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Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 9 maj 2011 07:31

Miles rose after two hours in bed. The hostel was alive with all the normal activity of morning. The wireless was playing; the sub-officials were coughing over their wash basins; the reek of State sausages frying in State grease filled the asbestos cubicle. He was slightly stiff after his long walk and slightly footsore, but his mind was as calm and empty as the sleep from which he had awoken. The scorched-earth policy had succeeded. He had made a desert in his imagination which he might call peace. Once before he had burned his childhood. Now his brief adult life lay in ashes; the enchantments that surrounded Clara were one with the splendours of Mountjoy; her great golden beard, one with the tongues of flame that had leaped and expired among the stars; her fans and pictures and scraps of old embroidery, one with the gilded cornices and silk hangings, black, cold and sodden. He ate his sausage with keen appetite and went to work. All was quiet too at the Department of Euthanasia. The first announcement of the Mountjoy disaster had been on the early news. Its proximity to Satellite City gave it a special poignancy there. “It is a significant phenomenon,” said Dr. Beamish, “that any bad news has an immediate effect on our service. You see it whenever there is an international crisis. Sometimes I think people only come to us when they have nothing to talk about. Have you looked at our queue today?” Miles turned to the periscope. Only one man waited outside, old Parsnip, a poet of the ’30s who came daily but was usually jostled to the back of the crowd. He was a comic character in the department, this veteran poet. Twice in Miles’s short term he had succeeded in gaining admission but on both occasions had suddenly taken fright and bolted. “It’s a lucky day for Parsnip,” said Miles. “Yes. He deserves some luck. I knew him well once, him and his friend Pimpernell. New Writing, the Left Book Club, they were all the rage. Pimpernell was one of my first patients. Hand Parsnip in and we’ll finish him off.” So old Parsnip was summoned and that day his nerve stood firm. He passed fairly calmly through the gas chamber on his way to rejoin Pimpernell. “We might as well knock off for the day,” said Dr. Beamish. “We shall be busy again soon when the excitement dies down.” But the politicians seemed determined to keep the excitement up. All the normal features of television were interrupted and curtailed to give place to Mountjoy. Survivors appeared on the screen, among them Soapy, who described how long practice as a cat burglar had enabled him to escape. Mr. Sweat, he remarked with respect, had got clear away. The ruins were surveyed by the apparatus. A sexual maniac with broken legs gave audience from his hospital bed. The Minister of Welfare, it was announced, would make a special appearance that evening to comment on the disaster. Miles dozed intermittently beside the hostel set and at dusk rose, still calm and free; so purged of emotion that he made his way once more to the hospital and called on Clara. She had spent the afternoon with looking glass and makeup box. The new substance of her face fulfilled all the surgeon’s promises. It took paint to perfection. Clara had given herself a full mask as though for the lights of the stage; an even creamy white with sudden high spots of crimson on the cheekbones, huge hard crimson lips, eyebrows extended and turned up catwise, the eyes shaded all round with ultramarine and dotted at the corners with crimson. “You’re the first to see me,” she said. “I was half-afraid you wouldn’t come. You seemed cross yesterday.” “I wanted to see the television,” said Miles. “It’s so crowded at the hostel.” “So dull today. Nothing except this prison that has been burned down.” “I was there myself. Don’t you remember? I often talked of it.” “Did you, Miles? Perhaps so. I’ve such a bad memory for things that don’t concern me. Do you really want to hear the Minister? It would be much cosier to talk.” “It’s him I’ve come for.” And presently the Minister appeared, open-necked as always but without his usual smile; grave to the verge of tears. He spoke for twenty minutes. “... The great experiment must go on ... the martyrs of maladjustment shall not have died in vain ... A greater, new Mountjoy shall rise from the ashes of the old ...” Eventually tears came—real tears for he held an invisible onion—and trickled down his cheeks. So the speech ended. “That’s all I came for,” said Miles, and left Clara to her cocoa-butter and face towel. Next day all the organs of public information were still piping the theme of Mountjoy. Two or three patients, already bored with the entertainment, presented themselves for extermination and were happily despatched. Then a message came from the Regional Director, official-in-chief of Satellite City. He required the immediate presence of Miles in his office. “I have a move order for you, Mr. Plastic. You are to report to the Ministers of Welfare and Rest and Culture. You will be issued with a Grade A hat, umbrella and briefcase for the journey. My congratulations.” Equipped with these insignia of sudden, dizzy promotion, Miles travelled to the capital leaving behind a domeful of sub-officials chattering with envy. At the terminus an official met him. Together in an official car they drove to Whitehall. “Let me carry your briefcase, Mr. Plastic.” “There’s nothing in it.” Miles’s escort laughed obsequiously at this risqué joke. At the Ministry the lifts were in working order. It was a new and alarming experience to enter the little cage and rise to the top of the great building.

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Santa-Claus-tide was near. Shops were full of shoddy little dolls. Children in the schools sang old ditties about peace and goodwill. Strikers went back to work in order to qualify for their seasonal bonus. Electric bulbs were hung in the conifers and the furnaces in the Dome of Security roared again. Miles had been promoted. He now sat beside the assistant registrar and helped stamp and file the documents of the dead. It was harder work than he was used to and Miles was hungry for Clara’s company. The lights were going out in the Dome and on the Goodwill Tree in the car park. He walked the half-mile of hutments to Clara’s quarters. Other girls were waiting for their consorts or setting out to find them in the Recreatorium, but Clara’s door was locked. A note, pinned to it, read: Miles, Going away for a bit. C. Angry and puzzled he returned to his hostel. Clara, unlike himself, had uncles and cousins scattered about the country. Since her operation she had been shy of visiting them. Now, Miles supposed, she was taking cover among them. It was the manner of her flight, so unlike her gentle ways, that tortured him. For a busy week he thought of nothing else. His reproaches sang in his head as the undertone to all the activities of the day and at night he lay sleepless, repeating in his mind every word spoken between them and every act of intimacy. After a week the thought of her became spasmodic and regular. The subject bored him unendurably. He strove to keep it out of his mind as a man might strive to control an attack of hiccups, and as impotently. Spasmodically, mechanically, the thought of Clara returned. He timed it and found that it came every seven and one-half minutes. He went to sleep thinking of her, he woke up thinking of her. But between times he slept. He consulted the departmental psychiatrist who told him that he was burdened by the responsibility of parentage. But it was not Clara the mother who haunted him, but Clara the betrayer. Next week he thought of her every twenty minutes. The week after that he thought of her irregularly, though often; only when something outside himself reminded him of her. He began to look at other girls and considered himself cured. He looked hard at other girls as he passed them in the dim corridors of the Dome and they looked boldly back at him. Then one of them stopped him and said: “I’ve seen you before with Clara” and at the mention of her name all interest in the other girl ceased in pain. “I went to visit her yesterday.” “Where?” “In hospital, of course. Didn’t you know?” “What’s the matter with her?” “She won’t say. Nor will anyone else at the hospital. She’s top secret. If you ask me she’s been in an accident and there’s some politician involved. I can’t think of any other reason for all the fuss. She’s covered in bandages and gay as a lark.” Next day, December 25th, was Santa Claus Day; no holiday in the department of Euthanasia, which was an essential service. At dusk Miles walked to the hospital, one of the unfinished edifices, all concrete and steel and glass in front and a jumble of huts behind. The hall porter was engrossed in the television, which was performing an old obscure folk play which past generations had performed on Santa Claus Day, and was now revived and revised as a matter of historical interest. It was of professional interest to the porter for it dealt with maternity services before the days of Welfare. He gave the number of Clara’s room without glancing up from the strange spectacle of an ox and an ass, an old man with a lantern, and a young mother. “People here are always complaining,” he said. “They ought to realize what things were like before Progress.” The corridors were loud with relayed music. Miles found the hut he sought. It was marked “Experimental Surgery. Health Officers Only.” He found the cubicle. He found Clara sleeping, the sheet pulled up to her eyes, her hair loose on the pillow. She had brought some of her property with her. An old shawl lay across the bed table. A painted fan stood against the television set. She awoke, her eyes full of frank welcome, and pulled the sheet higher, speaking through it. “Darling, you shouldn’t have come. I was keeping it for a surprise.” Miles sat by the bed and thought of nothing to say except: “How are you?” “Wonderful. They’ve taken the bandages off today. They won’t let me have a looking glass yet but they say everything has been a tremendous success. I’m something very special, Miles—a new chapter in surgical progress.” “But what has happened to you? Is it something to do with the baby?” “Oh no. At least, it was. That was the first operation. But that’s all over now.” “You mean our child?” “Yes, that had to go. I should never have been able to dance afterwards. I told you all about it. That was why I had the Klugmann operation, don’t you remember?” “But you gave up dancing.” “That’s where they’ve been so clever. Didn’t I tell you about the sweet, clever new medical director? He’s cured all that.” “Your dear beard.” “Quite gone. An operation the new director invented himself. It’s going to be named after him or even perhaps after me. He’s so unselfish he wants to call it the Clara operation. He’s taken off all the skin and put on a wonderful new substance, a sort of synthetic rubber that takes grease-paint perfectly. He says the colour isn’t perfect but that it will never show on the stage. Look, feel it.” She sat up in bed, joyful and proud. Her eyes and brow were all that was left of the loved face. Below it something quite inhuman, a tight, slippery mask, salmon pink. Miles stared. In the television screen by the bed further characters had appeared—Food Production Workers. They seemed to declare a sudden strike, left their sheep and ran off at the bidding of some kind of shop-steward in fantastic dress. The machine by the bedside broke into song, an old, forgotten ditty: “O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, O tidings of comfort and joy.” Miles retched unobtrusively. The ghastly face regarded him with fondness and pride. At length the right words came to him; the trite, the traditional sentence uttered by countless lips of generations of baffled and impassioned Englishmen: “I think I shall go for a short walk.” But first he walked only as far as his hostel. There he lay down until the moon moved to his window and fell across his sleepless face. Then he set out, walking far into the fields, out of sight of the Dome of Security, for two hours until the moon was near setting. He had travelled at random but now the white rays fell on a signpost and he read: “Mountjoy 3/4.” He strode on with only the stars to light his way till he came to the Castle gates. They stood open as always, gracious symbol of the new penology. He followed the drive. The whole lightless face of the old house stared at him silently, without rebuke. He knew now what was needed. He carried in his pocket a cigarette lighter which often worked. It worked for him now. No need for oil here. The dry old silk of the drawing-room curtains lit like paper. Paint and panelling, plaster and tapestry and gilding bowed to the embrace of the leaping flames. He stepped outside. Soon it was too hot on the terrace and he retreated further, to the marble temple at the end of the long walk. The murderers were leaping from the first-storey windows but the sexual offenders, trapped above, set up a wail of terror. He heard the chandeliers fall and saw the boiling lead cascading from the roof. This was something altogether finer than the strangulation of a few peacocks. He watched exultant as minute by minute the scene disclosed fresh wonders. Great timbers crashed within; outside, the lily pond hissed with falling brands; a vast ceiling of smoke shut out the stars and under it tongues of flame floated away into the treetops. Two hours later when the first engine arrived, the force of the fiery storm was already spent. Miles rose from his marble throne and began the long walk home. But he was no longer at all fatigued. He strode out cheerfully with his shadow, cast by the dying blaze, stretching before him along the lane. On the main road a motorist stopped him and asked: “What’s that over there? A house on fire?” “It was,” said Miles. “It’s almost out now.” “Looks like a big place. Only Government property, I suppose?” “That’s all,” said Miles. “Well hop in if you want a lift.” “Thanks,” said Miles, “I’m walking for pleasure.”

ANNONS
Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 9 maj 2011 07:17

This novel was a spectacular success even in Britain -- where a bigger war than the Spanish struggle which the book is about was occupying people's minds. In the year of publication it sold 360,000 copies in the United States alone. Such success turned the literary critics against Hemingway: Edmund Wilson spoke of commercialization, concessions, selling out. The fact was that the "popular" novel of the American thirties had already absorbed so many Hemingwayesque elements that what had once been experimental was now part of every second-rate novelist's technical inventory. Hemingway here had not overtaken himself, nor his imitators: the earlier novels still strike the reader with a sense of freshness and original power; For Whom the Bell Tolls has merely the expected stylistic felicities. For any other writer it would have been a great masterpiece. As it is, it is the best fictional report on the Spanish Civil War that we possess. The strength lies in the literary style -- clean, simple, with dialogue that catches the Spanish idiom. Certain scenes and symbols have a classic ring -- Maria and Robert Jordan's night of love, when the earth can be felt moving beneath their "alliance against death"; the "solid flung metal grace" of the bridge, which is the one link between the opposed forces and also, in a wider view, the way by which the new age of mechanical regimentation will overtake the old pastoral world of simple needs and loyalties. Robert Jordan, the American professor of Spanish who fights for the Loyalists, an intellectual who seems ignorant of Marxist ideology, only just convinces; Maria, raped and shorn by the fascists, is not quite as compelling as Tolstoy's Natasha, despite Hemingway's ambition and boast, but she and the formidable Pilar are the best-made of all Hemingway's female characters. The dignity of the author's aim -- to speak the truth about love and pain and courage in the traditional high romantic manner -- has to be applauded. Hemingway avoids the temptation to turn his book into Loyalist propaganda: the left wing is no exemplification of incorrupt and shining chivalry. Like all art, the book is complex, even ambivalent. It taught millions to love or hate Spain, but it could not leave them indifferent.

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This long and difficult work represents for many the end of the period which began in 1922 with T.S Eliot's The Waste Land and Joyce's own Ulysses. That was the age of Modernism -- a movement in literature which rejected the late nineteenth-century concept of Liberal Man and presented (as in Ernest Hemingway and D.H Lawrence) Natural Man, and (in Eliot, Joyce and, later, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene) Imperfect Man. To eliminate all traces of Victorian and Edwardian optimism, literary style had to change from the orotund to the spare, ironic, experimental. There was also a franker realism than known in the old days. The frank realism of Ulysses earned moral censure, and the experimental prose caused difficulties for the ordinary reader. These difficulties were, however, nothing in comparison with those to be encountered in Finnegans Wake. While Ulysses is a book of the sunlight, depicting the events of an ordinary day in Dublin in 1904, Finnegans Wake is a work of the dark. It presents, with no concessions to waking sense, a dream in a specially invented dream language. The hero is a publican in Chapelizod, just outside Dublin, and, while his waking name is probably Mr Porter, his dream name is Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. He has a wife, Ann, a daughter, Isabel, and twin sons named Kevin and Jerry. Earwicker is the eternal builder of cities, while his wife is all the rivers on which cities are built, but all cities become Dublin and all rivers flow into the Liffey. Isabel becomes the eternal temptress who brings great men low, and the twin boys become all the rival males of myth and history, from Cain and Abel to Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney. Earwicker's long dream is really a mammoth comedy in which his household and the customers of his pub play all the roles. The theme of the play is simple: the father is a builder, but his creative gift is an aspect of sexual sin (no erection without an erection). His sons are most typically presented as a poetic dreamer and a political demagogue. They fight to take over the role of their father, but, as each is only one half of the creative egg (Earwicker often appears as Humpty Dumpty, author of his own great fall), they lack the power and skill to depose him. The great paternal creator is thrust underground, but he always rises again. One of the parts he plays is that of the god-giant Finnegan, who, like Christ, may be killed and eaten and drunk but is indestructible. The action of the dream takes place in 1132 AD, a symbolic year which combines figures of falling and rising -- bodies fall at the rate of 32 feet per second per second; when we have counted on our ten fingers we start again with the number 11. Meanwhile the wifely motherly river -- who never dies -- flows on quietly beneath the turbulent city which is her husband. Some say that this fantasy is not really a novel. In that it has distinguishable characters -- always changing their shapes and names but always brilliantly delineated -- and that there is a summarizable plot and a fixed mise en scène -- the master bedroom over the pub -- it is difficult to deny that it belongs to the genre. We had to wait for the war in order to begin to understand it (it was in many an intellectual fighting man's kitbag), but it is the post-war age that has produced a horde of Joyce scholars dedicated to dragging it further into the light. Janus-faced, it looks back to the twenties but also to the indefinite future: no writer of the contemporary period has been able to ignore it, though most writers have succeeded in not being influenced by it. Flann O'Brien was an Irish journalist, Gaelic scholar and dedicated drinker whose real name was Brian O'Nolan. Of his very few books, The Hard Life and The Dalkey Archive are slight but funny, and The Third Policeman is a vision of hell which does not quite come off, but At Swim-Two-Birds is probably a masterpiece. Philip Toynbee, the novelist and critic, once said: "If I were cultural dictator. . . I would make At Swim-Two-Birds compulsory reading in all our universities." Joyce said of Flann O'Brien: "There's a real writer with the true comic spirit." This book owes something to Joyce, but this may mean merely that both Joyce and O'Brien were Irish. The book is sometimes difficult, but it is no literary heavyweight. It is even, which Joyce's work is not, whimsical. The narrator is an Irish student who, when not lying in bed or pub-crawling, is writing a novel about a man named Trellis who is writing a book about his enemies who, in revenge, are writing a book about him. The book is a book about writing a book about writing a book. This is very modern (compare the Argentine Borges) in that it does not pretend that literature is reality. The student-narrator is interested not merely in literature but in Irish mythology, which enables him to bring in Finn MacCool (Joyce's Finnegan) and indulge in comic-heroic language which sounds as though it is translated from the Erse: "The knees and calves to him, swealed and swathed with soogawns and Thomond weed-ropes, were smutted with dungs and dirt-daubs. . ." Flann O'Brien discovered a way of counterpointing myth, fiction and actuality through the device of a sort of writer's commonplace-book. There is no sense of recession, of one order of reality -- myth or novel or narration -- lying behind another: all are on the same level of importance, and this is what gives the contrapuntal effect. The scope of fiction is both extended and limited -- limited as to action (not much happens, though plenty is heard about) but extended as to technique. It is a very Irish book and very funny. But it still awaits the popularity it deserves. In the USA this novel was entitled Labyrinthine Ways, which suggests pursuit by the Hound of Heaven. No title could be more inept. Greene's hero, the "whisky priest", is, despite all his massive human faults, the incarnation of God's power and glory, which are blotted out by the atheistic positivism of the Mexican dictatorship which puts priests high on the list of enemies of the state. Nowhere in his many novels has Greene better conveyed the torrid decay of tropical townships, where the carious ruins are metaphors for a world without God. His priest is pursued by the hounds of repression, but he clings fast to his vocation, administering the sacraments, giving sermons in jungle clearings and pueblos, looking for wine that he may say mass. The state is not merely atheistical, it is prohibitionist: the outlawing of wine, which can be turned into Christ's blood, is, in Greene's symbolism, the ultimate oppression. The most harrowing scene occurs when the priest has, by good luck, found a bottle of wine but has to suffer its being consumed in his presence by a corrupt state official. Though, at the end, he dies, another priest appears from nowhere: the ministry goes on, the power and the glory will not be denied. This book comes early in the list of those novels of Greene (most of them) which deal specifically with the place of the Catholic in a secular world and present priests who, carrying the referred glory and the actual power, can afford to be imperfect human beings. It seems to many now to be too Greenean to take seriously (early works often look, with the curse of hindsight, like self-parody), but it is distinguished and serious art even when we have ceased to be affected by its theology.

ANNONS
Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 9 maj 2011 07:14

It was a small stone building on the very edge of the cliff, built a century or so ago for defensive purposes, converted to a private house in the years of peace, taken again by the Navy during the war as a signal station, now once more reverting to gentler uses. Some coils of rusty wire, a mast, the concrete foundations of a hut, gave evidence of its former masters. They carried their things into the house and paid the taxi. “A woman comes up every morning from the village. I said we shouldn’t want her this evening. I see she’s left us some oil for the lamps. She’s got a fire going, too, bless her, and plenty of wood. Oh, and look what I’ve got as a present from father. I promised not to tell you until we arrived. A bottle of whisky. Wasn’t it sweet of him. He’s been hoarding his ration for three months ...” Elizabeth talked brightly as she began to arrange the luggage. “There’s a room for each of us. This is the only proper living room, but there’s a study in case you feel like doing any work. I believe we shall be quite comfortable ...” The living room was built with two stout bays, each with a french window opening on a balcony which overhung the sea. John opened one and the sea-wind filled the room. He stepped out, breathed deeply, and then said suddenly: “Hullo, this is dangerous.” At one place, between the windows, the cast-iron balustrade had broken away and the stone ledge lay open over the cliff. He looked at the gap and at the foaming rocks below, momentarily puzzled. The irregular polyhedron of memory rolled uncertainly and came to rest. He had been here before, a few weeks ago, on the gallery of the lighthouse in that swiftly forgotten film. He stood there, looking down. It was exactly thus that the waves had come swirling over the rocks, had broken and dropped back with the spray falling about them. This was the sound they had made; this was the broken ironwork and the sheer edge. Elizabeth was still talking in the room, her voice drowned by wind and sea. John returned to the room, shut and fastened the door. In the quiet she was saying “... only got the furniture out of store last week. He left the woman from the village to arrange it. She’s got some queer ideas, I must say. Just look where she put ...” “What did you say this house was called?” “Good Hope.” “A good name.” That evening John drank a glass of his father-in-law’s whisky, smoked a pipe and planned. He had been a good tactician. He made a leisurely, mental “appreciation of the situation.” Object: murder. When they rose to go to bed he asked: “You packed the tablets?” “Yes, a new tube. But I am sure I shan’t want any tonight.” “Neither shall I,” said John, “the air is wonderful.” During the following days he considered the tactical problem. It was entirely simple. He had the “staff-solution” already. He considered it in the words and form he had used in the army. “... Courses open to the enemy ... achievement of surprise ... consolidation of success.” The staff-solution was exemplary. At the beginning of the first week, he began to put it into execution. Already, by easy stages, he had made himself known in the village. Elizabeth was a friend of the owner; he the returned hero, still a little strange in civvy street. “The first holiday my wife and I have had together for six years,” he told them in the golf club and, growing more confidential at the bar, hinted that they were thinking of making up for lost time and starting a family. On another evening he spoke of war-strain, of how in this war the civilians had had a worse time of it than the services. His wife, for instance; stuck it all through the blitz; office work all day, bombs at night. She ought to get right away, alone somewhere for a long stretch; her nerves had suffered; nothing serious, but to tell the truth he wasn’t quite happy about it. As a matter of fact, he had found her walking in her sleep once or twice in London. His companions knew of similar cases; nothing to worry about, but it wanted watching; didn’t want it to develop into anything worse. Had she seen a doctor? Not yet, John said. In fact she didn’t know she had been sleep-walking. He had got her back to bed without waking her. He hoped the sea air would do her good. In fact, she seemed much better already. If she showed any more signs of the trouble when they got home, he knew a very good man to take her to. The golf club was full of sympathy. John asked if there was a good doctor in the neighbourhood. Yes, they said, old Mackenzie in the village, a first-class man, wasted in a little place like that; not at all a stick-in-the-mud. Read the latest books; psychology and all that. They couldn’t think why Old Mack had never specialized and made a name for himself. “I think I might go and talk to Old Mack about it,” said John.

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“You aren’t looking well, John,” said his aunt. “You and Elizabeth ought to get away for a bit. She is due for leave at Easter.” “The State is granting her a supplementary ration of her husband’s company, you mean. Are we sure she has filled in all the correct forms? Or are commissars of her rank above such things?” Uncle and aunt laughed uneasily. John made his little jokes with such an air of weariness, with such a droop of the eyelids that they sometimes struck chill in that family circle. Elizabeth regarded him gravely and silently. John was far from well. His leg was in constant pain so that he no longer stood in queues. He slept badly; as also, for the first time in her life, did Elizabeth. They shared a room now, for the winter rains had brought down ceilings in many parts of the shaken house and the upper rooms were thought to be unsafe. They had twin beds on the ground floor in what had once been her father’s library. In the first days of his homecoming John had been amorous. Now he never approached her. They lay night after night six feet apart in the darkness. Once when John had been awake for two hours he turned on the lamp that stood on the table between them. Elizabeth was lying with her eyes wide open staring at the ceiling. “I’m sorry. Did I wake you?” “I haven’t been asleep.” “I thought I’d read for a bit. Will it disturb you?” “Not at all.” She turned away. John read for an hour. He did not know whether she was awake or asleep when he turned off the light. Often after that he longed to put on the light, but was afraid to find her awake and staring. Instead he lay, as others lie in a luxurious rapture of love, hating her. It did not occur to him to leave her; or, rather, it did occur from time to time, but he hopelessly dismissed the thought. Her life was bound tight to his; her family was his family; their finances were intertangled and their expectations lay together in the same quarters. To leave her would be to start fresh, alone and naked in a strange world; and lame and weary at the age of thirty-eight, John Verney had not the heart to move. He loved no one else. He had nowhere to go, nothing to do. Moreover he suspected, of late, that it would not hurt her if he went. And, above all, the single steadfast desire left to him was to do her ill. “I wish she were dead,” he said to himself as he lay awake at night. “I wish she were dead.” Sometimes they went out together. As the winter passed, John took to dining once or twice a week at his club. He assumed that on these occasions she stayed at home, but one morning it transpired that she too had dined out the evening before. He did not ask with whom, but his aunt did, and Elizabeth replied, “Just someone from the office.” “The Jew?” John asked. “As a matter of fact, it was.” “I hope you enjoyed it.” “Quite. A beastly dinner, of course, but he’s very amusing.” One night when he returned from his club, after a dismal little dinner and two crowded Tube journeys, he found Elizabeth in bed and deeply asleep. She did not stir when he entered. Unlike her normal habit, she was snoring. He stood for a minute, fascinated by this new and unlovely aspect of her, her head thrown back, her mouth open and slightly dribbling at the corner. Then he shook her. She muttered something, turned over and slept heavily and soundlessly. Half an hour later, as he was striving to compose himself for sleep, she began to snore again. He turned on the light, looked at her more closely and noticed with surprise, which suddenly changed to joyous hope, that there was a tube of unfamiliar pills, half empty, beside her on the bed table. He examined it. “24 Comprimés narcotiques, hypnotiques,” he read, and then in large, scarlet letters, “NE PAS DEPASSER DEUX.” He counted those which were left. Eleven. With tremulous butterfly wings Hope began to flutter in his heart, became a certainty. He felt a fire kindle and spread inside him until he was deliciously suffused in every limb and organ. He lay, listening to the snores, with the pure excitement of a child on Christmas Eve. “I shall wake up tomorrow and find her dead,” he told himself, as once he had felt the flaccid stocking at the foot of his bed and told himself, “Tomorrow I shall wake up and find it full.” Like a child, he longed to sleep to hasten the morning and, like a child, he was wildly, ecstatically sleepless. Presently he swallowed two of the pills himself and almost at once was unconscious. Elizabeth always rose first to make breakfast for the family. She was at the dressing table when sharply, without drowsiness, his memory stereoscopically clear about the incidents of the night before, John awoke. “You’ve been snoring,” she said. Disappointment was so intense that at first he could not speak. Then he said, “You snored, too, last night.” “It must be the sleeping tablet I took. I must say it gave me a good night.” “Only one?” “Yes, two’s the most that’s safe.” “Where did you get them?” “A friend at the office—the one you called the Jew. He has them prescribed by a doctor for when he’s working too hard. I told him I wasn’t sleeping, so he gave me half a bottle.” “Could he get me some?” “I expect so. He can do most things like that.” So he and Elizabeth began to drug themselves regularly and passed long, vacuous nights. But often John delayed, letting the beatific pill lie beside his glass of water, while, knowing the vigil was terminable at will, he postponed the joy of unconsciousness, heard Elizabeth’s snores, and hated her sumptuously. One evening while the plans for the holiday were still under discussion, John and Elizabeth went to the cinema. The film was a murder story of no great ingenuity but with showy scenery. A bride murdered her husband by throwing him out of a window, down a cliff. Things were made easy for her by his taking a lonely lighthouse for their honeymoon. He was very rich and she wanted his money. All she had to do was confide in the local doctor and a few neighbours that her husband frightened her by walking in his sleep; she doped his coffee, dragged him from the bed to the balcony—a feat of some strength—where she had already broken away a yard of balustrade, and rolled him over. Then she went back to bed, gave the alarm next morning, and wept over the mangled body which was presently discovered half awash on the rocks. Retribution overtook her later, but at the time the thing was a complete success. “I wish it were as easy as that,” thought John, and in a few hours the whole tale had floated away in those lightless attics of the mind where films and dreams and funny stories lie spider-shrouded for a lifetime unless, as sometimes happens, an intruder brings them to light. Such a thing happened a few weeks later when John and Elizabeth went for their holiday. Elizabeth found the place. It belonged to someone in her office. It was named Good Hope Fort, and stood on the Cornish coast. “It’s only just been derequisitioned,” she said: “I expect we shall find it in pretty bad condition.” “We’re used to that,” said John. It did not occur to him that she should spend her leave anywhere but with him. She was as much part of him as his maimed and aching leg. They arrived on a gusty April afternoon after a train journey of normal discomfort. A taxi drove them eight miles from the station, through deep Cornish lanes, past granite cottages and disused, archaic tin-workings. They reached the village which gave the house its postal address, passed through it and out along a track which suddenly emerged from its high banks into open grazing land on the cliff’s edge, high, swift clouds and sea-birds wheeling overhead, the turf at their feet alive with fluttering wild flowers, salt in the air, below them the roar of the Atlantic breaking on the rocks, a middle-distance of indigo and white tumbled waters and beyond it the serene arc of the horizon. Here was the house. “Your father,” said John, “would now say, ‘Your castle hath a pleasant seat.’” “Well, it has rather, hasn’t it?”

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 9 maj 2011 07:12

The statue, when at last after many ineffective tugs at the controlling cord it was undraped and stood clear, stonily, insolently unabashed under the fierce Neutralian sun, while the populace huzzaed and, according to their custom, threw firecrackers under the feet of the notables, as the pigeons fluttered above in high alarm and the full weight of the band followed the opening trumpets—the statue was appalling. There are no contemporary portraits of Bellorius still extant. In their absence some sharp business had been done in the Ministry of Rest and Culture. The figure now so frankly brought to view had lain long years in a mason’s yard. It had been commissioned in an age of free enterprise for the tomb of a commercial magnate whose estate, on his death, had proved to be illusory. It was not Bellorius; it was not the fraudulent merchant prince; it was not even unambiguously male; it was scarcely human; it represented perhaps one of the virtues. Scott-King stood aghast at the outrage he had unwittingly committed on that gracious square. But he had already spoken and his speech had been a success. He had spoken in Latin; he had spoken from the heart. He had said that a torn and embittered world was that day united in dedicating itself to the majestic concept of Bellorius, in rebuilding itself first in Neutralia, then among all the yearning peoples of the West, on the foundations Bellorius had so securely laid. He had said that they were lighting a candle that day which by the Grace of God should never be put out. And after the oration came a prodigious luncheon at the University. And after the luncheon he was invested with a Doctorate of International Law. And after the investiture he was put into a bus and driven with Dr. Fe, Dr. Antonic and the Poet, back to Bellacita. By the direct road the journey took barely five hours. It was not yet midnight when they drove down the brilliant boulevard of the capital city. Little had been said on the road. When they drew up at the Ministry, Dr. Fe said: “So our little expedition is over. I can only hope, Professor, that you have enjoyed it a particle as much as we.” He held out his hand and smiled under the arc-lamps. Dr. Antonic and the Poet collected their modest luggage. “Good-night,” they said. “Good-night. We shall walk from here. The taxis are so expensive—the double fare operates after nine o’clock.” They walked. Dr. Fe ascended the steps of the Ministry. “Back to work,” he said. “I have had an urgent summons to report to my chief. We work late in the New Neutralia.” There was nothing furtive about his ascent but it was swift. Scott-King caught him as he was about to enter a lift. “But, I say, where am I to go?” “Professor, our humble town is yours. Where would you like to go?” “Well, I suppose I must go to an hotel. We were at the Ritz before.” “I am sure you will be comfortable there. Tell the porter to get you a taxi and see he does not try to overcharge you. Double fare but not more.” “But I shall see you tomorrow?” “I hope very often.” Dr. Fe bowed and the doors of the lift shut upon his bow and his smile. There was in his manner something more than the reserve proper to a man of delicate feeling who had in emotion revealed too much of himself. IV Officially,” said Mr. Horace Smudge, “we don’t even know you’re here.” He gazed at Scott-King through hexagonal spectacles across the Pending Tray and twiddled a new-fangled fountain pen; a multiplicity of pencils protruding from his breast pocket and his face seemed to suggest that he expected one of the telephones on his desk to ring at any moment with a message about something far more important than the matter under discussion; he was for all the world, Scott-King thought, like the clerk in the food office at Granchester. Scott-King’s life had been lived far from chanceries, but once, very many years ago at Stockholm, he had been asked to luncheon, by mistake for someone else, at the British Embassy. Sir Samson Courtenay had been chargé d’affaires at the time and Scott-King gratefully recalled the air of nonchalant benevolence with which he had received a callow undergraduate where he had expected a Cabinet Minister. Sir Samson had not gone far in his profession but for one man at least, for Scott-King, he remained the fixed type of English diplomat. Smudge was not as Sir Samson; he was the child of sterner circumstances and a more recent theory of public service; no uncle had put in a bland word for Smudge in high places; honest toil, a clear head in the examination room, a genuine enthusiasm for Commercial Geography, had brought him to his present position as second secretary at Bellacita. “You’ve no conception,” said Smudge, “what a time we have with Priorities. I’ve had to put the Ambassadress off the plane twice, at the last moment, to make room for I.C.I men. As it is I have four electrical engineers, two British Council lecturers and a trades unionist all wanting passages. Officially we have not heard of Bellorius. The Neutralians brought you here. It’s their business to get you back.”

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They drove out of the town into the land of cork-oak and almond. After an hour they were stopped and an escort of armoured cars formed up before and behind them. “A little token of our esteem,” said Dr. Fe. “It is for fear of the partisans,” whispered Dr. Antonic. Dust from the military enveloped the bus and hid the landscape. After two hours they halted. Here on a bare hillock stood the National Memorial. Like all modern state-architecture it was a loveless, unadorned object saved from insignificance only by its bulk; a great truncated pyramid of stone. A squad of soldiers were at work seeking lethargically to expunge a message daubed across the inscribed face in red paint: “Death to the Marshal.” Dr. Fe ignored their activities and led his party to the further side which was innocent of any legend, patriotic or subversive. Here under a fierce sun they left their wreaths, Scott-King stepping forward, when called, to represent Great Britain. The poet-journalist crouched and snapped with his camera. The escort cheered. The fatigue-men came round with their mops to see what was going on. Dr. Fe said a few words in Neutralian. The ceremony was over. They had luncheon in a neighbouring town at what seemed to be a kind of barrack-canteen, a bare room decorated only by a large photograph of the Marshal; a substantial but far from sumptuous meal eaten at narrow tables on thick earthenware plates. Scott-King drank several glasses of the heavy, purplish wine. The bus had stood long in the sun and was scorching hot. The wine and the thick stew induced sleep, and Scott-King lolled away the hours of the return journey unconscious of the jungle-whispering which prevailed around him in that tropic air. Whispering, however, there was, and it found full voice when at length the party returned to Simona. Scott-King awoke to it as he entered the hotel. “We must call a meeting,” the American professor was saying. “We must vote a resolution.” “We want a showdown,” said Miss Bombaum. “Not here,” she added, taking stock of the stamp collectors who still squatted in the public rooms. “Upstairs.” It would be tedious in the extreme to recount all that was said in Miss Bombaum’s bedroom after the expulsion of two philatelists who had taken refuge there. It was tedious to sit there, thought Scott-King, while the fountains were splashing in the square and the breeze stirring among the orange leaves on the city walls. Speeches were made, repeated, translated and mis-translated; there were calls for order and small private explosions of ill-temper. Not all the delegates were present. The Swiss Professor and the Chinese could not be found; the Peruvian and Argentine students refused to come, but there were six savants in the little bedroom besides Miss Bombaum, all of them, except Scott-King, very indignant about something. The cause of offence emerged through many words and the haze of tobacco smoke. In brief it was this: the Bellorius Association had been made dupes of the politicians. But for Miss Bombaum’s insatiable curiosity nothing need ever have been known of it. She had nosed out the grim truth like a truffle and the fact was plain. The National Monument was nothing more or less than a fetish of civil strife. It commemorated the massacre, execution, liquidation —what you will—ten years back on that sunny spot of some fifty leaders of the now dominant Neutralian party by those then dominant. The delegates of the Bellorius Association had been tricked into leaving wreaths there and, worse than this, had been photographed in the act. Miss Bombaum’s picture was at that moment, she said, being rushed out to the newspapers of the world. More than this they had lunched at the party Headquarters at the very tables where the ruffians of the party were wont to refresh themselves after their orgies of terrorization. What was more, Miss Bombaum said, she had just learned from a book in her possession that Bellorius had never had any connection with Neutralia at all; he had been a Byzantine general. Scott-King petulantly joined issue on this point. Strong words were used of him. “Fascist beast.”—“Reactionary cannibal.”—“Bourgeois escapist.” Scott-King withdrew from the meeting. Dr. Fe was in the passage. He took Scott-King’s arm and silently led him downstairs and out into the arcaded street. “They are not content,” said Dr. Fe. “It is a tragedy of the first magnitude.” “You shouldn’t have done it, you know,” said Scott-King. “I should not have done it? My dear Professor, I wept when it was first suggested. I delayed our journey two days on the road precisely to avoid this. But would they listen? I said to the Minister of Popular Enlightenment: ‘Excellency, this is an international occasion. It is in the realm of pure scholarship. These great men have not come to Neutralia for political purposes.’ He replied coarsely: ‘They are eating and drinking at our expense. They should show their respect for the Régime. The Physical Training delegates have all saluted the Marshal in the Sports Stadium. The philatelists have been issued with the party badge and many of them wear it. The professors, too, must help the New Neutralia.’ What could I say? He is a person of no delicacy, of the lowest origins. It was he, I have no doubt, who induced the Ministry of Rest and Culture to delay sending the statue. Professor, you do not understand politics. I will be frank with you. It was all a plot.” “So Miss Bombaum says.” “A plot against me. For a long time now they have been plotting my downfall. I am not a party man. You think because I wear the badge and give the salute I am of the New Neutralia. Professor, I have six children, two of them girls of marriageable age. What can one do but seek one’s fortune? And now I think I am ruined.” “Is it as bad as that?” “I cannot express how bad it is. Professor, you must go back to that room and persuade them to be calm. You are English. You have great influence. I have remarked during our journey together how they have all respected you.” “They called me ‘a fascist beast.’ “Yes,” said Dr. Fe simply, “I heard it through the keyhole. They were very discontented.” After Miss Bombaum’s bedroom, the streets were cool and sweet; the touch of Dr. Fe’s fingers on Scott-King’s sleeve was light as a moth. They walked on in silence. At a dewy flower-stall Dr. Fe chose a buttonhole, haggled fiercely over the price, presented it with Arcadian grace to Scott-King and then resumed the sorrowful promenade. “You will not go back?” “It would do no good, you know.” “An Englishman admits himself beaten,” said Dr. Fe desperately. “It amounts to that.” “But you yourself will stay with us to the end?” “Oh certainly.” “Why, then, we have lost nothing of consequence. The celebrations can proceed.” He said it politely, gallantly, but he sighed as they parted. Scott-King climbed the worn steps of the ramparts and sat alone under the orange trees watching the sun set. The hotel was tranquil that evening. The philatelists had been collected and carted off; they left dumbly and glumly for an unknown destination like Displaced Persons swept up in the machinery of “social engineering.” The six dissident delegates went with them, in default of other transport. The Swiss, the Chinese, the Peruvian and the Argentine alone remained. They dined together, silently, lacking a common tongue, but in good humour. Dr. Fe, Dr. Antonic and the Poet dined at another table, also silent, but sorrowful. Next day the errant effigy arrived by lorry and the day following was fixed for the unveiling. Scott-King passed the time happily. He studied the daily papers, all of which, true to Miss Bombaum’s forecast, displayed large photographs of the ceremony at the National Monument. He pieced together the sense of a leading article on the subject, he ate, he dozed, he visited the cool and glowing churches of the town, he composed the speech which, he was told, was expected of him on the morrow. Dr. Fe, when they met, showed the reserve proper to a man of delicate feeling who had in emotion revealed too much of himself. It was a happy day for Scott-King. Not so for his colleagues. Two disasters befell them severally, while he was pottering around. The Swiss Professor and the Chinese went for a little drive together in the hills. Their companionship was grounded on economy rather than mutual liking. An importunate guide; insensibility to the contemplative pleasures of Western architecture; a seemingly advantageous price; the promise of cool breezes, a wide panorama, a little restaurant; these undid them. When at evening they had not returned, their fate was certain. “They should have consulted Dr. Fe,” said Dr. Antonic. “He would have chosen a more suitable road and found them an escort.” “What will become of them?” “With the partisans you cannot say. Many of them are worthy, old-fashioned fellows who will treat them hospitably and wait for a ransom. But some are occupied with politics. If our friends have fallen among those, I am afraid they will certainly be murdered.” “I did not like the Swiss.” “Nor I. A Calvinist. But the Ministry will not be pleased that he is murdered.” The fate of the South Americans was less romantic. The police took them off during luncheon. “It seems they were not Argentine or Peruvian,” said Dr. Antonic. “Not even students.” “What had they done?” “I suppose they were informed against.” “They certainly had a villainous appearance.” “Oh yes, I suppose they were desperate fellows—spies, bimetallists, who can say? Nowadays it is not what you do that counts, but who informs against you. I think someone very high up must have informed against that pair. Otherwise Dr. Fe could have had the business postponed until after our little ceremony. Or perhaps Dr. Fe’s influence is on the wane.” So in the end, as was indeed most fitting, one voice only was raised to honour Bellorius.

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 8 maj 2011 06:43

Then he rode out to St. Voltaire's, slew his horse at the door, and presented the carcass to the monastery cook. "At five o'clock that night he felt, for the first time, free--forever free from sex. No woman could enter the monastery; no monk could descend below the second story. So as he climbed the winding stair that led to his cell at the very top of the Tower of Chastity he paused for a moment by an open window which looked down fifty feet on to a road below. It was all so beautiful, he thought, this world that he was leaving, the golden shower of sun beating down upon the long fields, the spray of trees in the distance, the vineyards, quiet and green, freshening wide miles before him. He leaned his elbows on the window casement and gazed at the winding road. "Now, as it happened, Thérèse, a peasant girl of sixteen from a neighboring village, was at that moment passing along this same road that ran in front of the monastery. Five minutes before, the little piece of ribbon which held up the stocking on her pretty left leg had worn through and broken. Being a girl of rare modesty she had thought to wait until she arrived home before repairing it, but it had bothered her to such an extent that she felt she could endure it no longer. So, as she passed the Tower of Chastity, she stopped and with a pretty gesture lifted her skirt--as little as possible, be it said to her credit--to adjust her garter. "Up in the tower the newest arrival in the ancient monastery of St. Voltaire, as though pulled forward by a gigantic and irresistible hand, leaned from the window. Further he leaned and further until suddenly one of the stones loosened under his weight, broke from its cement with a soft powdery sound--and, first headlong, then head over heels, finally in a vast and impressive revolution tumbled the Chevalier O'Keefe, bound for the hard earth and eternal damnation. "Thérèse was so much upset by the occurrence that she ran all the way home and for ten years spent an hour a day in secret prayer for the soul of the monk whose neck and vows were simultaneously broken on that unfortunate Sunday afternoon. "And the Chevalier O'Keefe, being suspected of suicide, was not buried in consecrated ground, but tumbled into a field near by, where he doubtless improved the quality of the soil for many years afterward. Such was the untimely end of a very brave and gallant gentleman. What do you think, Geraldine?" But Geraldine, lost long before, could only smile roguishly, wave her first finger at him, and repeat her bridge-all, her explain-all: "Crazy!" she said, "you cra-a-azy!" His thin face was kindly, she thought, and his eyes quite gentle. She liked him because he was arrogant without being conceited, and because, unlike the men she met about the theatre, he had a horror of being conspicuous. What an odd, pointless story! But she had enjoyed the part about the stocking! After the fifth cocktail he kissed her, and between laughter and bantering caresses and a half-stifled flare of passion they passed an hour. At four-thirty she claimed an engagement, and going into the bathroom she rearranged her hair. Refusing to let him order her a taxi she stood for a moment in the doorway. "You _will_ get married," she was insisting, "you wait and see." Anthony was playing with an ancient tennis ball, and he bounced it carefully on the floor several times before he answered with a soup?on of acidity: "You're a little idiot, Geraldine." She smiled provokingly. "Oh, I am, am I? Want to bet?" "That'd be silly too." "Oh, it would, would it? Well, I'll just bet you'll marry somebody inside of a year." Anthony bounced the tennis ball very hard. This was one of his handsome days, she thought; a sort of intensity had displaced the melancholy in his dark eyes.

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Mrs. Gilbert blinked very fast--her bosom trembled, inflated, remained so for an instant, and with the exhalation her words flowed out in a torrent. She knew, she cried in a whisper; oh, yes, mothers see these things. But what could she do? He knew Gloria. He'd seen enough of Gloria to know how hopeless it was to try to deal with her. Gloria had been so spoiled--in a rather complete and unusual way. She had been suckled until she was three, for instance, when she could probably have chewed sticks. Perhaps--one never knew--it was this that had given that health and _hardiness_ to her whole personality. And then ever since she was twelve years old she'd had boys about her so thick--oh, so thick one couldn't _move_. At sixteen she began going to dances at preparatory schools, and then came the colleges; and everywhere she went, boys, boys, boys. At first, oh, until she was eighteen there had been so many that it never seemed one any more than the others, but then she began to single them out. She knew there had been a string of affairs spread over about three years, perhaps a dozen of them altogether. Sometimes the men were undergraduates, sometimes just out of college--they lasted on an average of several months each, with short attractions in between. Once or twice they had endured longer and her mother had hoped she would be engaged, but always a new one came--a new one-- The men? Oh, she made them miserable, literally! There was only one who had kept any sort of dignity, and he had been a mere child, young Carter Kirby, of Kansas City, who was so conceited anyway that he just sailed out on his vanity one afternoon and left for Europe next day with his father. The others had been--wretched. They never seemed to know when she was tired of them, and Gloria had seldom been deliberately unkind. They would keep phoning, writing letters to her, trying to see her, making long trips after her around the country. Some of them had confided in Mrs. Gilbert, told her with tears in their eyes that they would never get over Gloria ... at least two of them had since married, though.... But Gloria, it seemed, struck to kill--to this day Mr. Carstairs called up once a week, and sent her flowers which she no longer bothered to refuse. Several times, twice, at least, Mrs. Gilbert knew it had gone as far as a private engagement--with Tudor Baird and that Holcome boy at Pasadena. She was sure it had, because--this must go no further--she had come in unexpectedly and found Gloria acting, well, very much engaged indeed. She had not spoken to her daughter, of course. She had had a certain sense of delicacy and, besides, each time she had expected an announcement in a few weeks. But the announcement never came; instead, a new man came. Scenes! Young men walking up and down the library like caged tigers! Young men glaring at each other in the hall as one came and the other left! Young men calling up on the telephone and being hung up upon in desperation! Young men threatening South America! ... Young men writing the most pathetic letters! (She said nothing to this effect, but Dick fancied that Mrs. Gilbert's eyes had seen some of these letters.) ... And Gloria, between tears and laughter, sorry, glad, out of love and in love, miserable, nervous, cool, amidst a great returning of presents, substitution of pictures in immemorial frames, and taking of hot baths and beginning again--with the next. That state of things continued, assumed an air of permanency. Nothing harmed Gloria or changed her or moved her. And then out of a clear sky one day she informed her mother that undergraduates wearied her. She was absolutely going to no more college dances. This had begun the change--not so much in her actual habits, for she danced, and had as many "dates" as ever--but they were dates in a different spirit. Previously it had been a sort of pride, a matter of her own vainglory. She had been, probably, the most celebrated and sought-after young beauty in the country. Gloria Gilbert of Kansas City! She had fed on it ruthlessly--enjoying the crowds around her, the manner in which the most desirable men singled her out; enjoying the fierce jealousy of other girls; enjoying the fabulous, not to say scandalous, and, her mother was glad to say, entirely unfounded rumors about her--for instance, that she had gone in the Yale swimming-pool one night in a chiffon evening dress. And from loving it with a vanity that was almost masculine--it had been in the nature of a triumphant and dazzling career--she became suddenly anaesthetic to it. She retired. She who had dominated countless parties, who had blown fragrantly through many ballrooms to the tender tribute of many eyes, seemed to care no longer. He who fell in love with her now was dismissed utterly, almost angrily. She went listlessly with the most indifferent men. She continually broke engagements, not as in the past from a cool assurance that she was irreproachable, that the man she insulted would return like a domestic animal--but indifferently, without contempt or pride. She rarely stormed at men any more--she yawned at them. She seemed--and it was so strange--she seemed to her mother to be growing cold. Richard Caramel listened. At first he had remained standing, but as his aunt's discourse waxed in content--it stands here pruned by half, of all side references to the youth of Gloria's soul and to Mrs. Gilbert's own mental distresses--he drew a chair up and attended rigorously as she floated, between tears and plaintive helplessness, down the long story of Gloria's life. When she came to the tale of this last year, a tale of the ends of cigarettes left all over New York in little trays marked "Midnight Frolic" and "Justine Johnson's Little Club," he began nodding his head slowly, then faster and faster, until, as she finished on a staccato note, it was bobbing briskly up and down, absurdly like a doll's wired head, expressing--almost anything. In a sense Gloria's past was an old story to him. He had followed it with the eyes of a journalist, for he was going to write a book about her some day. But his interests, just at present, were family interests. He wanted to know, in particular, who was this Joseph Bloeckman that he had seen her with several times; and those two girls she was with constantly, "this" Rachael Jerryl and "this" Miss Kane--surely Miss Kane wasn't exactly the sort one would associate with Gloria!

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 8 maj 2011 06:41

so was Gloria. They were both willing--anxious; they assured each other of it. The evening ended on a note of tremendous sentiment, the majesty of leisure, the ill health of Adam Patch, love at any cost. "Anthony!" she called over the banister one afternoon a week later, "there's some one at the door." Anthony, who had been lolling in the hammock on the sun-speckled south porch, strolled around to the front of the house. A foreign car, large and impressive, crouched like an immense and saturnine bug at the foot of the path. A man in a soft pongee suit, with cap to match, hailed him. "Hello there, Patch. Ran over to call on you." It was Bloeckman; as always, infinitesimally improved, of subtler intonation, of more convincing ease. "I'm awfully glad you did." Anthony raised his voice to a vine-covered window: "Glor-i-_a_! We've got a visitor!" "I'm in the tub," wailed Gloria politely. With a smile the two men acknowledged the triumph of her alibi. "She'll be down. Come round here on the side-porch. Like a drink? Gloria's always in the tub--good third of every day." "Pity she doesn't live on the Sound." "Can't afford it." As coming from Adam Patch's grandson, Bloeckman took this as a form of pleasantry. After fifteen minutes filled with estimable brilliancies, Gloria appeared, fresh in starched yellow, bringing atmosphere and an increase of vitality. "I want to be a successful sensation in the movies," she announced. "I hear that Mary Pickford makes a million dollars annually." "You could, you know," said Bloeckman. "I think you'd film very well." "Would you let me, Anthony? If I only play unsophisticated r?les?" As the conversation continued in stilted commas, Anthony wondered that to him and Bloeckman both this girl had once been the most stimulating, the most tonic personality they had ever known--and now the three sat like overoiled machines, without conflict, without fear, without elation, heavily enamelled little figures secure beyond enjoyment in a world where death and war, dull emotion and noble savagery were covering a continent with the smoke of terror. In a moment he would call Tana and they would pour into themselves a gay and delicate poison which would restore them momentarily to the pleasurable excitement of childhood, when every face in a crowd had carried its suggestion of splendid and significant transactions taking place somewhere to some magnificent and illimitable purpose.... Life was no more than this summer afternoon; a faint wind stirring the lace collar of Gloria's dress; the slow baking drowsiness of the veranda.... Intolerably unmoved they all seemed, removed from any romantic imminency of action. Even Gloria's beauty needed wild emotions, needed poignancy, needed death.... "... Any day next week," Bloeckman was saying to Gloria. "Here--take this card. What they do is to give you a test of about three hundred feet of film, and they can tell pretty accurately from that." "How about Wednesday?" "Wednesday's fine. Just phone me and I'll go around with you--" He was on his feet, shaking hands briskly--then his car was a wraith of dust down the road. Anthony turned to his wife in bewilderment. "Why, Gloria!" "You don't mind if I have a trial, Anthony. Just a trial? I've got to go to town Wednesday, _any_how." "But it's so silly! You don't want to go into the movies--moon around a studio all day with a lot of cheap chorus people." "Lot of mooning around Mary Pickford does!" "Everybody isn't a Mary Pickford." "Well, I can't see how you'd object to my _try_ing." "I do, though. I hate actors." "Oh, you make me tired. Do you imagine I have a very thrilling time dozing on this damn porch?" "You wouldn't mind if you loved me."

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It seemed to Anthony that during the last year Bloeckman had grown tremendously in dignity. The boiled look was gone, he seemed "done" at last. In addition he was no longer overdressed. The inappropriate facetiousness he had affected in ties had given way to a sturdy dark pattern, and his right hand, which had formerly displayed two heavy rings, was now innocent of ornament and even without the raw glow of a manicure. This dignity appeared also in his personality. The last aura of the successful travelling-man had faded from him, that deliberate ingratiation of which the lowest form is the bawdy joke in the Pullman smoker. One imagined that, having been fawned upon financially, he had attained aloofness; having been snubbed socially, he had acquired reticence. But whatever had given him weight instead of bulk, Anthony no longer felt a correct superiority in his presence. "D'you remember Caramel, Richard Caramel? I believe you met him one night." "I remember. He was writing a book." "Well, he sold it to the movies. Then they had some scenario man named Jordan work on it. Well, Dick subscribes to a clipping bureau and he's furious because about half the movie reviewers speak of the 'power and strength of William Jordan's "Demon Lover."' Didn't mention old Dick at all. You'd think this fellow Jordan had actually conceived and developed the thing." Bloeckman nodded comprehensively. "Most of the contracts state that the original writer's name goes into all the paid publicity. Is Caramel still writing?" "Oh, yes. Writing hard. Short stories." "Well, that's fine, that's fine.... You on this train often?" "About once a week. We live in Marietta." "Is that so? Well, well! I live near Cos Cob myself. Bought a place there only recently. We're only five miles apart." "You'll have to come and see us." Anthony was surprised at his own courtesy. "I'm sure Gloria'd be delighted to see an old friend. Anybody'll tell you where the house is--it's our second season there." "Thank you." Then, as though returning a complementary politeness: "How is your grandfather?" "He's been well. I had lunch with him to-day." "A great character," said Bloeckman severely. "A fine example of an American." THE TRIUMPH OF LETHARGY Anthony found his wife deep in the porch hammock voluptuously engaged with a lemonade and a tomato sandwich and carrying on an apparently cheery conversation with Tana upon one of Tana's complicated themes. "In my countree," Anthony recognized his invariable preface, "all time--peoples--eat rice--because haven't got. Cannot eat what no have got." Had his nationality not been desperately apparent one would have thought he had acquired his knowledge of his native land from American primary-school geographies. When the Oriental had been squelched and dismissed to the kitchen, Anthony turned questioningly to Gloria: "It's all right," she announced, smiling broadly. "And it surprised me more than it does you." "There's no doubt?" "None! Couldn't be!" They rejoiced happily, gay again with reborn irresponsibility. Then he told her of his opportunity to go abroad, and that he was almost ashamed to reject it. "What do _you_ think? Just tell me frankly." "Why, Anthony!" Her eyes were startled. "Do you want to go? Without me?" His face fell--yet he knew, with his wife's question, that it was too late. Her arms, sweet and strangling, were around him, for he had made all such choices back in that room in the Plaza the year before. This was an anachronism from an age of such dreams. "Gloria," he lied, in a great burst of comprehension, "of course I don't. I was thinking you might go as a nurse or something." He wondered dully if his grandfather would consider this. As she smiled he realized again how beautiful she was, a gorgeous girl of miraculous freshness and sheerly honorable eyes. She embraced his suggestion with luxurious intensity, holding it aloft like a sun of her own making and basking in its beams. She strung together an amazing synopsis for an extravaganza of martial adventure. After supper, surfeited with the subject, she yawned. She wanted not to talk but only to read "Penrod," stretched upon the lounge until at midnight she fell asleep. But Anthony, after he had carried her romantically up the stairs, stayed awake to brood upon the day, vaguely angry with her, vaguely dissatisfied. "What am I going to do?" he began at breakfast. "Here we've been married a year and we've just worried around without even being efficient people of leisure." "Yes, you ought to do something," she admitted, being in an agreeable and loquacious humor. This was not the first of these discussions, but as they usually developed Anthony in the r?le of protagonist, she had come to avoid them. "It's not that I have any moral compunctions about work," he continued, "but grampa may die to-morrow and he may live for ten years. Meanwhile we're living above our income and all we've got to show for it is a farmer's car and a few clothes. We keep an apartment that we've only lived in three months and a little old house way off in nowhere. We're frequently bored and yet we won't make any effort to know any one except the same crowd who drift around California all summer wearing sport clothes and waiting for their families to die." "How you've changed!" remarked Gloria. "Once you told me you didn't see why an American couldn't loaf gracefully." "Well, damn it, I wasn't married. And the old mind was working at top speed and now it's going round and round like a cog-wheel with nothing to catch it. As a matter of fact I think that if I hadn't met you I _would_ have done something. But you make leisure so subtly attractive--" "Oh, it's all my fault--" "I didn't mean that, and you know I didn't. But here I'm almost twenty-seven and--" "Oh," she interrupted in vexation, "you make me tired! Talking as though I were objecting or hindering you!" "I was just discussing it, Gloria. Can't I discuss--" "I should think you'd be strong enough to settle--" "--something with you without--" "--your own problems without coming to me. You _talk_ a lot about going to work. I could use more money very easily, but _I'm_ not complaining. Whether you work or not I love you." Her last words were gentle as fine snow upon hard ground. But for the moment neither was attending to the other--they were each engaged in polishing and perfecting his own attitude. "I have worked--some." This by Anthony was an imprudent bringing up of raw reserves. Gloria laughed, torn between delight and derision; she resented his sophistry as at the same time she admired his nonchalance. She would never blame him for being the ineffectual idler so long as he did it sincerely, from the attitude that nothing much was worth doing. "Work!" she scoffed. "Oh, you sad bird! You bluffer! Work--that means a great arranging of the desk and the lights, a great sharpening of pencils, and 'Gloria, don't sing!' and 'Please keep that damn Tana away from me,' and 'Let me read you my opening sentence,' and 'I won't be through for a long time, Gloria, so don't stay up for me,' and a tremendous consumption of tea or coffee. And that's all. In just about an hour I hear the old pencil stop scratching and look over. You've got out a book and you're 'looking up' something. Then you're reading. Then yawns--then bed and a great tossing about because you're all full of caffeine and can't sleep. Two weeks later the whole performance over again." With much difficulty Anthony retained a scanty breech-clout of dignity. "Now that's a _slight_ exaggeration. You know _darn well_ I sold an essay to The Florentine--and it attracted a lot of attention considering the circulation of The Florentine. And what's more, Gloria, you know I sat up till five o'clock in the morning finishing it." She lapsed into silence, giving him rope. And if he had not hanged himself he had certainly come to the end of it. "At least," he concluded feebly, "I'm perfectly willing to be a war correspondent."

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 8 maj 2011 06:38

He looked at her unwillingly. At that moment nothing seemed of more importance than to idle on that shady porch drinking mellowed Scotch, while his host reminisced interminably on the byplay of some forgotten political campaign. "We've really got to go," repeated Gloria. "We can get a taxi to the station.... Come on, Anthony!" she commanded a bit more imperiously. "Now see here--" Merriam, his yarn cut off, made conventional objections, meanwhile provocatively filling his guest's glass with a high-ball that should have been sipped through ten minutes. But at Gloria's annoyed "We really _must!_" Anthony drank it off, got to his feet and made an elaborate bow to his hostess. "It seems we 'must,'" he said, with little grace. In a minute he was following Gloria down a garden-walk between tall rose-bushes, her parasol brushing gently the June-blooming leaves. Most inconsiderate, he thought, as they reached the road. He felt with injured na?vete that Gloria should not have interrupted such innocent and harmless enjoyment. The whiskey had both soothed and clarified the restless things in his mind. It occurred to him that she had taken this same attitude several times before. Was he always to retreat from pleasant episodes at a touch of her parasol or a flicker of her eye? His unwillingness blurred to ill will, which rose within him like a resistless bubble. He kept silent, perversely inhibiting a desire to reproach her. They found a taxi in front of the Inn; rode silently to the little station.... Then Anthony knew what he wanted--to assert his will against this cool and impervious girl, to obtain with one magnificent effort a mastery that seemed infinitely desirable. "Let's go over to see the Barneses," he said without looking at her. "I don't feel like going home." --Mrs. Barnes, née Rachael Jerryl, had a summer place several miles from Redgate. "We went there day before yesterday," she answered shortly. "I'm sure they'd be glad to see us." He felt that that was not a strong enough note, braced himself stubbornly, and added: "I want to see the Barneses. I haven't any desire to go home." "Well, I haven't any desire to go to the Barneses." Suddenly they stared at each other. "Why, Anthony," she said with annoyance, "this is Sunday night and they probably have guests for supper. Why we should go in at this hour--" "Then why couldn't we have stayed at the Merriams'?" he burst out. "Why go home when we were having a perfectly decent time? They asked us to supper." "They had to. Give me the money and I'll get the railroad tickets." "I certainly will not! I'm in no humour for a ride in that damn hot train." Gloria stamped her foot on the platform. "Anthony, you act as if you're tight!" "On the contrary, I'm perfectly sober." But his voice had slipped into a husky key and she knew with certainty that this was untrue. "If you're sober you'll give me the money for the tickets." But it was too late to talk to him that way. In his mind was but one idea--that Gloria was being selfish, that she was always being selfish and would continue to be unless here and now he asserted himself as her master. This was the occasion of all occasions, since for a whim she had deprived him of a pleasure. His determination solidified, approached momentarily a dull and sullen hate. "I won't go in the train," he said, his voice trembling a little with anger. "We're going to the Barneses." "I'm not!" she cried. "If you go I'm going home alone." "Go on, then." Without a word she turned toward the ticket office; simultaneously he remembered that she had some money with her and that this was not the sort of victory he wanted, the sort he must have. He took a step after her and seized her arm. "See here!" he muttered, "you're _not_ going alone!" "I certainly am--why, Anthony!" This exclamation as she tried to pull away from him and he only tightened his grasp. He looked at her with narrowed and malicious eyes. "Let go!" Her cry had a quality of fierceness. "If you have _any_ decency you'll let go." "Why?" He knew why. But he took a confused and not quite confident pride in holding her there. "I'm going home, do you understand? And you're going to let me go!" "No, I'm not." Her eyes were burning now. "Are you going to make a scene here?" "I say you're not going! I'm tired of your eternal selfishness!" "I only want to go home." Two wrathful tears started from her eyes. "This time you're going to do what _I_ say." Slowly her body straightened: her head went back in a gesture of infinite scorn. "I hate you!" Her low words were expelled like venom through her clenched teeth. "Oh, _let_ me go! Oh, I _hate_ you!" She tried to jerk herself away but he only grasped the other arm. "I hate you! I hate you!"

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It was the same Anthony, more restless, inclined to quicken only under the stimulus of several high-balls, faintly, almost imperceptibly, apathetic toward Gloria. But Gloria--she would be twenty-four in August and was in an attractive but sincere panic about it. Six years to thirty! Had she been less in love with Anthony her sense of the flight of time would have expressed itself in a reawakened interest in other men, in a deliberate intention of extracting a transient gleam of romance from every potential lover who glanced at her with lowered brows over a shining dinner table. She said to Anthony one day: "How I feel is that if I wanted anything I'd take it. That's what I've always thought all my life. But it happens that I want you, and so I just haven't room for any other desires." They were bound eastward through a parched and lifeless Indiana, and she had looked up from one of her beloved moving picture magazines to find a casual conversation suddenly turned grave. Anthony frowned out the car window. As the track crossed a country road a farmer appeared momentarily in his wagon; he was chewing on a straw and was apparently the same farmer they had passed a dozen times before, sitting in silent and malignant symbolism. As Anthony turned to Gloria his frown intensified. "You worry me," he objected; "I can imagine _wanting_ another woman under certain transitory circumstances, but I can't imagine taking her." "But I don't feel that way, Anthony. I can't be bothered resisting things I want. My way is not to want them--to want nobody but you." "Yet when I think that if you just happened to take a fancy to some one--" "Oh, don't be an idiot!" she exclaimed. "There'd be nothing casual about it. And I can't even imagine the possibility." This emphatically closed the conversation. Anthony's unfailing appreciation made her happier in his company than in any one's else. She definitely enjoyed him--she loved him. So the summer began very much as had the one before. There was, however, one radical change in ménage. The icy-hearted Scandinavian, whose austere cooking and sardonic manner of waiting on table had so depressed Gloria, gave way to an exceedingly efficient Japanese whose name was Tanalahaka, but who confessed that he heeded any summons which included the dissyllable "Tana." Tana was unusually small even for a Japanese, and displayed a somewhat na?ve conception of himself as a man of the world. On the day of his arrival from "R. Gugimoniki, Japanese Reliable Employment Agency," he called Anthony into his room to see the treasures of his trunk. These included a large collection of Japanese post cards, which he was all for explaining to his employer at once, individually and at great length. Among them were half a dozen of pornographic intent and plainly of American origin, though the makers had modestly omitted both their names and the form for mailing. He next brought out some of his own handiwork--a pair of American pants, which he had made himself, and two suits of solid silk underwear. He informed Anthony confidentially as to the purpose for which these latter were reserved. The next exhibit was a rather good copy of an etching of Abraham Lincoln, to whose face he had given an unmistakable Japanese cast. Last came a flute; he had made it himself but it was broken: he was going to fix it soon. After these polite formalities, which Anthony conjectured must be native to Japan, Tana delivered a long harangue in splintered English on the relation of master and servant from which Anthony gathered that he had worked on large estates but had always quarrelled with the other servants because they were not honest. They had a great time over the word "honest," and in fact became rather irritated with each other, because Anthony persisted stubbornly that Tana was trying to say "hornets," and even went to the extent of buzzing in the manner of a bee and flapping his arms to imitate wings. After three-quarters of an hour Anthony was released with the warm assurance that they would have other nice chats in which Tana would tell "how we do in my countree." Such was Tana's garrulous première in the gray house--and he fulfilled its promise. Though he was conscientious and honorable, he was unquestionably a terrific bore. He seemed unable to control his tongue, sometimes continuing from paragraph to paragraph with a look akin to pain in his small brown eyes. Sunday and Monday afternoons he read the comic sections of the newspapers. One cartoon which contained a facetious Japanese butler diverted him enormously, though he claimed that the protagonist, who to Anthony appeared clearly Oriental, had really an American face. The difficulty with the funny paper was that when, aided by Anthony, he had spelled out the last three pictures and assimilated their context with a concentration surely adequate for Kant's "Critique," he had entirely forgotten what the first pictures were about. In the middle of June Anthony and Gloria celebrated their first anniversary by having a "date." Anthony knocked at the door and she ran to let him in. Then they sat together on the couch calling over those names they had made for each other, new combinations of endearments ages old. Yet to this "date" was appended no attenuated good-night with its ecstasy of regret. Later in June horror leered out at Gloria, struck at her and frightened her bright soul back half a generation. Then slowly it faded out, faded back into that impenetrable darkness whence it had come--taking relentlessly its modicum of youth. With an infallible sense of the dramatic it chose a little railroad station in a wretched village near Portchester. The station platform lay all day bare as a prairie, exposed to the dusty yellow sun and to the glance of that most obnoxious type of countryman who lives near a metropolis and has attained its cheap smartness without its urbanity. A dozen of these yokels, red-eyed, cheerless as scarecrows, saw the incident. Dimly it passed across their confused and uncomprehending minds, taken at its broadest for a coarse joke, at its subtlest for a "shame." Meanwhile there upon the platform a measure of brightness faded from the world. With Eric Merriam, Anthony had been sitting over a decanter of Scotch all the hot summer afternoon, while Gloria and Constance Merriam swam and sunned themselves at the Beach Club, the latter under a striped parasol-awning, Gloria stretched sensuously upon the soft hot sand, tanning her inevitable legs. Later they had all four played with inconsequential sandwiches; then Gloria had risen, tapping Anthony's knee with her parasol to get his attention.

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 8 maj 2011 06:36

On the very first Sunday after Sophia's departure, Mr. Povey did not go to chapel in the morning, and he offered no reason for his unusual conduct. He ate his breakfast with appetite, but there was something peculiar in his glance that made Mrs. Baines a little uneasy; this something she could not seize upon and define. When she and Constance returned from chapel Mr. Povey was playing "Rock of Ages" on the harmonium--again unusual! The serious part of the dinner comprised roast beef and Yorkshire pudding--the pudding being served as a sweet course before the meat. Mrs. Baines ate freely of these things, for she loved them, and she was always hungry after a sermon. She also did well with the Cheshire cheese. Her intention was to sleep in the drawing-room after the repast. On Sunday afternoons she invariably tried to sleep in the drawing- room, and she did not often fail. As a rule the girls accompanied her thither from the table, and either 'settled down' likewise or crept out of the room when they perceived the gradual sinking of the majestic form into the deep hollows of the easy-chair. Mrs. Baines was anticipating with pleasure her somnolent Sunday afternoon. Constance said grace after meat, and the formula on this particular occasion ran thus-- "Thank God for our good dinner, Amen.--Mother, I must just run upstairs to my room." ('MY room'-Sophia being far away.) And off she ran, strangely girlish. "Well, child, you needn't be in such a hurry," said Mrs. Baines, ringing the bell and rising. She hoped that Constance would remember the conditions precedent to sleep. "I should like to have a word with you, if it's all the same to you, Mrs. Baines," said Mr. Povey suddenly, with obvious nervousness. And his tone struck a rude unexpected blow at Mrs. Baines's peace of mind. It was a portentous tone. "What about?" asked she, with an inflection subtly to remind Mr. Povey what day it was. "About Constance," said the astonishing man. "Constance!" exclaimed Mrs. Baines with a histrionic air of bewilderment. Maggie entered the room, solely in response to the bell, yet a thought jumped up in Mrs. Baines's brain, "How prying servants are, to be sure!" For quite five seconds she had a grievance against Maggie. She was compelled to sit down again and wait while Maggie cleared the table. Mr. Povey put both his hands in his pockets, got up, went to the window, whistled, and generally behaved in a manner which foretold the worst.

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Well," said Mr. Povey, rising from the rocking-chair that in a previous age had been John Baines's, "I've got to make a start some time, so I may as well begin now!" And he went from the parlour into the shop. Constance's eye followed him as far as the door, where their glances met for an instant in the transient gaze which expresses the tenderness of people who feel more than they kiss. It was on the morning of this day that Mrs. Baines, relinquishing the sovereignty of St. Luke's Square, had gone to live as a younger sister in the house of Harriet Maddack at Axe. Constance guessed little of the secret anguish of that departure. She only knew that it was just like her mother, having perfectly arranged the entire house for the arrival of the honeymoon couple from Buxton, to flit early away so as to spare the natural blushing diffidence of the said couple. It was like her mother's commonsense and her mother's sympathetic comprehension. Further, Constance did not pursue her mother's feelings, being far too busy with her own. She sat there full of new knowledge and new importance, brimming with experience and strange, unexpected aspirations, purposes, yes--and cunnings! And yet, though the very curves of her cheeks seemed to be mysteriously altering, the old Constance still lingered in that frame, an innocent soul hesitating to spread its wings and quit for ever the body which had been its home; you could see the timid thing peeping wistfully out of the eyes of the married woman. Constance rang the bell for Maggie to clear the table; and as she did so she had the illusion that she was not really a married woman and a house-mistress, but only a kind of counterfeit. She did most fervently hope that all would go right in the house--at any rate until she had grown more accustomed to her situation. The hope was to be disappointed. Maggie's rather silly, obsequious smile concealed but for a moment the ineffable tragedy that had lain in wait for unarmed Constance. "If you please, Mrs. Povey," said Maggie, as she crushed cups together on the tin tray with her great, red hands, which always looked like something out of a butcher's shop; then a pause, "Will you please accept of this?" Now, before the wedding Maggie had already, with tears of affection, given Constance a pair of blue glass vases (in order to purchase which she had been obliged to ask for special permission to go out), and Constance wondered what was coming now from Maggie's pocket. A small piece of folded paper came from Maggie's pocket. Constance accepted of it, and read: "I begs to give one month's notice to leave. Signed Maggie. June 10, 1867." "Maggie!" exclaimed the old Constance, terrified by this incredible occurrence, ere the married woman could strangle her. "I never give notice before, Mrs. Povey," said Maggie, "so I don't know as I know how it ought for be done--not rightly. But I hope as you'll accept of it, Mrs. Povey." "Oh! of course," said Mrs. Povey, primly, just as if Maggie was not the central supporting pillar of the house, just as if Maggie had not assisted at her birth, just as if the end of the world had not abruptly been announced, just as if St. Luke's Square were not inconceivable without Maggie. "But why--" "Well, Mrs. Povey, I've been a-thinking it over in my kitchen, and I said to myself: 'If there's going to be one change there'd better be two,' I says. Not but what I wouldn't work my fingers to the bone for ye, Miss Constance." Here Maggie began to cry into the tray. Constance looked at her. Despite the special muslin of that day she had traces of the slatternliness of which Mrs. Baines had never been able to cure her. She was over forty, big, gawky. She had no figure, no charms of any kind. She was what was left of a woman after twenty-two years in the cave of a philanthropic family. And in her cave she had actually been thinking things over! Constance detected for the first time, beneath the dehumanized drudge, the stirrings of a separate and perhaps capricious individuality. Maggie's engagements had never been real to her employers. Within the house she had never been, in practice, anything but 'Maggie'--an organism. And now she was permitting herself ideas about changes! "You'll soon be suited with another, Mrs. Povey," said Maggie. "There's many a--many a--" She burst into sobs. "But if you really want to leave, what are you crying for, Maggie?" asked Mrs. Povey, at her wisest. "Have you told mother?" "No, miss," Maggie whimpered, absently wiping her wrinkled cheeks with ineffectual muslin. "I couldn't seem to fancy telling your mother. And as you're the mistress now, I thought as I'd save it for you when you come home. I hope you'll excuse me, Mrs. Povey." "Of course I'm very sorry. You've been a very good servant. And in these days--" The child had acquired this turn of speech from her mother. It did not appear to occur to either of them that they were living in the sixties. "Thank ye, miss." "And what are you thinking of doing, Maggie? You know you won't get many places like this." "To tell ye the truth, Mrs. Povey, I'm going to get married mysen." "Indeed!" murmured Constance, with the perfunctoriness of habit in replying to these tidings. "Oh! but I am, mum," Maggie insisted. "It's all settled. Mr. Hollins, mum." "Not Hollins, the fish-hawker!" "Yes, mum. I seem to fancy him. You don't remember as him and me was engaged in '48. He was my first, like. I broke it off because he was in that Chartist lot, and I knew as Mr. Baines would never stand that. Now he's asked me again. He's been a widower this long time." "I'm sure I hope you'll be happy, Maggie. But what about his habits?" A trifle! A nothing! Yet somehow, in the quiet customerless shop, the episode, with the scarce perceptible difference in Samuel's tone at his second remark, was delicious to Constance. Somehow it was the REAL beginning of her wifehood. (There had been about nine other real beginnings in the past fortnight.) Mr. Povey came in to supper, laden with ledgers and similar works which Constance had never even pretended to understand. It was a sign from him that the honeymoon was over. He was proprietor now, and his ardour for ledgers most justifiable. Still, there was the question of her servant. "Never!" he exclaimed, when she told him all about the end of the world. A 'never' which expressed extreme astonishment and the liveliest concern! But Constance had anticipated that he would have been just a little more knocked down, bowled over, staggered, stunned, flabbergasted. In a swift gleam of insight she saw that she had been in danger of forgetting her role of experienced, capable married woman. "I shall have to set about getting a fresh one," she said hastily, with an admirable assumption of light and easy casualness. Mr. Povey seemed to think that Hollins would suit Maggie pretty well. He made no remark to the betrothed when she answered the final bell of the night. He opened his ledgers, whistling. "I think I shall go up, dear," said Constance. "I've a lot of things to put away." "Do," said he. "Call out when you've done."

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