking to that girl, all because I forgot HER!
And then he heard a stir behind him. There they were, coming down
the passage from a side door--she in front with her alpenstock and
rucksack--smiling. Instinctively he recoiled behind some plants.
They passed. Her sunburned face, with its high cheek-bones and its
deep-set eyes, looked so happy; smiling, tired, triumphant.
Somehow he could not bear it, and when they were gone by he stole
out into the wood and threw himself down in shadow, burying his
face, and choking back a horrible dry sobbing that would keep
rising in his throat.
Next day he was happy; for all the afternoon he lay out in the
shade of that same wood at her feet, gazing up through larch-
boughs. It was so wonderful, with nobody but Nature near. Nature
so alive, and busy, and so big!
Coming down from the hut the day before, he had seen a peak that
looked exactly like the figure of a woman with a garment over her
head, the biggest statue in the world; from further down it had
become the figure of a bearded man, with his arm bent over his
eyes. Had she seen it? Had she noticed how all the mountains in
moonlight or very early morning took the shape of beasts? What he
wanted most in life was to be able to make images of beasts and
creatures of all sorts, that were like--that had--that gave out the
spirit of--Nature; so that by just looking at them one could have
all those jolly feelings one had when one was watching trees, and
beasts, and rocks, and even some sorts of men--but not 'English
So he was quite determined to study Art?
Oh yes, of course!
He would want to leave--Oxford, then!
No, oh no! Only some day he would have to.
She answered: "Some never get away!"
And he said quickly: "Of course, I shall never want to leave Oxford
while you are there."
He heard her draw her breath in sharply.
"Oh yes, you will! Now help me up!" And she led the way back to
He stayed out on the terrace when she had gone in, restless and
unhappy the moment he was away from her. A voice close by said:
"Well, friend Lennan--brown study, or blue devils, which?"
There, in one of those high wicker chairs that insulate their
occupants from the world, he saw his tutor leaning back, head a
little to one side, and tips of fingers pressed together. He
looked like an idol sitting there inert, and yet--yesterday he had
gone up that mountain!
"Cheer up! You will break your neck yet! When I was your age, I
remember feeling it deeply that I was not allowed to risk the lives
Lennan stammered out:
"I didn't think of that; but I thought where Mrs. Stormer could go,
"Ah! For all our admiration we cannot quite admit--can we, when it
comes to the point?"
The boy's loyalty broke into flame:
"It's not that. I think Mrs. Stormer as good as any man--only--
"Not quite so good as you, eh?"
"A hundred times better, sir."
Stormer smiled. Ironic beast!
"Lennan," he said, "distrust hyperbole."
"Of course, I know I'm no good at climbing," the boy broke out
again; "but--but--I thought where she was allowed to risk her life,
I ought to be!"
"Good! I like that." It was said so entirely without irony for
once, that the boy was disconcerted.
"You are young, Brother Lennan," his tutor went on. "Now, at what
age do you consider men develop discretion? Because, there is just
one thing always worth remembering--women have none of that better
part of valour."
"I think women are the best things in the world," the boy blurted
"May you long have that opinion!" His tutor had risen, and was
ironically surveying his knees. "A bit stiff!" he said. "Let me
know when you change your views!"
"I never shall, sir."
"Ah, ah! Never is a long word, Lennan. I am going to have some
tea;" and gingerly he walked away, quizzing, as it were, with a
smile, his own stiffness.
Lennan remained where he was, with burning cheeks. His tutor's
words again had seemed directed against her. How could a man say
such things about women! If they were true, he did not want to
know; if they were not true, it was wicked to say them. It must be
awful never to have generous feelings; always to have to be
satirical. Dreadful to be like the 'English Grundys'; only
different, of course, because, after all, old Stormer was much more
interesting and intelligent--ever so much more; only, just as
'superior.' "Some never get away!" Had she meant--from that
superiority? Just down below were a family of peasants scything
and gathering in the grass. One could imagine her doing that, and
looking beautiful, with a coloured handkerchief over her head; one
could imagine her doing anything simple--one could not imagine old
Stormer doing anything but what he did do. And suddenly the boy
felt miserable, oppressed by these dim glimmerings of lives
misplaced. And he resolved that he would not be like Stormer when
he was old! No, he would rather be a regular beast than be like
that! . . .
When he went to his room to change for dinner he saw in a glass of
water a large clove carnation. Who had put it there? Who could
have put it there--but she? It had the same scent as the mountain
pinks she had dropped over him, but deeper, richer--a scent moving,
dark, and sweet. He put his lips to it before he pinned it into
There was dancing again that night--more couples this time, and a
violin beside the piano; and she had on a black frock. He had
never seen her in black. Her face and neck were powdered over
their sunburn. The first sight of that powder gave him a faint
shock. He had not somehow thought that ladies ever put on powder.
But if SHE did--then it must be right! And his eyes never left
her. He saw the young German violinist hovering round her, even
dancing with her twice; watched her dancing with others, but all
without jealousy, without troubling; all in a sort of dream. What
was it? Had he been bewitched into that queer state, bewitched by
the gift of that flower in his coat? What was it, when he danced
with her, that kept him happy in her silence and his own? There
was no expectation in him of anything that she would say, or do--no
expectation, no desire. Even when he wandered out with her on to
the terrace, even when they went down the bank and sat on a bench
above the fields where the peasants had been scything, he had still
no feeling but that quiet, dreamy adoration. The night was black
and dreamy too, for the moon was still well down behind the
mountains. The little band was playing the next waltz; but he sat,
not moving, not thinking, as if all power of action and thought had
been stolen out of him. And the scent of the flower in his coat
rose, for there was no wind. Suddenly his heart stopped beating.
She had leaned against him, he felt her shoulder press his arm, her
hair touch his cheek. He closed his eyes then, and turned his face
to her. He felt her lips press his mouth with a swift, burning
kiss. He sighed, stretched out his arms. There was nothing there
but air. The rustle of her dress against the grass was all! The
flower--it, too, was gone.
Not one minute all that night did Anna sleep. Was it remorse that
kept her awake, or the intoxication of memory? If she felt that
her kiss had been a crime, it was not against her husband or
herself, but against the boy--the murder of illusion, of something
sacred. But she could not help feeling a delirious happiness too,
and the thought of trying to annul what she had done did not even
occur to her.
He was ready, then, to give her a little love! Ever so little,
compared to hers, but still a little! There could be no other
meaning to that movement of his face with the closed eyes, as if he
would nestle it down on her breast.
Was she ashamed of her little manoeuvres of these last few days--
ashamed of having smiled at the young violinist, of that late
return from the mountain climb, of the flower she had given him, of
all the conscious siege she had laid since the evening her husband
came in and sat watching her, without knowing that she saw him?
No; not really ashamed! Her remorse rose only from the kiss. It
hurt to think of that, because it was death, the final extinction
of the mother-feeling in her; the awakening of--who knew what--in
the boy! For if she was mysterious to him, what was he not to her,
with his eagerness, and his dreaminess, his youthful warmth, his
innocence! What if it had killed in him trust, brushed off the
dew, tumbled a star down? Could she forgive herself for that?
Could she bear it if she were to make him like so many other boys,
like that young violinist; just a cynical youth, looking on women
as what they called 'fair game'? But COULD she make him into such--
would he ever grow like that? Oh! surely not; or she would not
have loved him from the moment she first set eyes on him and spoke
of him as 'an angel.'
After that kiss--that crime, if it were one--in the dark she had
not known what he had done, where gone--perhaps wandering, perhaps
straight up to his room. Why had she refrained, left him there,
vanished out of his arms? This she herself hardly understood. Not
shame; not fear; reverence perhaps--for what? For love--for the
illusion, the mystery, all that made love beautiful; for youth, and
the poetry of it; just for the sake of the black still night
itself, and the scent of that flower--dark flower of passion that
had won him to her, and that she had stolen back, and now wore all
night long close to her neck, and in the morning placed withered
within her dress. She had been starved so long, and so long waited
for that moment--it was little wonder if she did not clearly know
why she had done just this, and not that!
And now how should she meet him, how first look into his eyes?
Would they have changed? Would they no longer have the straight
look she so loved? It would be for her to lead, to make the
future. And she kept saying to herself: I am not going to be
afraid. It is done. I will take what life offers! Of her husband
she did not think at all.
But the first moment she saw the boy, she knew that something from
outside, and untoward, had happened since that kiss. He came up to
her, indeed, but he said nothing, stood trembling all over and
handed her a telegram that contained these words: "Come back at
once Wedding immediate Expect you day after to-morrow. Cicely."
The words grew indistinct even as she read them, and the boy's face
all blurred. Then, making an effort, she said quietly:
"Of course, you must go. You cannot miss your only sister's
Without protest he looked at her; and she could hardly bear that
look--it seemed to know so little, and ask so much. She said: "It
is nothing--only a few days. You will come back, or we will come
His face brightened at once.
"Will you really come to us soon, at once--if they ask you? Then I
don't mind--I--I--" And then he stopped, choking.
She said again:
"Ask us. We will come."
He seized her hand; pressed and pressed it in both his own, then
stroked it gently, and said:
"Oh! I'm hurting it!"
She laughed, not wishing to cry.
In a few minutes he would have to start to catch the only train
that would get him home in time.
She went and helped him to pack. Her heart felt like lead, but,
not able to bear that look on his face again, she kept cheerfully
talking of their return, asking about his home, how to get to it,
speaking of Oxford and next term. When his things were ready she
put her arms round his neck, and for a moment pressed him to her.
Then she escaped. Looking back from his door, she saw him standing
exactly as when she had withdrawn her arms. Her cheeks were wet;
she dried them as she went downstairs. When she felt herself safe,
she went out on the terrace. Her husband was there, and she said
"Will you come with me into the town? I want to buy some things."
He raised his eyebrows, smiled dimly, and followed her. They
walked slowly down the hill into the long street of the little
town. All the time she talked of she knew not what, and all the
time she thought: His carriage will pass--his carriage will pass!
Several carriages went jingling by. At last he came. Sitting
there, and staring straight before him, he did not see them. She
heard her husband say:
"Hullo! Where is our young friend Lennan off to, with his luggage--
looking like a lion cub in trouble?"
She answered in a voice that she tried to make clear and steady:
"There must be something wrong; or else it is his sister's
She felt that her husband was gazing at her, and wondered what her
face was like; but at that moment the word "Madre!" sounded close
in her ear and they were surrounded by a small drove of 'English
That twenty mile drive was perhaps the worst part of the journey
for the boy. It is always hard to sit still and suffer.
When Anna left him the night before, he had wandered about in the
dark, not knowing quite where he went. Then the moon came up, and
he found himself sitting under the eave of a barn close to a chalet
where all was dark and quiet; and down below him the moon-whitened
valley village--its roofs and spires and little glamorous unreal
In his evening suit, his dark ruffled hair uncovered, he would have
made a quaint spectacle for the owners of that chalet, if they had
chanced to see him seated on the hay-strewn boards against their
barn, staring before him with such wistful rapture. But they were
folk to whom sleep was precious. . . .
And now it was all snatched away from him, relegated to some
immensely far-off future. Would it indeed be possible to get his
guardian to ask them down to Hayle? And would they really come?
His tutor would surely never care to visit a place right away in
the country--far from books and everything! He frowned, thinking
of his tutor, but it was with perplexity--no other feeling. And
yet, if he could not have them down there, how could he wait the
two whole months till next term began! So went his thoughts, round
and round, while the horses jogged, dragging him further and
further from her.
It was better in the train; the distraction of all the strange
crowd of foreigners, the interest of new faces and new country; and
then sleep--a long night of it, snoozed up in his corner,
thoroughly fagged out. And next day more new country, more new
faces; and slowly, his mood changing from ache and bewilderment to
a sense of something promised, delightful to look forward to. Then
Calais at last, and a night-crossing in a wet little steamer, a
summer gale blowing spray in his face, waves leaping white in a
black sea, and the wild sound of the wind. On again to London, the
early drive across the town, still sleepy in August haze; an
English breakfast--porridge, chops, marmalade. And, at last, the
train for home. At all events he could write to her, and tearing a
page out of his little sketch-book, he began:
"I am writing in the train, so please forgive this joggly writing--"
Then he did not know how to go on, for all that he wanted to say
was such as he had never even dreamed of writing--things about his
feelings which would look horrible in words; besides, he must not
put anything that might not be read, by anyone, so what was there
"It has been such a long journey," he wrote at last, "away from the
Tyrol;" (he did not dare even to put "from you,") "I thought it
would never end. But at last it has--very nearly. I have thought
a great deal about the Tyrol. It was a lovely time--the loveliest
time I have ever had. And now it's over, I try to console myself
by thinking of the future, but not the immediate future--THAT is
not very enjoyable. I wonder how the mountains are looking to-day.
Please give my love to them, especially the lion ones that come and
lie out in the moonlight--you will not recognize them from this"--
then followed a sketch. "And this is the church we went to, with
someone kneeling. And this is meant for the 'English Grundys,'
looking at someone who is coming in very late with an alpenstock--
only, I am better at the 'English Grundys' than at the person with
the alpenstock. I wish I were the 'English Grundys' now, still in
the Tyrol. I hope I shall get a letter from you soon; and that it
will say you are getting ready to come back. My guardian will be
awfully keen for you to come and stay with us. He is not half bad
when you know him, and there will be his sister, Mrs. Doone, and
her daughter left there after the wedding. It will be simply
disgusting if you and Mr. Stormer don't come. I wish I could write
all I feel about my lovely time in the Tyrol, but you must please
And just as he had not known how to address her, so he could not
tell how to subscribe himself, and only put "Mark Lennan."
He posted the letter at Exeter, where he had some time to wait; and
his mind moved still more from past to future. Now that he was
nearing home he began to think of his sister. In two days she
would be gone to Italy; he would not see her again for a long time,
and a whole crowd of memories began to stretch out hands to him.
How she and he used to walk together in the walled garden, and on
the sunk croquet ground; she telling him stories, her arm round his
neck, because she was two years older, and taller than he in those
days. Their first talk each holidays, when he came back to her;
the first tea--with unlimited jam--in the old mullion-windowed,
flower-chintzed schoolroom, just himself and her and old Tingle
(Miss Tring, the ancient governess, whose chaperonage would now be
gone), and sometimes that kid Sylvia, when she chanced to be
staying there with her mother. Cicely had always understood him
when he explained to her how inferior school was, because nobody
took any interest in beasts or birds except to kill them; or in
drawing, or making things, or anything decent. They would go off
together, rambling along the river, or up the park, where
everything looked so jolly and wild--the ragged oak-trees, and huge
boulders, of whose presence old Godden, the coachman, had said: "I
can't think but what these ha' been washed here by the Flood, Mast'
Mark!" These and a thousand other memories beset his conscience
now. And as the train drew closer to their station, he eagerly
made ready to jump out and greet her. There was the honeysuckle
full out along the paling of the platform over the waiting-room;
wonderful, this year--and there was she, standing alone on the
platform. No, it was not Cicely! He got out with a blank
sensation, as if those memories had played him false. It was a
girl, indeed, but she only looked about sixteen, and wore a
sunbonnet that hid her hair and half her face. She had on a blue
frock, and some honeysuckle in her waist-belt. She seemed to be
smiling at him, and expecting him to smile at her; and so he did
smile. She came up to him then, and said:
He answered: "Oh! thanks awfully--it was awfully good of you to
come and meet me."
"Cicely's so busy. It's only the T-cart. Have you got much
She took up his hold-all, and he took it from her; she took his
bag, and he took it from her; then they went out to the T-cart. A
small groom stood there, holding a silver-roan cob with a black
mane and black swish tail.
She said: "D'you mind if I drive, because I'm learning."
And he answered: "Oh, no! rather not."
She got up; he noticed that her eyes looked quite excited. Then
his portmanteau came out and was deposited with the other things
behind; and he got up beside her.
She said: "Let go, Billy."
The roan rushed past the little groom, whose top boots seemed to
twinkle as he jumped up behind. They whizzed round the corner from
the station yard, and observing that her mouth was just a little
open as though this had disconcerted her, he said:
"He pulls a bit."
"Yes--but isn't he perfectly sweet?"
"He IS rather decent."
Ah! when SHE came, he would drive her; they would go off alone in
the T-cart, and he would show her all the country round.
He was re-awakened by the words:
"Oh! I know he's going to shy!" At once there was a swerve. The
roan was cantering.
They had passed a pig.
"Doesn't he look lovely now? Ought I to have whipped him when he
"Because horses are horses, and pigs are pigs; it's natural for
horses to shy at them."
He looked up at her then, sidelong. The curve of her cheek and
chin looked very soft, and rather jolly.
"I didn't know you, you know!" he said. "You've grown up so
"I knew you at once. Your voice is still furry."
There was another silence, till she said:
"He does pull, rather--doesn't he, going home?"
"Shall I drive?"
He stood up and took the reins, and she slipped past under them in
front of him; her hair smelt exactly like hay, as she was softly
bumped against him.
She kept regarding him steadily with very blue eyes, now that she
was relieved of driving.
"Cicely was afraid you weren't coming," she said suddenly. "What
sort of people are those old Stormers?"
He felt himself grow very red, choked something down, and answered:
"It's only he that's old. She's not more than about thirty-five."
"That IS old."
He restrained the words: "Of course it's old to a kid like you!"
And, instead, he looked at her. Was she exactly a kid? She seemed
quite tall (for a girl) and not very thin, and there was something
frank and soft about her face, and as if she wanted you to be nice
"Is she very pretty?"
This time he did not go red, such was the disturbance that question
made in him. If he said: "Yes," it was like letting the world know
his adoration; but to say anything less would be horrible,
disloyal. So he did say: "Yes," listening hard to the tone of his
"I thought she was. Do you like her very much?" Again he
struggled with that thing in his throat, and again said: "Yes."
He wanted to hate this girl, yet somehow could not--she looked so
soft and confiding. She was staring before her now, her lips still
just parted, so evidently THAT had not been because of Bolero's
pulling; they were pretty all the same, and so was her short,
straight little nose, and her chin, and she was awfully fair. His
thoughts flew back to that other face--so splendid, so full of
life. Suddenly he found himself unable to picture it--for the
first time since he had started on his journey it would not come
Her hand was pulling at his arm. There in the field over the hedge
a buzzard hawk was dropping like a stone.
"Oh, Mark! Oh! Oh! It's got it!"
She was covering her face with both her hands, and the hawk, with a
young rabbit in its claws, was sailing up again. It looked so
beautiful that he did not somehow feel sorry for the rabbit; but he
wanted to stroke and comfort her, and said:
"It's all right, Sylvia; it really is. The rabbit's dead already,
you know. And it's quite natural."
She took her hands away from a face that looked just as if she were
going to cry.
"Poor little rabbit! It was such a little one!"
On the afternoon of the day following he sat in the smoking-room
with a prayer book in his hand, and a frown on his forehead,
reading the Marriage Service. The book had been effectively
designed for not spoiling the figure when carried in a pocket. But
this did not matter, for even if he could have read the words, he
would not have known what they meant, seeing that he was thinking
how he could make a certain petition to a certain person sitting
just behind at a large bureau with a sliding top, examining
He fixed at last upon this form:
"Gordy!" (Why Gordy no one quite knew now--whether because his
name was George, or by way of corruption from Guardian.) "When Cis
is gone it'll be rather awful, won't it?"
"Not a bit."
Mr. Heatherley was a man of perhaps sixty-four, if indeed guardians
have ages, and like a doctor rather than a squire; his face square
and puffy, his eyes always half-closed, and his curly mouth using
bluntly a voice of that refined coarseness peculiar to people of
"But it will, you know!"
"Well, supposin' it is?"
"I only wondered if you'd mind asking Mr. and Mrs. Stormer to come
here for a little--they were awfully kind to me out there."
"Strange man and woman! My dear fellow!"
"Mr. Stormer likes fishing."
"Does he? And what does she like?"
Very grateful that his back was turned, the boy said:
"I don't know--anything--she's awfully nice."
He answered faintly:
"I don't know what YOU call pretty, Gordy."
He felt, rather than saw, his guardian scrutinizing him with those
half-closed eyes under their gouty lids.
"All right; do as you like. Have 'em here and have done with it,
by all means."
Did his heart jump? Not quite; but it felt warm and happy, and he
"Thanks awfully, Gordy. It's most frightfully decent of you," and
turned again to the Marriage Service. He could make out some of
it. In places it seemed to him fine, and in other places queer.
About obeying, for instance. If you loved anybody, it seemed
rotten to expect them to obey you. If you loved them and they
loved you, there couldn't ever be any question of obeying, because
you would both do the things always of your own accord. And if
they didn't love you, or you them, then--oh! then it would be
simply too disgusting for anything, to go on living with a person
you didn't love or who didn't love you. But of course SHE didn't
love his tutor. Had she once? Those bright doubting eyes, that
studiously satiric mouth came very clearly up before him. You
could not love them; and yet--he was really very decent. A feeling
as of pity, almost of affection, rose in him for his remote tutor.
It was queer to feel so, since the last time they had talked
together out there, on the terrace, he had not felt at all like
The noise of the bureau top sliding down aroused him; Mr.
Heatherley was closing in the remains of the artificial flies.
That meant he would be going out to fish. And the moment he heard
the door shut, Mark sprang up, slid back the bureau top, and began
to write his letter. It was hard work.
"DEAR MRS. STORMER,
"My guardian wishes me to beg you and Mr. Stormer to pay us a visit
as soon as you come back from the Tyrol. Please tell Mr. Stormer
that only the very best fishermen--like him--can catch our trout;
the rest catch our trees. This is me catching our trees (here
followed a sketch). My sister is going to be married to-morrow,
and it will be disgusting afterwards unless you come. So do come,
please. And with my very best greetings,
"Your humble servant,
When he had stamped this production and dropped it in the letter-
box, he had the oddest feeling, as if he had been let out of
school; a desire to rush about, to frolic. What should he do?
Cis, of course, would be busy--they were all busy about the
wedding. He would go and saddle Bolero, and jump him in the park;
or should he go down along the river and watch the jays? Both
seemed lonely occupations. And he stood in the window--dejected.
At the age of five, walking with his nurse, he had been overheard
remarking: "Nurse, I want to eat a biscuit--ALL THE WAY I want to
eat a biscuit!" and it was still rather so with him perhaps--all
the way he wanted to eat a biscuit. He bethought him then of his
modelling, and went out to the little empty greenhouse where he
kept his masterpieces. They seemed to him now quite horrible--and
two of them, the sheep and the turkey, he marked out for summary
destruction. The idea occurred to him that he might try and model
that hawk escaping with the little rabbit; but when he tried, no
nice feeling came, and flinging the things down he went out. He
ran along the unweeded path to the tennis ground--lawn tennis was
then just coming in. The grass looked very rough. But then,
everything about that little manor house was left rather wild and
anyhow; why, nobody quite knew, and nobody seemed to mind. He
stood there scrutinizing the condition of the ground. A sound of
humming came to his ears. He got up on the wall. There was Sylvia
sitting in the field, making a wreath of honeysuckle. He stood
very quiet and listened. She looked pretty--lost in her tune.
Then he slid down off the wall, and said gently:
She looked round at him, her eyes very wide open.
"Your voice is jolly, Sylvia!"
"It is. Come and climb a tree!"
"In the park, of course."
They were some time selecting the tree, many being too easy for
him, and many too hard for her; but one was found at last, an oak
of great age, and frequented by rooks. Then, insisting that she
must be roped to him, he departed to the house for some blind-cord.
The climb began at four o'clock--named by him the ascent of the
Cimone della Pala. He led the momentous expedition, taking a hitch
of the blind-cord round a branch before he permitted her to move.
Two or three times he was obliged to make the cord fast and return
to help her, for she was not an 'expert'; her arms seemed soft, and
she was inclined to straddle instead of trusting to one foot. But
at last they were settled, streaked indeed with moss, on the top
branch but two. They rested there, silent, listening to the rooks
soothing an outraged dignity. Save for this slowly subsiding
demonstration it was marvellously peaceful and remote up there,
half-way to a blue sky thinly veiled from them by the crinkled
brown-green leaves. The peculiar dry mossy smell of an oak-tree
was disturbed into the air by the least motion of their feet or
hands against the bark. They could hardly see the ground, and all
around, other gnarled trees barred off any view.
"If we stay up here till it's dark we might see owls."
"Oh, no! Owls are horrible!"
"What! They're LOVELY--especially the white ones."
"I can't stand their eyes, and they squeak so when they're
"Oh! but that's so jolly, and their eyes are beautiful."
"They're always catching mice and little chickens; all sorts of
"But they don't mean to; they only want them to eat. Don't you
think things are jolliest at night?"
She slipped her arm in his.
"No; I don't like the dark."
"Why not? It's splendid--when things get mysterious." He dwelt
lovingly on that word.
"I don't like mysterious things. They frighten you."
"No, I like early morning--especially in spring, when it's
beginning to get leafy."
"Well, of course."
She was leaning against him, for safety, just a little; and
stretching out his arm, he took good hold of the branch to make a
back for her. There was a silence. Then he said:
"If you could only have one tree, which would you have?"
"Not oaks. Limes--no--birches. Which would you?"
He pondered. There were so many trees that were perfect. Birches
and limes, of course; but beeches and cypresses, and yews, and
cedars, and holm-oaks--almost, and plane-trees; then he said
"Pines; I mean the big ones with reddish stems and branches pretty
Again he pondered. It was very important to explain exactly why;
his feelings about everything were concerned in this. And while he
mused she gazed at him, as if surprised to see anyone think so
deeply. At last he said:
"Because they're independent and dignified and never quite cold,
and their branches seem to brood, but chiefly because the ones I
mean are generally out of the common where you find them. You
know--just one or two, strong and dark, standing out against the
"They're TOO dark."
It occurred to him suddenly that he had forgotten larches. They,
of course, could be heavenly, when you lay under them and looked up
at the sky, as he had that afternoon out there. Then he heard her
"If I could only have one flower, I should have lilies of the
valley, the small ones that grow wild and smell so jolly."
He had a swift vision of another flower, dark--very different, and
"What would you have, Mark?" Her voice sounded a little hurt.
"You ARE thinking of one, aren't you?"
He said honestly: