Direktlänk till inlägg 4 maj 2011

no longer in sight.

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 4 maj 2011 06:23

After that, how could he say immediately that he no longer loved her, and wished to be released from his engagement? "I'm afraid you think I'm a very terrifying person," answered James. Her words had made his announcement impossible; another day had gone, and weakly he had let it pass. "What shall I do?" he murmured under his breath. "What a coward I am!" They came to the door of the Clibborns' house and Mary turned to say good-bye. She bent forward, smiling and blushing, and he quickly kissed her. * * * In the evening, James was sitting by the fire in the dining-room, thinking of that one subject which occupied all his thoughts. Colonel Parsons and his wife were at the table, engaged upon the game of backgammon which invariably filled the interval between supper and prayers. The rattle of dice came to James indistinctly, as in a dream, and he imagined fantastically that unseen powers were playing for his life. He sat with his head between his hands, staring at the flames as though to find in them a solution to his difficulty; but mockingly they spoke only of Mrs. Wallace and the caress of her limpid eyes. He turned away with a gesture of impatience. The game was just finished, and Mrs. Parsons, catching the expression on his face, asked: "What are you thinking of, Jamie?" "I?" he answered, looking up quickly, as though afraid that his secret had been divined. "Nothing!" Mrs. Parsons put the backgammon board away, making up her mind to speak, for she too suffered from a shyness which made the subjects she had nearest at heart precisely those that she could least bear to talk about. "When do you think of getting married, Jamie?" James started. "Why, you asked me that yesterday," He tried to make a joke of it. "Upon my word, you're very anxious to get rid of me." "I wonder if it's occurred to you that you're making Mary a little unhappy?" James stood up and leaned against the mantelpiece, his face upon his hand. "I should be sorry to do that, mother." "You've been home four days, and you've not said a word to show you love her." "I'm afraid I'm not very demonstrative." "That's what I said!" cried the Colonel, triumphantly. "Can't you try to say a word or two to prove you care for her, Jamie? She _is_ so fond of you," continued his mother. "I don't want to interfere with your private concerns, but I think it's only thoughtlessness on your part; and I'm sure you don't wish to make Mary miserable. Poor thing, she's so unhappy at home; she yearns for a little affection.... Won't you say something to her about your marriage?" "Has she asked you to speak to me?" inquired James. "No, dear. You know that she would never do anything of the kind. She would hate to think that I had said anything." James paused a moment. "I will speak to her to-morrow, mother." "That's right!" said the Colonel, cheerfully. "I know she's going to be in all the morning. Colonel and Mrs. Clibborn are going into Tunbridge Wells." "It will be a good opportunity."

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There was a pained hush, such as naturally occurs when someone has made a very horrible _faux pas_. They all looked at one another awkwardly; while Mary, ashamed at her mother's want of taste, kept her eyes glued to the carpet But Mrs. Clibborn's folly was so notorious that presently anger was succeeded by contemptuous amusement, and the curate came to the rescue with a loud guffaw. "Of course, you know your Marie Corelli by heart, Captain Parsons?" "I'm afraid I've never read one of them." "Not?" they all cried in surprise. "Oh, I'll send them to you to Primpton House," said Mr. Dryland. "I have them all. Why, no one's education is complete till he's read Marie Corelli." This was considered a very good hit at Mrs. Clibborn, and the dear people smiled at one another significantly. Even Mary could scarcely keep a straight face. The tea then appeared, and was taken more or less silently. With the exception of the fashionable Mrs. Clibborn, they were all more used to making a sit-down meal of it, and the care of holding a cup, with a piece of cake unsteadily balanced in the saucer, prevented them from indulging in very brilliant conversational feats; they found one gymnastic exercise quite sufficient at a time. But when the tea-cups were safely restored to the table, Mrs. Jackson suggested a little music. "Will you open the proceedings, Mary?" The curate went up to Miss Clibborn with a bow, gallantly offering his arm to escort her to the piano. Mary had thoughtfully brought her music, and began to play a 'Song Without Words,' by Mendelssohn. She was considered a fine pianist in Little Primpton. She attacked the notes with marked resolution, keeping the loud pedal down throughout; her eyes were fixed on the music with an intense, determined air, in which you saw an eagerness to perform a social duty, and her lips moved as conscientiously she counted time. Mary played the whole piece without making a single mistake, and at the end was much applauded. "There's nothing like classical music, is there?" cried the curate enthusiastically, as Mary stopped, rather out of breath, for she played, as she did everything else, with energy and thoroughness. "It's the only music I really love." "And those 'Songs Without Words' are beautiful," said Colonel Parsons, who was standing on Mary's other side. "Mendelssohn is my favourite composer," she replied. "He's so full of soul." "Ah, yes," murmured Mr. Dryland. "His heart seems to throb through all his music. It's strange that he should have been a Jew." "But then Our Lord was a Jew, wasn't He?" said Mary. "Yes, one is so apt to forget that." Mary turned the leaves, and finding another piece which was familiar to her, set about it. It was a satisfactory thing to listen to her performance. In Mary's decided touch one felt all the strength of her character, with its simple, unaffected candour and its eminent sense of propriety. In her execution one perceived the high purpose which animated her whole conduct; it was pure and wholesome, and thoroughly English. And her piano-playing served also as a moral lesson, for none could listen without remembering that life was not an affair to be taken lightly, but a strenuous endeavour: the world was a battlefield (this one realised more particularly when Mary forgot for a page or so to take her foot off the pedal); each one of us had a mission to perform, a duty to do, a function to fulfil. Meanwhile, James was trying to make conversation with Mrs. Clibborn. "How well Mary plays!" "D'you think so? I can't bear amateurs. I wish they wouldn't play." James looked at Mrs. Clibborn quickly. It rather surprised him that she, the very silliest woman he had ever known, should say the only sensible things he had heard that day. Nor could he forget that she had done her best to prevent his engagement. "I think you're a very wonderful woman," he said. "Oh, Jamie!" Mrs. Clibborn smiled and sighed, slipping forward her hand for him to take; but James was too preoccupied to notice the movement. "I'm beginning to think you really like me," murmured Mrs. Clibborn, cooing like an amorous dove. Then James was invited to sing, and refused. "Please do, Jamie!" cried Mary, smiling. "For my sake. You used to sing so nicely!" He still tried to excuse himself, but finding everyone insistent, went at last, with very bad grace, to the piano. He not only sang badly, but knew it, and was irritated that he should be forced to make a fool of himself. Mr. Dryland sang badly, but perfectly satisfied with himself, needed no pressing when his turn came. He made a speciality of old English songs, and thundered out in his most ecclesiastical manner a jovial ditty entitled, "Down Among the Dead Men." The afternoon was concluded by an adjournment to the dining-room to play bagatelle, the most inane of games, to which the billiard-player goes with contempt, changed quickly to wrath when he cannot put the balls into absurd little holes. Mary was an adept, and took pleasure in showing James how the thing should be done. He noticed that she and the curate managed the whole affair between them, arranging partners and advising freely. Mrs. Clibborn alone refused to play, saying frankly it was too idiotic a pastime. At last the party broke up, and in a group bade their farewells. "I'll walk home with you, Mary, if you don't mind," said James, "and smoke a pipe." Mary suddenly became radiant, and Colonel Parsons gave her a happy little smile and a friendly nod.... At last James had his opportunity. He lingered while Mary gathered together her music, and waited again to light his pipe, so that when they came out of the Vicarage gates the rest of the company were no longer in sight. The day had become overcast and sombre; on the even surface of the sky floated little ragged black clouds, like the fragments cast to the wind of some widowed, ample garment. It had grown cold, and James, accustomed to a warmer air, shivered a little. The country suddenly appeared cramped and circumscribed; in the fading light a dulness of colour came over tree and hedgerow which was singularly depressing. They walked in silence, while James looked for words. All day he had been trying to find some manner to express himself, but his mind, perplexed and weary, refused to help him. The walk to Mary's house could not take more than five minutes, and he saw the distance slipping away rapidly. If he meant to say anything it must be said at once; and his mouth was dry, he felt almost a physical inability to speak. He did not know how to prepare the way, how to approach the subject; and he was doubly tormented by the absolute necessity of breaking the silence.


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