Название книги в оригинале: Маевская И. С.. Лучшие истории о любви / Best love stories

A- A A+ White background Book background Black background

На главную » Маевская И. С. » Лучшие истории о любви / Best love stories.

убрать рекламу

Читать онлайн Лучшие истории о любви / Best love stories. Маевская И. С..

Лучшие истории о любви / Best love stories

 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Адаптация текста, комментарии и словарь И. С. Маевской 

© Маевская И. С.

© ООО «Издательство АСТ», 2016

The Gift of the Magi

O. Henry

 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing left to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually turning from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no finger could coax a ring. Also there was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”

But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and powdered her cheeks. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many happy hours she had spent planning for something nice for him, something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass[1] between the windows of the room. Suddenly Della stopped before the glass. Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its colour within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s and that King Solomon himself, with all his treasures, would have envied. The other was Della’s hair, which could depreciate all the jewels and gifts that belonged to the Queen of Sheba.[2]

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her. Shining like a cascade of brown waters, it reached below her knee. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the old red carpet.

She put on her old brown jacket and her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she ran out of the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: ‘Mme Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.’ One Eight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting.

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame, large, too white, chilly. “Take your hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

The next two hours she was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores. It was a platinum fob chain[3] simple in design. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value – the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 78 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Although the watch was grand, he sometimes looked at it on the sly[4] because of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason.[5] She got out her curling irons[6] and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy.[7] She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl.[8] But what could I do – oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty-seven cents?”

At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.[9]

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit of saying little silent prayers about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: “Please, God, make him think I am still pretty.”

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two – and to be burdened with a family![10] He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stepped inside the door. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

“Jim, darling,” Della cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold it because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again – you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say ‘Merry Christmas!’, Jim, and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.”

“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that obvious fact yet.

“Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?”

Jim looked about the room curiously.

“You say your hair is gone?” he said.

“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you – sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with a sudden serious sweetness, “but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?”

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He embraced his Della. Then he drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.[11]

Della unwrapped the package. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas![12] a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails.

There lay The Combs – the set of combs that Della had admired for long in a Broadway window.[13] Beautiful tortoise-shell[14] combs, with jewelled rims[15] – just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and she had never hoped to possess them. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the desired adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom,[16] and finally she was able to look up with a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”

And then Della leaped up and cried, “Oh, oh!”

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm.

“Isn’t it a dandy,[17] Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.”

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

“Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep them a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones. And here I have related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

A service of love

O. Henry

 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

When one loves one’s Art no service seems too hard.

That is our premise. This story shall draw a conclusion from it, and show at the same time that the premise is incorrect. That will be a new thing in logic, and a feat in storytelling somewhat older than the great wall of China.

Joe Larrabee was born in the Middle West pulsing with a genius for pictorial art.[18] At six he drew a picture of the town pump with a citizen passing it hastily. This effort was framed and hung in the drug store window. At twenty he left for New York with a flowing necktie and a capital tied up somewhat closer.

Delia Caruthers did things in six octaves so promisingly in a pine-tree village in the South that her relatives chipped in enough in her chip hat for her to go “North” and “finish.”

Joe and Delia met in an atelier where a number of art and music students had gathered to discuss Wagner, music, Rembrandt’s works, pictures, wall paper and Chopin.

Joe and Delia fell in love with each other and in a short time were married – for (see above[19]), when one loves one’s Art no service seems too hard.

Mr. and Mrs. Larrabee began housekeeping in a flat. It was a lonesome flat – something like the A sharp[20] way down at the left-hand end of the keyboard. And they were happy; for they had their Art, and they had each other. Flat-dwellers shall confirm my dictum that theirs is the only true happiness. If a home is happy it cannot fit too close.[21]

Joe was painting in the class of the great Magister. His fees are high; his lessons are light – his high-lights have brought him fame. Delia was studying under Rosenstock – you know his reputation as a disturber of the piano keys.

They were very happy as long as their money lasted. So is every – but I will not be cynical. Their aims were very clear and defined. Joe was to become capable very soon of turning out pictures that old gentlemen with thin side-whiskers and thick wallets would fight in his studio for the privilege of buying. Delia was to become familiar and then contemptuous with Music, so that when she saw the orchestra seats and boxes unsold she could have sore throat and lobster in a private dining-room and refuse to go on the stage.

But the best, in my opinion, was the home life in the little flat – the ardent, voluble chats after the day’s study; the cozy dinners and fresh, light breakfasts; the interchange of ambitions; the mutual help and inspiration; and – overlook my artlessness – stuffed olives and cheese sandwiches at 11 p.m.

But after a while Art grew weak. Money was lacking to pay Mr. Magister and Herr Rosenstock their prices. When one loves one’s Art no service seems too hard. So, Delia said she must give music lessons to keep the chafing dish bubbling.[22]

For two or three days she went out looking for pupils. One evening she came home excited.

“Joe, dear,” she said, joyfully, “I’ve a pupil. And, oh, the loveliest people! General – General A. B. Pinkney’s daughter – on Seventy-first street. Such a splendid house, Joe – you should see the front door! And inside! Oh, Joe, I never saw anything like it before.

“My pupil is his daughter Clementina. I dearly love her already. She’s a delicate thing – dresses always in white; and the sweetest, simplest manners! Only eighteen years old. I’m to give three lessons a week; and, just think, Joe! $5 a lesson. I don’t mind it a bit; for when I get two or three more pupils I can resume my lessons with Herr Rosenstock. Now, smooth out that wrinkle between your brows, dear, and let’s have a nice supper.”

“That’s all right for you, Dele,” said Joe, “but how about me? Do you think I’m going to let you hustle for wages while I wander in the regions of high art? By no means! I guess I can sell papers or lay cobblestones,[23] and bring in a dollar or two.”

Delia came and hung about his neck.

“Joe, dear, you are silly. You must keep on at your studies. It is not as if I had quit my music and gone to work at something else. While I teach I learn. I am always with my music. And we can live as happily as millionaires on $15 a week. You mustn’t think of leaving Mr. Magister.”

“All right,” said Joe. “But I hate for you to be giving lessons. It isn’t Art. But you’re a trump and a dear[24] to do it.”

“When one loves one’s Art no service seems too hard,” said Delia.

“Magister praised the sky in that sketch I made in the park,” said Joe. “And Tinkle gave me permission to hang two of them in his window. I may sell one if the right kind of a wealthy idiot sees them.”

“I’m sure you will,” said Delia, sweetly. “And now let’s be thankful for Gen. Pinkney and this veal roast.”

* * *

During all of the next week the Larrabees had an early breakfast. Joe was enthusiastic about some morning-effect sketches he was doing in Central Park, and Delia packed him off breakfasted, praised and kissed at 7 o’clock. Art is an engaging mistress. It was most times 7 o’clock when he returned in the evening.

At the end of the week Delia, sweetly proud but weary, triumphantly tossed three five-dollar bills on the table.

“Sometimes,” she said, “Clementina exhausts me. I’m afraid she doesn’t practise enough, and I have to tell her the same things so often. And then she always dresses entirely in white, and that does get monotonous. But Gen. Pinkney is the dearest old man! I wish you could know him, Joe. He comes in sometimes when I am with Clementina at the piano – he is a widower, you know – and stands there pulling his white goatee. ‘And how are the semiquavers and the demisemiquavers[25] progressing?’ he always asks.

“Clementina has such a funny little cough. I hope she is stronger than she looks. Oh, I really am getting attached to her, she is so gentle and highbred. Gen. Pinkney’s brother was once Minister to Bolivia.”

And then Joe, with the air of a Monte Cristo, drew forth a ten, a five, a two and a one, and laid them beside Delia’s earnings.

“Sold that watercolour of the obelisk to a man from Peoria,” he announced.

“Don’t joke with me,” said Delia, “not from Peoria!”

“All the way. I wish you could see him, Dele. Fat man with a woollen scarf. He saw the sketch in Tinkle’s window and thought it was a windmill at first. He bought it anyhow, though. He ordered another one to take back with him. Music lessons! Oh, I guess Art is still in it.”

“I’m so glad you’ve kept on,” said Delia, heartily. “You’re bound to win, dear. Thirty – three dollars! We never had so much to spend before. We’ll have oysters tonight.”

“ And filet mignon with champignons,” said Joe. “Where is the olive fork?”

On the next Saturday evening Joe reached home first. He spread his $18 on the parlour table and washed what seemed to be a great deal of dark paint from his hands.

Half an hour later Delia arrived, her right hand tied up in a shapeless bundle of wraps and bandages.

“How is this?” asked Joe after the usual greetings. Delia laughed, but not very joyously.

“Clementina,” she explained, “insisted upon a Welsh rabbit[26] after her lesson. She is such a queer girl. Welsh rabbits at 5 in the afternoon. I know Clementina isn’t in good health; she is so nervous. In serving the rabbit she spilled a great lot of it, boiling hot, over my hand and wrist. It hurt awfully, Joe. And the dear girl was so sorry! But Gen. Pinkney! – Joe, that old man nearly went distracted.[27] He rushed downstairs and sent somebody – they said the furnaceman[28] or somebody in the basement – out to a drug store for some oil and things to bind it up with. It doesn’t hurt so much now.”

“What’s this?” asked Joe, taking the hand tenderly and pulling at some white strands beneath the bandages.

“It’s something soft,” said Delia, “that had oil on it. Oh, Joe, did you sell another sketch?” She had seen the money on the table.

“Did I?” said Joe; “just ask the man from Peoria. He isn’t sure but he thinks he wants another landscape and a view on the Hudson. What time this afternoon did you burn your hand, Dele?”

“Five o’clock, I think,” said Dele, sadly. “The iron – I mean the rabbit came off the fire about that time. You ought to have seen Gen. Pinkney, Joe, when – ”

“Sit down here a moment, Dele,” said Joe. He drew her to the couch, sat beside her and put his arm across her shoulders.

“What have you been doing for the last two weeks, Dele?” he asked.

She braved it for a moment or two with an eye full of love and stubbornness, and murmured a phrase or two vaguely of Gen. Pinkney; but finally down went her head and out came the truth and tears.

“I couldn’t get any pupils,” she confessed. “And I couldn’t bear to have you give up your lessons; and I got a place ironing shirts in that big Twenty-fourth street laundry. And I think I did very well to make up both General Pinkney and Clementina, don’t you, Joe? And when a girl in the laundry set down a hot iron on my hand this afternoon I was all the way home making up that story about the Welsh rabbit. You’re not angry, are you, Joe? And if I hadn’t got the work you mightn’t have sold your sketches to that man from Peoria.”

“He wasn’t from Peoria,” said Joe, slowly.

“Well, it doesn’t matter where he was from. How clever you are, Joe – and – kiss me, Joe – and what made you ever suspect that I wasn’t giving music lessons to Clementina?”

“I didn’t,” said Joe, “until tonight. And I wouldn’t have then, only I sent up this cotton waste and oil from the engine room[29] this afternoon for a girl upstairs who had her hand burned with a smoothing-iron.[30] I’ve been firing the engine[31] in that laundry for the last two weeks.”

“And then you didn’t – “

“My purchaser from Peoria,” said Joe, “and Gen. Pinkney are both creations of the same art – but you wouldn’t call it either painting or music.”

And then they both laughed, and Joe began:

“When one loves one’s Art no service seems – ”

But Delia stopped him with her hand on his lips. “No,” she said – “just ‘When one loves.’”

The last of the belles

F. Scott Fitzgerald

 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

After Atlanta’s Southern charm, we all underestimated Tarleton. It was a little hotter there than anywhere we’d been – a dozen rookies collapsed the first day in that Georgia sun. I stayed out at camp and let Lieutenant Warren tell me about the girls. This was fifteen years ago, and I’ve forgotten how I felt, except that the days went along, one after another, better than they do now, and I was empty-hearted, because up North she who I had loved for three years was getting married. I saw the clippings and newspaper photographs. It was “a romantic wartime wedding,” all very rich and sad.

A day came when I went into Tarleton for a haircut and ran into a nice fellow named Bill Knowles, who was in my time at Harvard. He’d been in the National Guard division that preceded us in camp; at the last moment he had transferred to aviation and been left behind.

“I’m glad I met you, Andy,” he said with undue seriousness. “I’ll hand you on all my information before I start for Texas. You see, there’re really only three girls here – ”

I was interested; there was something mystical about there being three girls.

“ – and here’s one of them now.”

We were in front of a drug store and he marched me in and introduced me to a lady I promptly detested.

“The other two are Ailie Calhoun and Sally Carrol Happer.”

I guessed from the way he pronounced her name, that he was interested in Ailie Calhoun – what a lovely name. It was on his mind what she would be doing while he was gone; he wanted her to have a quiet, uninteresting time.

At my age I don’t even hesitate to confess that images of Ailie Calhoun that rushed into my mind were not chivalrous at all. At twenty-three there is no such thing as a preempted beauty;[32] though, had Bill asked me, I would doubtless have sworn in all sincerity to care for her like a sister. He didn’t; he just worried about having to go. Three days later he telephoned me that he was leaving next morning and he’d take me to her house that night.

We met at the hotel and walked uptown through the flowery, hot twilight. The four white pillars of the Calhoun house faced the street, and behind them the veranda was dark as a cave with hanging, weaving, climbing vines.

When we came up the walk a girl in a white dress went out of the front door, crying, “I’m so sorry I’m late!” and seeing us, added: “Why, I thought I heard you come ten minutes – ”

She broke off as a chair creaked and another man, an aviator from Camp Harry Lee, emerged from the obscurity of the veranda.

“Why, Canby!” she cried. “How are you?”

He and Bill Knowles waited with the tenseness of open litigants.

“Canby, I want to whisper to you, honey,” she said, after just a second. “You’ll excuse us, Bill.”

They went aside. Soon Lieutenant Canby, very displeased, said in a grim voice, “Then we’ll make it Thursday, but that means sure.” Scarcely nodding to us, he went down the walk.

“Come in – I don’t just know your name – ”

There she was – the Southern type in all its purity. She was small and very blond. She had the adroitness sugar-coated with sweet, voluble simplicity, the unfailing coolness acquired in the endless struggle with the heat. There were notes in her voice that order slaves around, that withered up Yankee captains, and then soft, wheedling notes that mixed in unfamiliar loveliness with the night.

“After Bill goes I’ll be sitting here all alone night after night. Maybe you’ll take me to the country-club dances.” The pathetic prophecy brought a laugh from Bill. “Wait a minute,” Ailie murmured.

She straightened my collar pin,[33] looking up at me for a second with something more than curiosity. It was a seeking look, as if she asked, “Could it be you?” Like Lieutenant Canby, I marched off unwillingly.

Two weeks later I sat with her on the same veranda, or rather she half lay in my arms and yet scarcely touched me – how she managed that I don’t remember. I was trying unsuccessfully to kiss her, and had been trying for the best part of an hour. We had a sort of joke about my not being sincere. My theory was that if she’d let me kiss her I’d fall in love with her. Her argument was that I was obviously insincere.

In a lull between two of these struggles she told me about her brother who had died in his senior year at Yale. She showed me his picture – it was a handsome, earnest face – and told me that when she met someone who measured up to him she’d marry. I found this family idealism discouraging; even my confidence couldn’t compete with the dead.

The evening and other evenings passed like that, and ended with my going back to camp with the remembered smell of magnolia flowers and a mood of vague dissatisfaction. I never kissed her. We went to the vaudeville and to the country club on Saturday nights, where she seldom took ten consecutive steps with one man, and she took me to barbecues and watermelon parties, and never thought it was worthwhile to change what I felt for her into love. I see now that it wouldn’t have been hard, but she was a wise nineteen and she must have seen that we were emotionally incompatible. So I became her confidant instead.

We talked about Bill Knowles. She was considering Bill; for, though she wouldn’t admit it, a winter at school in New York and a prom at Yale had turned her eyes North. She said she didn’t think she’d marry a Southern man. And by degrees I saw that she was consciously and voluntarily different from the other girls. That’s why Bill and I and others were drawn to her. We recognized her.

June and July, while the rumors reached us faintly, of battle and terror overseas, Ailie’s eyes roved here and there about the country-club floor, seeking for something among the tall young officers. She attached several, choosing them with unfailing perspicacity – save in the case of Lieutenant Canby, whom she claimed to despise, but, nevertheless, gave dates to “because he was so sincere” – and we shared out her evenings among us all summer.

One day she broke all her dates – Bill Knowles had leave and was coming. We talked of the event with scientific impersonality – would he move her to a decision? Lieutenant Canby, on the contrary, wasn’t impersonal at all. He told her that if she married Knowles he was going to climb up six thousand feet in his aeroplane, shut off the motor and let go. He frightened her – I had to yield him my last date before Bill came.

On Saturday night she and Bill Knowles came to the country club. They were very handsome together and once more I felt envious and sad. As they danced out on the floor the three-piece orchestra was playing After You’ve Gone , in a poignant way that I can hear yet, as if each bar were trickling off a precious minute of that time.[34] I knew then that I had grown to love Tarleton. It was a time of youth and war, and there was never so much love around.

When I danced with Ailie she suddenly suggested that we go outside to a car. She wanted to know why didn’t people cut in on her tonight? Did they think she was already married?

“Are you going to be?”

“I don’t know, Andy. Sometimes, when he treats me as if I were sacred, it thrills me.” Her voice was quiet and far away. “And then – ”

She laughed. Her body, so frail and tender, was touching mine, her face was turned up to me, and there, suddenly, with Bill Knowles ten yards off, I could have finally kissed her. Our lips just touched experimentally; then an aviation officer turned a corner of the veranda near us, peered into our darkness and hesitated.



“You heard about this afternoon?”

“What?” She leaned forward, tenseness already in her voice.

“Horace Canby crashed. He was instantly killed.”

She got up slowly and stepped out of the

убрать рекламу

убрать рекламу


“You mean he was killed?” she said.

“Yes. They don’t know what the trouble was. His motor – ”

“Oh-h-h!” Her rasping whisper came through the hands suddenly covering her face. We watched her helplessly as she put her head on the side of the car, gagging dry tears. After a minute I went for Bill, who was searching anxiously about for her, and told him she wanted to go home.

I sat on the steps outside. I had disliked Canby, but his terrible, pointless death was more real to me then than the day’s toll of thousands in France. In a few minutes Ailie and Bill came out. When Ailie saw me she came over swiftly.

“Andy” – she spoke in a quick, low voice – “of course you must never tell anybody what I told you about Canby yesterday. What he said, I mean.”

“Of course not.”

“Good night, Andy!” called Bill as they got into a taxi.

“Good night,” I said, and almost added: “You poor fool.”


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

At twenty-three I was entirely unconvinced about anything, except that some people were strong and attractive and could do what they wanted, and others were disgraced. I hoped I was of the former.[35] I was sure Ailie was.

I had to revise other ideas about her. In the course of a long discussion with some girl about kissing – in those days people still talked about kissing more than they kissed – I mentioned the fact that Ailie had only kissed two or three men, and only when she thought she was in love. To my considerable disconcertion the girl figuratively just lay on the floor and howled.

“But it’s true,” I assured her, suddenly knowing it wasn’t. “She told me herself.”

“Ailie Calhoun! Oh, my heavens! Why, last year at the Tech spring house party – ”

* * *

This was in September. We were going overseas any week now, and to bring us up to full strength a last batch of officers from the fourth training camp arrived. The fourth camp wasn’t like the first three – the candidates were from the ranks; even from the drafted divisions.[36] The addition to our company was Lieutenant Earl Schoen from New Bedford, Massachusetts; as fine a physical specimen as I have ever seen. He was six-foot-three, with black hair, high color and glossy dark-brown eyes. He wasn’t very smart and he was definitely illiterate, yet he was a good officer, high-tempered and commanding, and with that becoming touch of vanity that sits well on the military.

We were doubled up in living quarters and he came into my hut. After a week there was a photograph of some Tarleton girl nailed brutally to the wall.

“She’s no jane or anything like that.[37] She’s a society girl; goes with all the best people here.”

The following Sunday afternoon I met the lady at a semiprivate swimming pool in the country. When Ailie and I arrived, there was Schoen’s muscular body rippling out of a bathing suit at the far end of the pool.

“Hey, lieutenant!”

When I waved back at him he grinned and winked, jerking his head toward the girl at his side. Then, digging her in the ribs,[38] he jerked his head at me. It was a form of introduction.

“Who’s that with Kitty Preston?” Ailie asked, and when I told her she said he looked like a street-car conductor, and pretended to look for her transfer.[39]

A moment later he crawled[40] powerfully and gracefully down the pool and pulled himself up at our side. I introduced him to Ailie.

“How do you like my girl, lieutenant?” he demanded. “I told you she was all right, didn’t I?” He jerked his head toward Ailie; this time to indicate that his girl and Ailie moved in the same circles. “How about us all having dinner together down at the hotel some night?”

I left them in a moment, amused as I saw Ailie visibly making up her mind that here, anyhow, was not the ideal. But Lieutenant Earl Schoen was not to be dismissed so lightly. He ran his eyes cheerfully and inoffensively over her cute, slight figure, and decided that she would do even better than the other.

While the afternoon passed he remained at her side. Finally Ailie came over to me and whispered, with a laugh: “He’s following me around. He thinks I haven’t paid my carfare.”

She turned quickly. Miss Kitty Preston stood facing us.

“Ailie Calhoun, I didn’t think it of you to go out and deliberately try to take a man away from another girl. I thought you considered yourself above anything like that.”

Miss Preston’s voice was low, but it held that tensity that can be felt farther than it can be heard, and I saw Ailie’s clear lovely eyes glance about in panic. Luckily, Earl himself was ambling cheerfully and innocently toward us.

“If you care for him you certainly oughtn’t to belittle yourself in front of him,” said Ailie, her head high.

It was her acquaintance with the traditional way of behaving against Kitty Preston’s naïve and fierce possessiveness, or if you prefer it, Ailie’s “breeding” against the other’s “commonness.” She turned away.

“Wait a minute, kid!” cried Earl Schoen. “How about your address? Maybe I’d like to give you a ring on the phone.”

She looked at him in a way that should have indicated to Kitty her entire lack of interest.

“I’m very busy at the Red Cross this month,” she said, her voice as cool as her blond hair. “Good-by.”

On the way home she laughed. Her air of having been unintentionally involved in a contemptible business vanished.

“She’ll never hold that young man,” she said. “He wants somebody new.”

“Apparently he wants Ailie Calhoun.”

The idea amused her.

“He could give me his ticket punch[41] to wear. What fun! If mother ever saw anybody like that come in the house, she’d just lie down and die.”

And to give Ailie credit, it was fully a fortnight before he did come in her house, although he rushed her until she pretended to be annoyed at the next country-club dance.

“He’s the biggest tough, Andy,” she whispered to me. “But he’s so sincere.”

Somehow Mrs. Calhoun didn’t die at his appearance on the threshold. The supposedly ineradicable prejudices of Ailie’s parents were a convenient phenomenon that disappeared at her wish. It was her friends who were astonished. Ailie, always a little above Tarleton, whose admirers had usually been the “nicest” men of the camp – Ailie and Lieutenant Schoen! I grew tired of assuring people that she was merely distracting herself – and indeed every week or so there was someone new – an ensign from Pensacola, an old friend from New Orleans – but always, in between times, there was Earl Schoen.

Orders arrived for an advance party of officers and sergeants to proceed to the port of embarkation and take ship to France. My name was on the list. I had been away for a week and when I got back to camp, Earl Schoen buttonholed me immediately.

“We’re giving a little farewell party in the mess.[42] Just you and I and Captain Craker and three girls.”

Earl and I were to call for the girls. We picked up Sally Carrol Happer and Nancy Lamar, and went on to Ailie’s house; to be met at the door by the butler with the announcement that she wasn’t home.

“Isn’t home?” Earl repeated blankly. “Where is she?”

“Didn’t leave any information about that; just said she wasn’t home.”

“But this is a darn funny thing!” he exclaimed. He walked around the familiar veranda while the butler waited at the door. Something occurred to him. “Say,” he informed me – “I think she’s sore.[43]

I waited. He said to the butler, “You tell her I’ve got to speak to her a minute.”

“How am I going to tell her that when she isn’t home?”

Again Earl walked musingly around the porch. Then he nodded several times and said:

“She’s sore at something that happened downtown.”

In a few words he sketched out the matter to me.

“Look here; you wait in the car,” I said. “Maybe I can fix this.” When he left I said to the butler: “Oliver, you tell Miss Ailie I want to see her alone.”

After some argument he bore this message and in a moment returned with a reply:

“Miss Ailie says she doesn’t want to see that other gentleman anymore. She says come in if you like.”

She was in the library. I had expected to see a picture of cool, outraged dignity, but her face was distraught, tumultuous. Her eyes were red-rimmed, as though she had been crying slowly and painfully, for hours.

“Oh, hello, Andy,” she said brokenly. “I haven’t seen you for so long. Has he gone?”

“Now, Ailie – ”

“Now, Ailie!” she cried. “Now, Ailie! He spoke to me, you see. He lifted his hat. He stood there ten feet from me with that horrible – that horrible woman – holding her arm and talking to her, and then when he saw me he raised his hat. Andy, I didn’t know what to do. I had to go in the drug store and ask for a glass of water, and I was so afraid he’d follow in after me that I asked Mr. Rich to let me go out the back way. I never want to see him or hear of him again.”

I talked. I said what one says in such cases. I said it for half an hour. I could not move her. Several times she answered by murmuring something about his not being “sincere,” and for the fourth time I wondered what the word meant to her. Certainly not constancy; it was, I half suspected, some special way she wanted to be regarded.

I got up to go. And then, unbelievably, the automobile horn sounded three times impatiently outside. It was amazing. It said as plainly as if Earl were in the room, “All right; go to the devil then! I’m not going to wait here all night.”

Ailie looked at me horrified. And suddenly a peculiar look came into her face, flickered, and turned into a teary, hysterical smile.

“Isn’t he awful?” she cried in helpless despair. “Isn’t he terrible?”

“Hurry up,” I said quickly. “This is our last night.”

And I can still feel that last night vividly, the candlelight that flickered over the rough tables of the mess, the sad mandolin down the street that kept picking My Indiana Home out of the universal nostalgia of the departing summer. The three girls lost in this mysterious men’s city felt something, too – a bewitched impermanence as though they were on a magic carpet that had lighted on the Southern countryside, and any moment the wind would lift it and waft it away. We toasted ourselves and the South. Then we left our napkins and empty glasses and a little of the past on the table, and hand in hand went out into the moonlight itself and got into a waiting car.

Then Ailie and Earl, Sally and I, two and two in the wide back seat, each couple turned from the other, absorbed and whispering, drove away into the wide, flat darkness.

We drove through pine woods and parked under the broken shadow of a mill where there was the sound of running water and restive birds. The South sang to us – I wonder if they remember. I remember – the cool pale faces, the somnolent amorous eyes and the voices:

“Are you comfortable?”

“Yes; are you?”

“Are you sure you are?”


Suddenly we knew it was late and there was nothing more. We turned home.

Our detachment started for Camp Mills next day, but I didn’t go to France after all. There wasn’t any more war. I had missed the war. When I came back to Tarleton I tried to get out of the Army, but I had a regular commission and it took most of the winter. But Earl Schoen was one of the first to be demobilized. He wanted to find a good job “while the picking was good.” Ailie was noncommittal, but there was an understanding between them that he’d be back.

By January the camps, which for two years had dominated the little city, were already fading. What life remained centered bitterly about divisional headquarters building, with the disgruntled regular officers who had also missed the war.

And now the young men of Tarleton began drifting back from the ends of the earth – some with Canadian uniforms, some with crutches or empty sleeves.

Just before Christmas, Bill Knowles arrived unexpectedly one day and left the next – either he gave Ailie an ultimatum or she had made up her mind at last. I saw her sometimes when she wasn’t busy with returned heroes from Savannah and Augusta, but I felt like an outmoded survival – and I was. She was waiting for Earl Schoen with such a vast uncertainty that she didn’t like to talk about it. Three days before I got my final discharge he came.

I first happened upon them walking down Market Street together, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so sorry for a couple in my life; though I suppose the same situation was repeating itself in every city where there had been camps. Exteriorly Earl had about everything wrong with him that could be imagined. His hat was green, with a feather; his suit was braided in a grotesque fashion that national advertising and the movies have put an end to. Evidently he had been to his old barber, for his hair bloused neatly on his pink, shaved neck. In these clothes even the natural grace of that magnificent body had departed. At first he boasted of his fine job; it would get them along all right until he could “see some easy money.” But from the moment he came back into Ailie’s world on its own terms he must have known it was hopeless. I don’t know what Ailie said or how much her grief weighed against her stupefaction. She acted quickly – three days after his arrival, Earl and I went North together on the train.

“Well, that’s the end of that,” he said moodily. “She’s a wonderful girl, but too much of a highbrow for me. I guess she’s got to marry some rich guy that’ll give her a great social position. I can’t see that stuck-up sort of thing.” And then, later: “She said to come back and see her in a year, but I’ll never go back. This aristocrat stuff is all right if you got the money for it, but – ”

“But it wasn’t real,” he meant to finish. The provincial society in which he had moved with so much satisfaction for six months already appeared to him as affected and artificial.

“Say, did you see what I saw getting on the train?” he asked me after a while. “Two wonderful girls, all alone. What do you say if we ask them to lunch? I’ll take the one in blue.” Halfway down the car he turned around suddenly. “Say, Andy,” he demanded, frowning; “one thing – how do you suppose she knew I used to command a street car?[44] I never told her that.”

“I’ve no idea.”


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

This narrative arrives now at one of the big gaps that stared me in the face when I began. For six years, while I finished at Harvard Law and built commercial aeroplanes, Ailie Calhoun was scarcely more than a name on a Christmas card; something that blew a little in my mind on warm nights when I remembered the magnolia flowers. Occasionally an acquaintance of Army days would ask me, “What became of that blond girl who was so popular?” but I didn’t know. I ran into Nancy Lamar at the Montmartre in New York one evening and learned that Ailie had become engaged to a man in Cincinnati, had gone North to visit his family and then broken it off. She was lovely as ever and there was always an admirer or two. But neither Bill Knowles nor Earl Schoen had ever come back.

And somewhere about that time I heard that Bill Knowles had married a girl he met on a boat.

Oddly enough, a girl seen at twilight in a small Indiana station started me thinking about going South. The girl, in a pink dress, threw her arms about a man who got off our train and hurried him to a waiting car, and I felt a sort of pang. It seemed to me that she was bearing him off into the lost midsummer world of my early twenties, where time had stood still and charming girls still walked slowly along the dusky streets. I suppose that poetry is a Northern man’s dream of the South. But it was months later that I sent off a wire to Ailie, and immediately followed it to Tarleton.

It was July. The Jefferson Hotel seemed strangely shabby and stuffy. I recognized the taxi driver who took me up to Ailie’s house, but his “Sure, I do, lieutenant,” was unconvincing. I was only one of twenty thousand.

It was a curious three days. Ailie’s was still so physically appealing that you wanted to touch the charm that trembled on her lips. No – the change was more profound than that.

At once I saw she had a different line. The modulations of pride, the vocal hints that she knew the secrets of a brighter, finer ante-bellum day, were gone from her voice; there was no time for them now. We went to a party at the house of some young married people, and she was the nervous, glowing center of it. After all, she wasn’t eighteen, and she was as attractive in her rôle of reckless clown as she had ever been in her life.

“Have you heard anything from Earl Schoen?” I asked her the second night, on our way to the country-club dance.

“No.” She was serious for a moment. “I often think of him. He was the – ” She hesitated.

“Go on.”

“I was going to say the man I loved most, but that wouldn’t be true. I never exactly loved him, or I’d have married him anyhow, wouldn’t I?” She looked at me questioningly. “At least I wouldn’t have treated him like that.”

“It was impossible.”

“Of course,” she agreed uncertainly. Her mood changed; she became flippant: “How the Yankees did deceive us poor little Southern girls. Ah, me!”

When we reached the country club she melted like a chameleon into the – to me – unfamiliar crowd. There was a new generation upon the floor, with less dignity than the ones I had known, but none of them were more a part of its lazy, feverish essence than Ailie. Possibly she had realized that in her initial longing to escape from Tarleton’s provincialism she had been walking alone. Just where she lost the battle, waged behind the white pillars of her veranda, I don’t know.

I left her house, as I had so often left it that vanished June, in a mood of vague dissatisfaction. It was hours later, tossing about my bed in the hotel, that I realized what was the matter, what had always been the matter – I was deeply and incurably in love with her. In spite of every incompatibility, she was still, she would always be to me, the most attractive girl I had ever known. I told her so next afternoon. It was one of those hot days I knew so well, and Ailie sat beside me on a couch in the darkened library.

“Oh, no, I couldn’t marry you,” she said, almost frightened; “I don’t love you that way at all. I never did. And you don’t love me. I didn’t mean to tell you now, but next month I’m going to marry another man. We’re not even announcing it, because I’ve done that twice before.” Suddenly it occurred to her that I might be hurt: “Andy, you just had a silly idea, didn’t you? You know I couldn’t ever marry a Northern man.”

“Who is he?” I demanded.

“A man from Savannah.”

“Are you in love with him?”

“Of course I am.” We both smiled. “Of course I am! What are you trying to make me say?”

There were no doubts, as there had been with other men. She couldn’t afford to let herself have doubts. I knew this because she had long ago stopped making any pretensions with me. This very naturalness, I realized, was because she didn’t consider me as an admirer. She couldn’t believe that anyone not taken in to the point of uncritical worship could really love her. That was what she called being “sincere”; she felt most security with men like Canby and Earl Schoen, who were incapable of passing judgments on the ostensibly aristocratic heart.[45]

“All right,” I said, as if she had asked my permission to marry. “Now, would you do something for me?”


“Ride out to camp.”

“But there’s nothing left there, honey.”

“I don’t care.”

We walked downtown. The taxi driver in front of the hotel repeated her objection: “Nothing there now, cap.”

“Never mind. Go there anyhow. I want to find where I used to live.”

He obeyed, with professional disgust.

“You won’t find a single thing, darling,” said Ailie. “The contractors took it all down.[46]

We rode slowly along the margin of the fields. It might have been here —

“All right. I want to get out,” I said suddenly.

I left Ailie sitting in the car, looking very beautiful with the warm breeze stirring her long, curly hair.

It might have been here. That would make the company streets down there and the mess, where we dined that night, just over the way.

The taxi driver regarded me indulgently while I stumbled here and there in the knee-deep underbrush, looking for my youth. I tried to find a vaguely familiar clump of trees, but it was growing darker now and I couldn’t be quite sure they were the right trees.

“They’re going to fix up the old race course,[47]” Ailie called from the car.

No. Upon consideration they didn’t look like the right trees. All I could be sure of was this place that had once been so full of life and effort was gone, as if it had never existed, and that in another month Ailie would be gone, and the South would be empty for me forever.

Three hours between planes

F. Scott Fitzgerald

 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

There was little chance but Donald was in the mood, healthy and bored, with a sense of tiresome duty done. He was now rewarding himself. Maybe.

When the plane landed he stepped out into a mid-western summer night and headed for the isolated airport. He did not know whether she was alive, or living in this town, or what was her present name. With mounting excitement he looked through the phone book for her father who might be dead too, somewhere in these twenty years.

No. Judge Harmon Holmes – Hillside 3194.

A woman’s amused voice answered his inquiry for Miss Nancy Holmes.

‘Nancy is Mrs Walter Gifford now. Who is this?’

But Donald hung up without answering. He had found out what he wanted to know and had only three hours. He did not remember any Walter Gifford and there was another suspended moment while he scanned the phone book. She might have married out of town.

No. Walter Gifford – Hillside 1191. Blood flowed back into his fingertips.


‘Hello. Is Mrs Gifford there – this is an old friend of hers.’

‘This is Mrs Gifford.’

He remembered, or thought he remembered, the funny magic in the voice.

‘This is Donald Plant. I haven’t seen you since I was twelve years old.’

‘Oh-h-h!’ The tone was totally surprised, very polite, but he could distinguish in it neither joy nor certain recognition.

‘ – Donald!’ added the voice. This time there was something more in it than struggling memory.

‘…when did you come back to town?’ Then cordially, ‘Where are  you?’

‘I’m out at the airport – for just a few hours.’

‘Well, come up and see me.’

‘Sure you’re not just going to bed?’

‘Heavens, no!’ she exclaimed. ‘I was sitting here – having a highball[48] by myself. Just tell your taxi man…’

On his way Donald analysed the conversation. His words ‘at the airport’ meant that he had retained his position in the upper bourgeoisie. Nancy’s aloneness might indicate that she had matured into an unattractive woman without friends. Her husband might be either away or in bed. And – because she was always ten years old in his dreams – the highball shocked him. But he thought with a smile – she was very close to thirty.

At the end of a curved drive[49] he saw a dark-haired little beauty standing against the lighted door, a glass in her hand. Startled by her final materialization, Donald got out of the cab, saying:

‘Mrs Gifford?’

She turned on the porch light and stared at him, wide-eyed and tentative. A smile broke through the puzzled expression.

‘Donald – it is you – we all change so. Oh, this is remarkable!’

As they walked inside, their voices repeated the words ‘all these years’, and Donald felt a sinking in his stomach. In part because of a vision of their last meeting – when she rode past him on a bicycle, cutting him dead[50] – and in part because of fear lest they have nothing to say. It was like a college reunion – but there the failure to find the past was disguised by the hasty lively atmosphere. Horrified, he realized that this might be a long and empty hour.

‘You always were a lovely person. But I’m a little shocked to find you as beautiful as you are,’ he said desperately.

It worked. The immediate recognition of their changed state, the bold compliment, made them interesting strangers instead of fumbling childhood friends.

‘Have a highball?’ she asked. ‘No? Please don’t think I’ve become a secret drinker, but this was a sad night. I expected my husband but he wired he’d be two days longer. He’s very nice, Donald, and very attractive. Rather your type.’ She hesitated, ‘ – and I think he’s interested in someone in New York – and I don’t know.’

‘After seeing you it sounds impossible,’ he assured her. ‘I was married for six years, and there was a time I tortured myself that way. Then one day I just put jealousy out of my life forever. After my wife died I was very glad of that. It left a very rich memory – nothing spoiled or hard to think over.’

She looked at him attentively, then sympathetically as he spoke.

‘I’m very sorry,’ she said. And after a proper moment, ‘You’ve changed a lot. Turn your head. I remember father saying, “That boy has a brain.”’

‘You probably argued against it.’

‘I was impressed. Up to then I thought everybody had a brain. That’s why I still remember it very well.’

‘What else do you remember?’ he asked smiling.

Suddenly Nancy got up and walked quickly a little away.

‘Ah, now,’ she reproached him. ‘That isn’t fair! I suppose I was a naughty girl.’

‘You were not,’ he said stoutly. ‘And I will  have a drink now.’

As she poured it, her face still turned from him, he continued:

‘Do you think you were the only little girl who was ever kissed?’

‘Do you like the subject?’ she asked. Her momentary irritation melted and she said: ‘What the hell! We did  have fun. Like in the song.’

‘On the sleigh ride.[51]

‘Yes – and somebody’s picnic – Trudy James’s. And at Frontenac that summer.’

It was the sleigh ride he remembered most and kissing her cool cheeks in the straw in one corner while she laughed up at the cold white stars. The couple next to them had their backs turned and he kissed her little neck and her ears and never her lips.

‘And the Macks’ party where they played post office and I couldn’t go because I had the mumps,[52]’ he said.

‘I don’t remember that.’

‘Oh, you were there. And you were kissed and I was crazy with jealousy like I never have been since.’

‘Funny I don’t remember. Maybe I wanted to forget.’

‘But why?’ he asked in amusement. ‘We were two perfectly innocent kids. Nancy, whenever I talked to my wife about the past, I told her you were the girl I loved almost as much as I loved her. But I think I really loved you just as much. When we moved out of town I kept you in my heart.’

‘Were you that  much – in love?’

‘My God, yes! I – ’ He suddenly realized that they were standing just two feet from each other, that he was talking as if he loved her in the present, that she was looking up at him with her lips half-parted and a clouded look in her eyes.

‘Go on,’ she said, ‘I’m ashamed to say – I like it. I didn’t know you were so upset then.  I thought it was me  who was upset.’

‘You!’ he exclaimed. ‘Don’t you remember throwing me over at the drugstore.’ He laughed. ‘You stuck out your tongue at me.’

‘I don’t remember at all. It seemed to me you did the throwing over.’ Her hand fell lightly, almost consolingly on his arm. ‘I’ve got a photograph book upstairs I haven’t looked at for years. I’ll go there and find it.’

Donald sat for five minutes with two thoughts – first the hopeless impossibility of reconciling what different people remembered about the same event – and secondly that in a frightening way Nancy moved him[53] as a woman as she had moved him as a child. Half an hour had developed an emotion that he had not known since the death of his wife – that he had never hoped to know again.

Side by side on a couch they opened the book between them.

убрать рекламу

убрать рекламу

Nancy looked at him, smiling and very happy.

‘Oh, this is such  fun,’ she said. ‘Such fun that you’re so nice, that you remember me so – beautifully. Let me tell you – I wish I’d known it then! After you’d gone I hated you.’

‘What a pity,’ he said gently.

‘But not now,’ she reassured him, and then impulsively, ‘Kiss and make up – ’

‘…that isn’t being a good wife,’ she said after a minute. ‘I really don’t think I’ve kissed two men since I was married.’

He was excited – but most of all confused. Had he kissed Nancy? or a memory? or this lovely trembly stranger who looked away from him quickly and turned a page of the book?

‘Wait!’ he said. ‘I don’t think I could see  a picture for a few seconds.’

‘We won’t do it again. I don’t feel so very calm myself.’

‘Wouldn’t it be awful if we fell in love again?’ said Donald.

‘Stop it!’ She laughed. ‘It’s all over. It was a moment. A moment I’ll have to forget.’

‘Don’t tell your husband.’

‘Why not? Usually I tell him everything.’

‘It’ll hurt him. Don’t ever tell a man such things.’

‘All right I won’t.’

‘Kiss me once more,’ he said, but Nancy had turned a page and was pointing eagerly at a picture.

‘Here’s you,’ she cried. ‘Right away!’

He looked. It was a little boy in shorts standing on a pier with a sailboat in the background.

‘I remember – ’ she laughed triumphantly, ‘ – the very day it was taken. Kitty took it and I stole it from her.’

For a moment Donald failed to recognize himself in the photo – then, bending closer – he became convinced that the boy in the photo wasn’t him.

‘That’s not me,’ he said.

‘Oh yes. It was at Frontenac – the summer we – we used to go to the cave.’

‘What cave? I was only three days in Frontenac.’ Again he looked closely at the slightly yellowed picture. ‘And that isn’t me. That’s Donald Bowers. We did look rather alike.’

Now she was staring at him – leaning back, seeming to lift away from him.

‘But you’re Donald Bowers!’ she exclaimed; her voice rose a little. ‘No, you’re not. You’re Donald Plant .’

‘I told you on the phone.’

She was on her feet – her face faintly horrified.

‘Plant! Bowers! I must be crazy. Or it was that drink? I was mixed up a little when I first saw you. Look here! What have I told you?’

He tried to keep calm as he turned a page of the book.

‘Nothing at all,’ he said. Pictures that did not include him formed and re-formed before his eyes – Frontenac – a cave – Donald Bowers – ‘You threw me  over!’

Nancy spoke from the other side of the room.

‘You’ll never tell this story,’ she said. ‘Stories have a way of getting around.[54]

‘There isn’t any story,’ he hesitated. But he thought: so she was a bad little girl.

And now suddenly he was filled with wild jealousy of little Donald Bowers – he who had banished jealousy from his life forever. In the five steps he took across the room he crushed out twenty years and the existence of Walter Gifford.

‘Kiss me again, Nancy,’ he said, sinking to one knee beside her chair, putting his hand upon her shoulder. But Nancy stepped away.

‘You said you had to catch a plane.’

‘It’s nothing. I can miss it. It’s of no importance.’

‘Please go,’ she said in a cool voice. ‘And please try to imagine how I feel.’

‘But you act as if you don’t remember me,’ he cried, ‘ – as if you don’t remember Donald Plant !’

‘I do. I remember you too… But it was all so long ago.’ Her voice grew hard again. ‘The taxi number is Crestwood 8484.’

On his way to the airport Donald shook his head from side to side. He was completely himself now but he could not understand what had happened. Only as the plane took off and its passengers became a different entity from the world below did he draw a parallel from the fact of its flight. For five blinding minutes he had lived like a madman in two worlds at once. He had been a boy of twelve and a man of thirty-two, indissolubly and helplessly commingled.

Donald had lost a good deal,[55] too, in those hours between the planes – but since the second half of life is a long process of getting rid of things, that part of the experience probably didn’t matter.

The Nightingale and the Rose

Oscar Wilde

 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

“She said that she would dance with me if I brought her red roses,” cried the young Student; “but in all my garden there is no red rose.” From her nest in the oak tree the Nightingale heard him, and she looked out through the leaves, and wondered.

“No red rose in all my garden!” he cried, and his beautiful eyes filled with tears. “Ah, on what little things does happiness depend! I have read all that the wise men have written, and all the secrets of philosophy are mine, but my life is wretched because of a red rose.”

“Here at last is a true lover,” said the Nightingale. “Night after night have I sung of him, though I did not know him; night after night have I told his story to the stars, and now I see him. His hair is dark as the hyacinth, and his lips are red as the rose of his desire; but passion has made his face like pale ivory, and sorrow has set her seal upon his brow.[56]

“The Prince gives a ball tomorrow night,” murmured the young Student, “and my love will be there. If I bring her a red rose she will dance with me till dawn. If I bring her a red rose, I shall hold her in my arms, and she will lean her head upon my shoulder, and her hand will be clasped in mine. But there is no red rose in my garden, so I shall sit lonely, and she will pass me by, and my heart will break.”

“Here indeed is the true lover,” said the Nightingale. “What I sing of, he suffers what is joy to me, to him is pain. Surely Love is a wonderful thing. It is more precious than emeralds, and dearer than fine opals. It may not be purchased of the merchants, nor can it be weighed out in the balance for gold.”

“The musicians will sit in their gallery,” said the young Student, “and play upon their stringed instruments, and my love will dance to the sound of the harp and the violin. She will dance so lightly that her feet will not touch the floor, and the courtiers in their bright dresses will throng round her. But with me she will not dance, for I have no red rose to give her”; and he threw himself down on the grass, and buried his face in his hands, and wept.

“Why is he weeping?” asked a little Green Lizard, as he ran past him with his tail in the air.

“Why, indeed?” said a Butterfly.

“Why, indeed?” whispered a Daisy to his neighbour, in a soft, low voice.

“He is weeping for a red rose,” said the Nightingale.

“For a red rose?” they cried; “how very ridiculous!” and the little Lizard, who was something of a cynic, started laughing. But the Nightingale understood the secret of the Student’s sorrow, and she sat silent in the oak tree, and thought about the mystery of Love. Suddenly she spread her brown wings for flight, and soared into the air.

In the centre of the grass-plot was standing a beautiful Rose-tree, and when she saw it she flew over to it, and sat upon a spray.

“Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest song.” But the Tree shook its head.

“My roses are white,” it answered; “as white as the foam of the sea, and whiter than the snow upon the mountain. But go to my brother who grows round the old sun-dial, and perhaps he will give you what you want.”

So the Nightingale flew over to the Rose-tree that was growing round the old sun-dial.

“Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest song.” But the Tree shook its head.

“My roses are yellow,” it answered; “as yellow as the hair of the mermaiden who sits upon an amber throne, and yellower than the daffodil that blossoms in the meadow. But go to my brother who grows beneath the Student’s window, and perhaps he will give you what you want.”

So the Nightingale flew over to the Rose-tree that was growing beneath the Student’s window.

“Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest song.” But the Tree shook its head.

“My roses are red,” it answered, “as red as the feet of the dove, and redder than the corals that wave and wave in the ocean. But the winter has chilled my veins, and the frost has nipped my buds, and the storm has broken my branches, and I shall have no roses at all this year.”

“One red rose is all I want,” cried the Nightingale, “only one red rose! Is there no way by which I can get it?”

“There is a way,” answered the Tree; “but it is so terrible that I dare not tell it to you.”

“Tell it to me,” said the Nightingale, “I am not afraid.”

“If you want a red rose,” said the Tree, “you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with your own heart’s-blood.[57] You must sing to me with your breast against a thorn. All night long you must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your life-blood must flow into my veins, and become mine.”

“Death is a great price to pay for a red rose,” cried the Nightingale, “and Life is very dear to all. Yet Love is better than Life, and what is the heart of a bird compared to the heart of a man?”

So she spread her brown wings for flight, and soared into the air.

The young Student was still lying on the grass, where she had left him, and the tears were not yet dry in his beautiful eyes.

“Be happy,” cried the Nightingale, “be happy; you shall have your red rose. I will build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with my own heart’s-blood. All that I ask of you in return is that you will be a true lover, for Love is wiser than Philosophy, though she is wise, and mightier than Power, though he is mighty. Flame-coloured are his wings, and coloured like flame is his body. His lips are sweet as honey, and his breath is like frankincense.”

The Student looked up from the grass, and listened, but he could not understand what the Nightingale was saying to him, for he only knew the things that are written down in books.

But the Oak-tree understood, and felt sad, for he was very fond of the little Nightingale who had built her nest in his branches.

“Sing me one last song,” he whispered; “I shall feel very lonely when you are gone.”

So the Nightingale sang to the Oak-tree, and her voice was like water bubbling from a silver jar.

When she had finished her song the Student got up, and pulled a notebook and a pencil out of his pocket.

“She has form,” he said to himself, as he walked away through the grove “I cannot deny that; but has she got feeling? I am afraid not. In fact, she is like most artists; she is all style, without any sincerity. She would not sacrifice herself for others. She thinks merely of music, and everybody knows that the arts are selfish. Still, it must be admitted that she has some beautiful notes in her voice. What a pity it is that they do not mean anything, or do any practical good.” And he went into his room, and lay down on his little bed, and began to think of his love; and, after a time, he fell asleep.

And when the Moon shone in the heavens the Nightingale flew to the Rose-tree, and set her breast against the thorn. All night long she sang with her breast against the thorn, and the cold crystal Moon leaned down and listened. All night long she sang, and the thorn went deeper and deeper into her breast, and her life-blood ebbed away from her. She sang first of the birth of love in the heart of a boy and a girl. And on the top-most spray of the Rosetree there blossomed a marvellous rose, petal following petal, as song followed song. Pale was it, at first, as the mist that hangs over the river pale as the feet of the morning, and silver as the wings of the dawn. As the shadow of a rose in a mirror of silver, as the shadow of a rose in a water-pool, so was the rose that blossomed on the topmost spray of the Tree. But the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the thorn.[58]

“Press closer, little Nightingale,” cried the Tree, “or the Day will come before the rose is finished.” So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and louder and louder grew her song, for she sang of the birth of passion in the soul of a man and a maid.

And a delicate flush of pink came into the leaves of the rose, like the flush in the face of the bridegroom when he kisses the lips of the bride. But the thorn had not yet reached her heart, so the rose’s heart remained white, for only a Nightingale’s heart’s-blood can crimson the heart of a rose.

And the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the thorn.

“Press closer, little Nightingale,” cried the Tree, “or the Day will come before the rose is finished.”

So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and the thorn touched her heart, and a pang of pain shot through her. Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song, for she sang of the Love that does not die in the tomb. And the marvellous rose became crimson, like the dawn of the eastern sky. Crimson was the girdle of petals,[59] and crimson as a ruby was the heart.

But the Nightingale’s voice grew fainter, and her little wings began to beat, and a film came over her eyes.[60] Fainter and fainter grew her song, and she felt something choking her in her throat.

Then she gave one last burst of music. The white Moon heard it, and she forgot the dawn, and lingered on in the sky. The red rose heard it, and it trembled all over with ecstasy, and opened its petals to the cold morning air.

“Look, look!” cried the Tree, “the rose is finished now”; but the Nightingale made no answer, for she was lying dead in the long grass, with the thorn in her heart.

And at noon the Student opened his window and looked out.

“Why, what a wonderful piece of luck!” he cried; “here is a red rose! I have never seen any rose like it in all my life. It is so beautiful that I am sure it has a long Latin name”; and he leaned down and plucked it. Then he put on his hat, and ran up to the Professor’s house with the rose in his hand.

The daughter of the Professor was sitting in the doorway winding blue silk on a reel,[61] and her little dog was lying at her feet.

“You said that you would dance with me if I brought you a red rose,” cried the Student. “Here is the reddest rose in all the world. You will wear it tonight next your heart, and as we dance together it will tell you how I love you.”

But the girl frowned.

“I am afraid it will not go with my dress,” she answered; “and, besides, the Chamberlain’s nephew has sent me some real jewels, and everybody knows that jewels cost far more than flowers.”

“Well, upon my word, you are very ungrateful,” said the Student angrily; and he threw the rose into the street, where it fell into the gutter, and a cart-wheel went over it.

“Ungrateful!” said the girl. “I tell you what, you are very rude; and, after all, who are you? Only a Student. Why, I don’t believe you have even got silver buckles to your shoes as the Chamberlain’s nephew has”; and she got up from her chair and went into the house.

“What a silly thing Love is,” said the Student as he walked away. “It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything, and it is always telling one of things that are not going to happen, and making one believe things that are not true. In fact, it is quite unpractical, and, as in this age to be practical is everything, I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.”

So he returned to his room and pulled out a great dusty book, and began to read.

The Apple Tree

John Galsworthy

 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

“The Apple-tree, the singing and the gold.”

Murray’s “Hippolytus” of Euripides[62]

In their silver-wedding day Ashurst and his wife were motoring along the outskirts of the moor, intending to crown the festival by stopping the night at Torquay, where they had first met. This was the idea of Stella Ashurst, who was quite sentimental. She had long lost the blue-eyed, flower-like charm, the cool slim purity of face and form, the apple-blossom colouring, which had so swiftly and so oddly affected Ashurst twenty-six years ago, but she was still at forty-three an attractive and faithful companion.

Stella was looking for a place where they might lunch, for Ashurst never looked for anything; and this, with a view into the deep valley and up to the long moor heights, seemed fitting to the decisive nature of one who sketched in water-colours, and loved romantic spots. Grasping her paint box, she got out of the car.

“Won’t this do, Frank?”

Ashurst, rather like a bearded Schiller, tall, long-legged, with large remote grey eyes which sometimes filled with meaning and became almost beautiful, with nose a little to one side, and bearded lips just open – Ashurst, forty-eight, and silent, grasped the lunch basket, and got out too.

“Oh! Look, Frank! A grave!”

By the side of the road was a thin mound of turf, six feet by one, with a moorstone to the west, and on it someone had thrown a blackthorn spray and a handful of bluebells. Ashurst looked, and the poet in him moved. At crossroads – a suicide’s grave! Poor mortals with their superstitions! Whoever lay there, though, had the best of it, no clammy sepulchre among other hideous graves carved with futilities[63] – just a rough stone, the wide sky, and wayside blessings!

Ashurst walked away up on to the road, dropped the lunch basket under a wall, spread a rug for his wife to sit on – she would turn up from her sketching when she was hungry – and took from his pocket Murray’s translation of the “Hippolytus.” He looked at the sky and watching the white clouds so bright against the intense blue, Ashurst, on his silver-wedding day, longed for – he knew not what. And suddenly he sat up. Surely there was something familiar about this view, that ribbon of road, the old wall behind him. While they were driving he had not been taking notice – never did; thinking of far things or of nothing – but now he saw! Twenty-six years ago, just at this time of year, from the farmhouse within half a mile of this very spot he had started for that day in Torquay whence it might be said he had never returned. He felt a sudden ache in his heart; he had stumbled on just one of those past moments in his life, whose beauty and rapture he had failed to check; whose wings had fluttered away into the unknown; he had stumbled on a buried memory, a wild sweet time, swiftly choked and ended. And, turning on his face, he rested his chin on his hands, and stared at the short grass…


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

And this is what he remembered.

On the first of May, after their last year together at college, Frank Ashurst and his friend Robert Garton were on a tramp.[64] They had walked that day from Brent, intending to make Chagford, but Ashurst’s football knee hurt, and according to their map they had still some seven miles to go. They were sitting on a bank beside the road, resting the knee and talking of the universe, as young men will. Both were over six feet, and thin as rails; Ashurst pale, idealistic, full of absence; Garton simple, well-built, curly, like some primeval beast. Both were interested in literature; neither wore a hat.

Ashurst’s hair was smooth, pale, wavy, and had a way of rising on either side of his brow; Carton’s was a kind of dark mop. They had not met a soul for miles.

A cuckoo began calling from a tree. The sky, the flowers, the songs of birds! Robert was talking nonsense! Ashurst said:

“Well, let’s go on, and find some farm where we can put up.” Saying those words, he saw a girl coming down from the road just above them. She was outlined against the sky, carrying a basket. And Ashurst thought: ‘How pretty!’ The wind, blowing her dark frieze skirt against her legs, lifted her old tam-o’-shanter; her greyish blouse was worn, her shoes were split, her little hands rough and red, her neck browned. Her dark hair waved untidy across her broad forehead, her face was short, her upper lip short, showing a glint of teeth, her brows were straight and dark, her lashes long and dark, her nose straight; but her grey eyes were dewy as if opened for the first time that day. She looked at Ashurst – perhaps he struck her as strange, limping along without a hat, with his large eyes on her, and his hair falling back. He could not take off what was not on his head, but put up his hand in a salute, and said:

“Can you tell us if there’s a farm near here where we could stay the night? I’ve gone lame.”

“There’s only our farm near, sir.” She spoke without shyness, in a pretty soft clear voice.

“And where is that?”

“Down here, sir.”

“Would you put us up?”

“Oh! I think we would.”

“Will you show us the way?”

“Yes, Sir.”

He limped on, silent, and Garton asked:

“Are you a Devonshire girl?”

“No, Sir.”

“What then?”

“From Wales.”

“Ah! I thought you were a Celt; so it’s not your farm?”

“My aunt’s, sir.”

“And your uncle’s?”

“He is dead.”

“Who farms it, then?”

“My aunt, and my three cousins.”

“But your uncle was a Devonshire man?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Have you lived here long?”

“Seven years.”

“And how do you like it after Wales?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“I suppose you don’t remember?”

“Oh, yes! But it is different.”

“I believe you!”

Ashurst broke in suddenly: “How old are you?”

“Seventeen, Sir.”

“And what’s your name?”

“Megan David.”

“This is Robert Garton, and I am Frank Ashurst. We wanted to get on to Chagford.”

“It is a pity your leg is hurting you.”

Ashurst smiled, and when he smiled his face was rather beautiful.

Descending past the narrow wood, they came on the farm suddenly – a long, low, stone-built house in a farmyard. A short grass hill behind was crowned with a few pines, and in front, an old orchard of apple trees, just breaking into flower, stretched down to a stream and a long wild meadow. A little boy with dark eyes was shepherding a pig, and by the house door stood a woman, who came towards them. The girl said:

“It is Mrs. Narracombe, my aunt.”

Mrs. Narracombe had a quick, dark eye, like a mother wild-duck’s.

“We met your niece on the road,” said Ashurst; “she thought you might perhaps put us up for the night.”

Mrs. Narracombe, taking them in from head to heel,[65] answered:

“Well, I can, if you don’t mind one room. Megan, get the spare room ready, and a bowl of cream. You’ll be wanting tea, I suppose.”

Passing through a sort of porch made by two yew trees and some flowering-currant bushes, the girl disappeared into the house.

“Will you come into the parlour and rest your leg? You’ll be from college, perhaps?”

“We were, but we’ve left it now.”

The parlour, brick-floored, with bare table and shiny chairs and sofa stuffed with horsehair, seemed never to have been used, it was so terribly clean. Ashurst sat down at once on the sofa, holding his lame knee between his hands, and Mrs. Narracombe gazed at him. He was the only son of a late professor of chemistry, but people found a certain lordliness in him.

“Is there a stream where we could bathe?”

“There’s the stream at the bottom of the orchard, but sitting down you’ll not be covered!”

“How deep?”

“Well, it is about a foot and a half, maybe.”

“Oh! That’ll do fine. Which way?”

“Down the lane, through the second gate on the right, and the pool’s by the big apple tree that stands by itself. There’ll be the tea ready when you come back.”

The pool, formed by the damming of a rock, had a sandy bottom; and the big apple tree, lowest in the orchard, grew so close that its boughs almost overhung the water; it was about to flower – its crimson buds just bursting. There was not room for more than one at a time in that narrow bath, and Ashurst waited his turn, rubbing his knee and gazing at the wild meadow. Every bough was swinging in the wind, every spring bird calling, and sunlight dappled the grass. He thought of Theocritus,[66] and the river Cherwell, of the moon, and the maiden with the dewy eyes; of so many things that he seemed to think of nothing; and he felt absurdly happy.


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

During a late and sumptuous tea with eggs to it, cream and jam, and thin, fresh cakes, Garton descanted on the Celts. It was about the period of the Celtic awakening, and the discovery that there was Celtic blood about this family had excited one who believed that he was a Celt himself. Sprawling on a horse hair chair, with a hand-made cigarette in his lips, he had been staring at Ashurst and praising the refinement of the Welsh. To come out of Wales into England was like the change from china to earthenware! Frank, as an Englishman, had not of course perceived the exquisite refinement and emotional capacity of that Welsh girl! And, delicately stirring in the dark mat of his still wet hair, he explained how exactly that Welsh girl illustrated the writings of the Welsh bard Morgan-ap-Something in the twelfth century.

Ashurst, full length on the horsehair sofa, did not listen, thinking of the girl’s face when she brought in some cakes. It had been exactly like looking at a flower, or some other pretty sight in Nature – till, with a funny little shiver, she had lowered her glance and gone out, quiet as a mouse.

“Let’s go to the kitchen,” said Garton, “and see some more of her.”

The kitchen was a very clean room; there were flower-pots on the window-sill, and guns hanging on nails, queer mugs, china, and portraits of Queen Victoria. A long, narrow wooden table was set with bowls and spoons, under a string of high-hung onions; two dogs and three cats lay here and there. On one side of the fireplace sat two small boys, idle, and good as gold; on the other sat a stout, light-eyed, red-faced young man with hair and lashes the colour of the tow he was running through the barrel of a gun; between them Mrs. Narracombe dreamily stirred some tasty-scented stew in a large pot. Two other young men, dark-haired, rather sly-faced, were talking together and leaning against the wall; and a short, elderly, clean-shaven man in corduroys, seated in the window, was reading a journal. The girl Megan seemed the only active creature – pouring cider[67] and passing with the jugs from cask to table. Seeing them thus about to eat, Garton said:

“Ah! If you’ll let us, we’ll come back when supper’s over,” and without waiting for an answer they withdrew again to the parlour.

“Regular gipsy type, those boys. There was only one Saxon – the fellow cleaning the gun. That girl is a very subtle study psychologically.”

Ashurst’s lips twitched. Garton seemed to him an ass just then. Subtle study! She was a wild flower. A creature it did you good to look at. Study!

Ashurst threw up the window and leaned out. Dusk had gathered thick. The farm buildings were all dim and bluish; the air smelled of woodsmoke from the kitchen fire. And away over there was the loom of the moor, and away and away the shy stars pricking white through the deep blue heavens. Ashurst drew a deep breath. What a night to wander out in! A bat went fluttering past, uttering its almost inaudible “chip, chip.” Ashurst held out his hand; on the upturned palm he could feel the dew. Suddenly from overhead he heard little boys’ voices, little thumps of boots thrown down, and another voice, clear and soft – the girl’s putting them to bed, no doubt; and nine words “No, Rick, you can’t have the cat in bed”; then came giggles and gurgles, a soft slap, a laugh so low and pretty that it made him shiver a little. Ashurst returned into the room and sat down; his knee pained him, and his soul felt gloomy.

“You go to the kitchen,” he said; “I’m going to bed.”


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги
убрать рекламу

убрать рекламу

le='Сделать закладку на этом месте книги' />

Though Ashurst seemed to be in a deep in sleep when his companion came up, he was really wide awake; and long after Carton was worshipping darkness with his upturned nose, he heard the owls. Barring the discomfort of his knee, it was not unpleasant for he had no cares of life; just enrolled a barrister,[68] with literary aspirations, the world before him, no father or mother, and four hundred a year of his own. Did it matter where he went, what he did, or when he did it? His bed, too, was hard, and this preserved him from fever. He lay, sniffing the scent of the night which drifted into the low room through the open window close to his head. Except for a definite irritation with his friend, natural when you have tramped with a man for three days, Ashurst’s memories and visions that sleepless night were kindly and wistful and exciting. One vision, specially clear and unreasonable, for he had not even been conscious of noting it, was the face of the young man cleaning the gun; its intent, stolid, yet startled uplook at the kitchen doorway, quickly shifted to the girl carrying the cider jug. This red, blue-eyed, light-lashed, tow-haired face stuck as firmly in his memory as the girl’s own face, so dewy and simple. But finally, in the square of darkness through the uncurtained window, he saw day coming, and heard one hoarse and sleepy caw. Then followed silence, dead as ever. And, from staring at the framed brightening light, Ashurst fell asleep.

Next day his knee was badly swollen; the walking tour was obviously over. Garton had to go back to London and departed at midday with an ironical smile which left a scar of irritation – healed the moment his figure vanished round the corner of the steep lane. All day Ashurst rested his knee, in a green-painted wooden chair on the grass by the yew-tree porch. Beatifically he smoked, dreamed, watched.

A farm in spring is all birth – young things coming out of bud and shell, and human beings watching over the process with faint excitement feeding and tending what has been born. Now and again Mrs. Narracombe or the girl Megan would come and ask Ashurst if he wanted anything, and he would smile and say: “Nothing, thanks. It’s splendid here.” Towards tea-time they came out together, bearing a long poultice of some dark stuff in a bowl, and after a long scrutiny of his swollen knee, bound it on. When they were gone, he thought of the girl’s soft “Oh!” – of her pitying eyes, and the little wrinkle in her brow. And again he felt that unreasoning irritation against his departed friend, who had talked such rot about her. When she brought out his tea, he said:

“How did you like my friend, Megan?”

She forced down her upper lip, as if afraid that to smile was not polite. “He was a funny gentleman; he made us laugh. I think he is very clever.”

“What did he say to make you laugh?”

“He said I was a daughter of the bards. What are they?”

“Welsh poets, who lived hundreds of years ago.”

“Why am I their daughter, please?”

“He meant that you were the sort of girl they sang about.”

She wrinkled her brows. “I think he likes to joke. Am I?”

“Would you believe me, if I told you?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Well, I think he was right.”

She smiled.

And Ashurst thought: ‘You are a pretty thing!’

“He said, too, that Joe was a Saxon type. What would that be?”

“Which is Joe? With the blue eyes and red face?”

“Yes. My uncle’s nephew.”

“Not your cousin, then?”


“Well, he meant that Joe was like the men who came over to England about fourteen hundred years ago, and conquered it.”

“Oh! I know about them; but is he?”

“Garton’s crazy about that sort of thing; but I must say Joe does look a bit Early Saxon.”


That “Yes” tickled Ashurst. It was so graceful, so conclusive, and politely acquiescent in what was evidently greek to her.[69]

“He said that all the other boys were regular gipsies. He should not have said that. My aunt laughed, but she didn’t like it, of course, and my cousins were angry. Uncle was a farmer – farmers are not gipsies. It is wrong to hurt people.”

Ashurst wanted to take her hand and give it a squeeze, but he only answered:

“Quite right, Megan. By the way, I heard you putting the little ones to bed last night.”

She flushed a little. “Please to drink your tea – it is getting cold. Shall I get you some fresh?”

“Do you ever have time to do anything for yourself?” “Oh! Yes.”

“I’ve been watching, but I haven’t seen it yet.”

She wrinkled her brows in a puzzled frown, and her colour deepened.

When she was gone, Ashurst thought: ‘Did she think I was chaffing her? I wouldn’t for the world!’ He was at that age when to some men “Beauty’s a flower,” as the poet says, and inspires in them the thoughts of chivalry. Never very conscious of his surroundings, it was some time before he was aware that the young man whom Garton had called “a Saxon type” was standing outside the stable door in his soiled brown cords,[70] muddy boots, and blue shirt; red-armed, red-faced, the sun turning his hair from tow to flax; immovably stolid, unsmiling he stood. Then, seeing Ashurst looking at him, he crossed the yard and disappeared round the end of the house towards the kitchen entrance. A chill came over Ashurst’s mood. Clods? With all the good will in the world, how impossible to get on terms with them! And yet – see that girl! Her shoes were split, her hands rough; but – what was it? Was it really her Celtic blood, as Garton had said? – she was a lady born, a jewel, though probably she could do no more than just read and write!

The elderly, clean-shaven man he had seen last night in the kitchen had come into the yard with a dog, driving the cows to their milking. Ashurst saw that he was lame.

“You’ve got some good ones there!”

The lame man’s face brightened. He had the upward look in his eyes which prolonged suffering often brings.

“Yeas; they’re proper beauties; good milkers too.”

“I bet they are.”

“Hope your leg’s better, sir.”

“Thank you, it’s getting on.”

The lame man touched his own: “I know what it is, myself; it is a main worrying thing, the knee. Mine’s been hurting for ten years”.

Ashurst made the sound of sympathy which comes so readily from those who have an independent income, and the lame man smiled again.

“Mustn’t complain, though – they might have had it off.”


“Yes; and compared with what it was, it is almost good now.”

“They’ve put a bandage of splendid stuff on mine.”

“The maid she picks it. She’s a good maid with the flowers. Some people seem to know the healing in things. My mother was a rare one for that. Hope you’ll soon be better, sir. Go on, there!”

Ashurst smiled. “With the flowers!” A flower herself!

That evening, after his supper of cold duck, junket,[71] and cider, the girl came in.

“Please, auntie says – will you try a piece of our Mayday cake?”

“If I may come to the kitchen for it.”

“Oh, yes! You’ll be missing your friend.”

“Not I. But are you sure no one minds?”

“Who would mind? We shall be very pleased.”

Ashurst rose too suddenly for his stiff knee, staggered, and fell down. The girl held out her hands. Ashurst took them, small, rough, brown; checked his impulse to put them to his lips, and let her pull him up. She came close beside him, offering her shoulder. And leaning on her he walked across the room. That shoulder seemed quite the pleasantest thing he had ever touched.

That night he slept like a top,[72] and woke with his knee of almost normal size. He again spent the morning in his chair on the grass patch, writing down verses; but in the afternoon he wandered about with the two little boys Nick and Rick. It was Saturday, so they were early home from school; quick, shy, dark little rascals of seven and six, soon talkative, for Ashurst had a way with children. By four o’clock they had shown him all their methods of destroying life, except the tickling of trout; and with trosers tucked up, lay on their stomachs over the trout stream. They tickled nothing, of course, for their giggling and shouting scared every fish away. Ashurst, on a rock at the edge of the beech clump, watched them, and listened to the cuckoos, till Nick, the elder and less persevering, came up and stood beside him.

“The gipsy bogle sits on that stone,” he said.

“What gipsy bogle?”

“Dunno;[73] I’ve never seen him. Megan says he sits there; and old Jim saw him once. He was sitting there the night before our pony kicked in father’s head. He plays the fiddle.”

“What tune does he play?”


“What’s he like?”

“He’s black. Old Jim says he’s all over hair. He’s a proper bogie.” The little boy’s dark eyes slid round. “Do you think he might want to take me away? Megan’s afraid of him.”

“Has she seen him?”

“No. She’s not afraid of you.”

“I should think not. Why should she be?”

“She says a prayer for you.”

“How do you know that?”

“When I was asleep, she said: ‘God bless us all, and Mr. Ashes.’ I heard her whispering’.”

“You’re a little rascal to tell what you hear when you’re not meant to hear it!”

The little boy was silent. Then he said aggressively:

“I can skin rabbits. Megan, she can’t bear skinning them. I like blood.”

“Oh! you do; you little monster!”

“What’s that?”

“A creature that likes hurting others.”

The little boy scowled. “They’re only dead rabbets, what we eat.”

“Quite right, Nick. I beg your pardon.”

“I can skin frogs, too.”

But Ashurst had become absent. “God bless us all, and Mr. Ashes!” And puzzled by that sudden inaccessibility, Nick ran back to the stream.

When Megan brought his tea, he said:

“What’s the gipsy bogle, Megan?”

She looked up, startled.

“He brings bad things.”

“Surely you don’t believe in ghosts?”

“I hope I will never see him.”

“Of course you won’t. There aren’t such things. What old Jim saw was a pony.”

“No! There are bogles in the rocks; they are the men who lived long ago.”

“They aren’t gipsies, anyway; those old men were dead long before gipsies came.”

She said simply: “They are all bad.”

“Why? If there are any, they’re only wild, like the rabbits. The flowers aren’t bad for being wild; the thorn trees were never planted – and you don’t mind them. I shall go down at night and look for your bogle, and have a talk with him.”

“Oh, no! Oh, no!”

“Oh, yes! I shall go and sit on his rock.”

She clasped her hands together: “Oh, please!”

“Why! What does it matter if anything happens to me?”

She did not answer; and he added:

“Well, I daresay I shan’t see him, because I suppose I must be off soon.”


“Your aunt won’t want to keep me here.”

“Oh, yes! We always let lodgings in summer.”

Fixing his eyes on her face, he asked:

“Would you like me to stay?”


“I’m going to say a prayer for you tonight!”

She flushed crimson, frowned, and went out of the room. He sat, cursing himself, till his tea was prepared. It was as if he had hacked with his thick boots at a clump of bluebells. Why had he said such a silly thing? Was he just like Robert Garton, as far from understanding this girl?

Ashurst spent the next week confirming the restoration of his leg, by exploration of the country within easy reach. Spring was a revelation to him this year. It was certainly different from any spring he had ever known, for spring was inside him, not outside. In the daytime he hardly saw the family; and when Megan brought in his meals she always seemed too busy in the house or among the young things in the yard to stay talking long. But in the evenings he installed himself in the window seat in the kitchen, smoking and chatting with the lame man Jim, or Mrs. Narracombe, while the girl sewed, or moved about, clearing the supper things away. And sometimes, with the sensation a cat must feel when it purrs, he would become conscious that Megan’s eyes – those dew-grey eyes – were fixed on him with a sort of lingering soft look which was strangely flattering.

It was on Sunday in the evening, when he was lying in the orchard listening to a blackbird and composing a love poem, that he saw the girl come running among the trees, with the red-cheeked, stolid Joe in swift pursuit. About twenty yards away it ended, and the two stood fronting each other, not noticing the stranger in the grass – the boy pressing on, the girl fending him off. Ashurst could see her face, angry, disturbed. Painfully affected by that sight, Ashurst jumped up. They saw him then. Megan dropped her hands, and shrank behind a tree trunk; the boy gave an angry grunt[74] and vanished. Ashurst went slowly up to her. She was standing quite still, biting her lip – very pretty, with her fine, dark hair blown loose about her face, and her eyes cast down.[75]

“I beg your pardon,” he said.

She gave him one upward look, from eyes much dilated; then, catching her breath, turned away. Ashurst followed.


But she went on; and taking hold of her arm, he turned her gently round to him.

“Stop and speak to me.”

“Why do you beg my pardon? It is not to me you should do that.”

“Well, then, to Joe.”

“How dare he come after me?”

“In love with you, I suppose.”

She stamped her foot.

Ashurst uttered a short laugh. “Would you like me to punch his head?”

She cried with sudden passion:

“You laugh at me – you laugh at us!”

He caught hold of her hands, but she shrank back, till her passionate little face and dark hair were caught among the pink clusters of the apple blossom. Ashurst raised one of her imprisoned hands and put his lips to it. He felt how chivalrous he was, and superior to that clod Joe – just brushing that small, rough hand with his mouth. She seemed to tremble towards him. A sweet warmth overtook Ashurst from top to toe. This slim maiden, so simple and fine and pretty, was pleased, then, at the touch of his lips! And, yielding to a swift impulse, he put his arms round her, pressed her to him, and kissed her forehead. Then he was frightened – she went so pale, closing her eyes, so that the long, dark lashes lay on her pale cheeks; her hands, too, lay inert at her sides. The touch of her breast sent a shiver through him. “Megan!” he sighed out, and let her go. In the perfect silence a blackbird shouted. Then the girl seized his hand, put it to her cheek, her heart, her lips, kissed it passionately, and ran away among the trunks of the apple trees, till they hid her from him.

Ashurst sat down on a twisted old tree growing almost along the ground, and, all throbbing and puzzled, gazed vacantly at the blossom which had crowned her hair – those pink buds with one white open apple star. What had he done? How had he let himself be thus captivated by beauty – pity – or – just the spring! He felt curiously happy, all the same; happy and triumphant, with shivers running through his limbs, and a vague alarm. This was the beginning of – what? The mosquitoes bit him, the dancing gnats tried to fly into his mouth, and all the spring around him seemed to grow more lovely and alive; the songs of the cuckoos and the blackbirds, the slanting sunlight, the apple blossom which had crowned her head! He got up from the old trunk and walked out of the orchard, wanting space, an open sky, to get on terms with these new sensations.

Of man – at any age from five years on – who can say he has never been in love? Ashurst had loved his partners at his dancing class; loved his nursery governess; girls in school-holidays; perhaps never been quite out of love, cherishing always some more or less remote admiration. But this was different, not remote at all. Quite a new sensation; terribly delightful, bringing a sense of completed manhood. To be holding in his fingers such a wild flower, to be able to put it to his lips, and feel it tremble with delight against them! What intoxication, and – embarrassment! What to do with it – how meet her next time? His first caress had been cool, pitiful; but the next could not be, now that, by her burning little kiss on his hand, by her pressure of it to her heart, he knew that she loved him.

And up there among the hills he felt the passionate desire to revel in this new sensation of spring fulfilled within him, and a vague but very real anxiety. At one moment he gave himself up completely to his pride at having captured this pretty, trustful, dewy-eyed thing! At the next he thought: ‘Yes, my boy! But look out what you’re doing! You know what comes of it!’

Dusk dropped down without his noticing. And the voice of Nature said: “This is a new world for you!” As when a man gets up at four o’clock and goes out into a summer morning, and beasts, birds, trees stare at him and he feels as if all had been made new.

He stayed up there for hours, till it grew cold, then groped his way[76] back into the lane, and came again past the wild meadow to the orchard. There he lit a match and looked at his watch. Nearly twelve! It was black and unstirring in there now, very different from the lingering, bird-befriended brightness of six hours ago! And suddenly he saw this idyll of his with the eyes of the outer world – had mental vision of Mrs. Narracombe’s snake-like neck turned, her quick dark glance taking it all in; saw the gipsy-like cousins mocking and distrustful; Joe stolid and furious; only the lame man, Jim, with the suffering eyes, seemed tolerable to his mind. And the village pub! – the gossiping matrons he passed on his walks; and then – his own friends – Robert Carton’s smile when he went off that morning ten days ago; so ironical and knowing! Disgusting! For a minute he literally hated this earthy, cynical world to which one belonged, willy-nilly.

He went up the lane which smelled of the night and young leaves. He opened the farm gate stealthily. All was dark in the house. He looked up at Megan’s window. It was open. Was she sleeping, or lying awake perhaps, disturbed – unhappy at his absence? An owl hooted while he stood there peering up, and the sound seemed to fill the whole night, so quiet was all else, save for the never-ending murmur of the stream running below the orchard. The cuckoos by day, and now the owls – how wonderfully they voiced this troubled ecstasy within him! And suddenly he saw her at her window, looking out. He moved a little from the yew tree, and whispered: “Megan!” She drew back, vanished, reappeared, leaning far down. He moved the chair, and noiselessly mounted it. By stretching up his arm he could just reach. Her hand held the huge key of the front door, and he clasped that burning hand with the cold key in it. He could just see her face, the glint of teeth between her lips, her hair. She was still dressed – poor child, sitting up for him, no doubt! “Pretty Megan!” Her hot, roughened fingers clung to his; her face had a strange, lost look. To have been able to reach it – even with his hand! The owl hooted, a scent of roses crept into his nostrils. Then one of the farm dogs barked; her grasp relaxed, she shrank back.

“Good-night, Megan!”

“Good-night, sir!”

She was gone! With a sigh he dropped back to earth, and sitting on that chair, took off his boots. For a long while he sat unmoving, his feet chilly in the dew, drunk on the memory of her lost, half-smiling face, and the clinging grip of her burning fingers, pressing the cold key into his hand.


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

He awoke feeling as if he had eaten heavily overnight, instead of having eaten nothing. And far off, unreal, seemed yesterday’s romance! Yet it was a golden morning. From his window he could see apple blossoms covering the orchard as with a rose and white quilt. He went down almost dreading to see Megan; and yet, when not she but Mrs. Narracombe brought in his breakfast, he felt upset and disappointed.

“So you went walking last night, Mr. Ashurst! Did ye have your supper anywheres?”

Ashurst shook his head.

“We kept it for you, but I suppose you were too busy in your brain to think of such a thing as that?”

Was she mocking him? If she knew! And at that moment he thought: ‘No, no; I’ll clear out. I won’t put myself in such a beastly false position.’

But, after breakfast, the longing to see Megan began and increased with every minute, together with fear lest something should have been said to her which had spoiled everything. And the love poem, whose manufacture had been so important and absorbing yesterday afternoon under the apple trees, now seemed so trivial that he tore it up. What had he known of love, till she seized his hand and kissed it! And now – what did he not know? But to write of it seemed mere insipidity! He went up to his bedroom to get a book, and his heart began to beat violently, for she was in there making the bed. He stood in the doorway watching; and suddenly, with turbulent joy, he saw her bend down and kiss his pillow, just at the hollow made by his head last night.

How let her know he had seen that pretty act of devotion? And yet, if she heard him slipping away, it would be even worse. She took the pillow up, dropped it, and turned round.


She put her hands up to her cheeks, but her eyes seemed to look right into him. He had never before realised the depth and purity and touching faithfulness in those dew-bright eyes, and he stammered:

“It was sweet of you to wait up for me last night.”

She still said nothing, and he stammered on:

“I was wandering about on the moor; it was such a jolly night. I–I’ve just come up for a book.”

Then, the kiss he had seen her give the pillow afflicted him with sudden excitement, and he went up to her. Touching her eyes with his lips, he thought with queer excitement: ‘I’ve done it! Yesterday all was sudden – anyhow; but now – I’ve done it!’ The girl let her forehead rest against his lips, which moved downwards till they reached hers. That first real lover’s kiss – strange, wonderful, still almost innocent – in which heart did it make the most disturbance?

“Come to the big apple tree tonight, after they’ve gone to bed. Megan – promise!”

She whispered back: “I promise.”

Then, scared at her white face, scared at everything, he let her go, and went downstairs again. Yes! He had done it now! Accepted her love, declared his own! He went out to the green chair without a book; and there he sat staring vacantly before him, triumphant and remorseful, while under his nose and behind his back the work of the farm went on. How long he had been sitting in that curious state of vacancy he had no notion when he saw Joe standing a little behind him to the right. Joe had evidently come from hard work in the fields, and stood breathing loudly, his face coloured like a setting sun. His red lips were open, his blue eyes with their flaxen lashes stared fixedly at Ashurst, who said ironically:

“Well, Joe, anything I can do for you?”


“What, then?”

“Yu can go away from here. We don’t want you.”

Ashurst’s face, never too humble, assumed its most lordly look.

“Very good of you, but, do you know, I prefer the others should speak for themselves.”

The young man moved a pace or two nearer, and the scent of his honest heat afflicted Ashurst’s nostrils.

“What do you stay here for?”

“Because it pleases me.”

“It won’t please you when I’ve bashed your head in!”

“Indeed! When would you like to begin that?”

Joe answered only with the loudness of his breathing, but his eyes looked like those of a young and angry bull. Then a sort of spasm seemed to convulse his face.

“Megan doesn’t want you.”

A rush of jealousy, of contempt, and anger with this thick, loud-breathing rustic got the better of Ashurst’s self-possession; he jumped up, and pushed back his chair.

“You can go to the devil!”

And as he said those simple words, he saw Megan in the doorway with a tiny brown spaniel puppy in her arms. She came up to him quickly:

“Its eyes are blue!” she said.

Joe turned away; the back of his neck was literally crimson.

Ashurst put his finger to the mouth of the little brown creature in her arms. How cosy it looked against her!

“It’s fond of you already. Ah Megan, everything is fond of you.”

“What was Joe saying to you, please?”

“Telling me to go away, because you didn’t want me here.”

She stamped her foot; then looked up at Ashurst. At that adoring look he felt his nerves tremble.

“Tonight!” he said. “Don’t forget!”

“No.” And hugging the puppy’s little fat, brown body, she slipped back into the house.

Ashurst wandered down the lane. At the gate of the wild meadow he came on the lame man and his cows.

“Beautiful day, Jim!”

“Ah! It is brave weather for the grass. The ashes be later than the oaks this year.[77] ‘When the oak before the ash – ”

Ashurst said idly: “Where were you standing when you saw the gipsy bogle, Jim?”

“It might be under that big apple tree, as you might say.”

“And you really do think it was there?”

The lame man answered cautiously:

“I shouldn’t like to say rightly that it was there. It was in my mind as it was there.”

“What do you make of it?”

The lame man lowered his voice.

“They say old master, Mr. Narracombe came of gipsy stock. But that’s talk. They’re wonderful people, you know, for claiming their own. Maybe they knew he was going,[78] and sent this fellow along for company. That’s what I’ve thought about it.”

“What was he like?”

“He had hair all over his face, and going like this, he was, as if he had a fiddle. They say there’s no such thing as bogies, but I’ve seen the hair on this dog standing up of a dark night, when I couldn’t see nothing, myself.”

“Was there a moon?”

“Yeas, very near full, but it was only just risen.”

“And you think a ghost means trouble, do you?”

The lame man pushed his hat up; his aspiring eyes looked at Ashurst more earnestly than ever.

“It is not for me to say that but they’re so unresting. There’re things we don’t understand, that’s certain, for sure. There’re people that see things, too, and others that don’t never see nothing. Now, our Joe – you might put anything under his eyes and he’d never see it; and they other boys, too. But you take and put our Megan where there’s something, she’ll see it, and more too, or I’m mistaken.”

“She’s sensitive, that’s why.”

“What’s that?”

“I mean, she feels everything.”

“Ah! She’s very loving-hearted.”

Ashurst, who felt colour coming into his cheeks, held out his tobacco pouch.[79]

“Have a fill,[80] Jim?”

“Thank you, sir. She’s one in an hundred, I think.”

“I expect so,” said Ashurst shortly, and folding up his pouch, walked on.

“Loving-hearted!” Yes! And what was he doing? What were his intentions – as they say towards this loving-hearted girl? The thought followed him, wandering through fields bright with buttercups, where the swallows flying high. Yes, the oaks were before the ashes, brown-gold already; every tree in different stage and hue. The cuckoos and a thousand birds were singing; the little streams were very bright. The ancients believed in a golden age… A queen wasp settled on his sleeve. Each queen wasp killed meant two thousand fewer wasps to thieve the apples which would grow from that blossom in the orchard; but who, with love in his heart, could kill anything on a day like this? He entered a field where a young red bull was feeding. It seemed to Ashurst that he looked like Joe. But the young bull took no notice of this visitor, a little drunk himself, perhaps, on the singing and the magic of the golden pasture, under his short legs. Ashurst crossed out to the hillside above the stream. He threw himself down on the grass. The change from the buttercup glory and oak-goldened charms of the fields to this ethereal beauty filled him with a sort of wonder; nothing the same, save the sound of running water and the songs of the cuckoos. He lay there a long time, watching the sunlight wheel till the trees threw shadows over the bluebells, his only companions a few wild bees. He was not quite sane, thinking of that morning’s kiss, and of tonight under the apple tree. In such a spot as this, fauns and dryads surely lived; nymphs, white as the apple blossom, retired within those trees. The cuckoos were still calling when he woke, there was the sound of running water; but the sun had couched behind the tor, the hillside was cool, and some rabbits had come out. ‘Tonight!’ he thought. Just as from the earth everything was pushing up, unfolding under the soft fingers of an unseen hand, so were

убрать рекламу

убрать рекламу

his heart and senses being pushed, unfolded. He got up and broke off a spray from a crab-apple tree. The buds were like Megan – shell-like, rose-pink, wild, and fresh; and so, too, the opening flowers, white, and wild; and touching. He put the spray into his coat. And all the rush of the spring within him escaped in a triumphant sigh.


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

It was nearly eleven that night when Ashurst put down the pocket “Odyssey” which for half an hour he had held in his hands without reading, and slipped through the yard down to the orchard. The moon had just risen, very golden, over the hill, and like a bright, powerful, watching spirit peered through the half-naked boughs of an ash tree’s. In among the apple trees it was still dark, and he stood making sure of his direction, feeling the rough grass with his feet. A black mass close behind him stirred with a heavy grunting sound, and three large pigs settled down again close to each other, under the wall. He listened. There was no wind, but the stream’s whispering chuckle had gained twice its daytime strength. One bird, he could not tell what, cried “Pip-pip,” “Pip-pip,” with perfect monotony; he could hear an owl hooting. Ashurst moved a step or two, and again stopped, aware of a dim living whiteness all round his head. On the dark unstirring trees innumerable flowers and buds all soft and blurred were being bewitched to life by the moonlight. He had the oddest feeling of actual companionship, as if a million white moths or spirits had floated in and settled between dark sky and darker ground, and were opening and shutting their wings on a level with his eyes. In the still, scentless beauty of that moment he almost lost memory of why he had come to the orchard. He moved on through the thicket of stems and boughs till he reached the big apple tree. No mistaking that, even in the dark, nearly twice the height and size of any other, and leaning out towards the open meadows and the stream. Under the thick branches he stood still again, to listen. The same sounds exactly, and a faint grunting from the sleepy pigs. He put his hands on the dry, almost warm tree trunk. Would she come – would she? And among these quivering, haunted, moon-witched trees he was seized with doubts of everything! All was unearthly here, fit for no earthly lovers; fit only for god and goddess, faun and nymph, not for him and this little country girl. Would it not be almost a relief if she did not come? But all the time he was listening. And still that unknown bird went “Pip-pip,” “Pip-pip,” and there rose the busy chatter of the little trout stream. The blossom on a level with his eyes seemed to grow more living every moment, seemed with its mysterious white beauty more and more a part of his suspense. He plucked a fragment and held it close – three blossoms. Sacrilege to pluck fruit-tree blossom – soft, sacred, young blossom – and throw it away! Then suddenly he heard the gate close, the pigs stirring again and grunting; and leaning against the trunk, he pressed his hands to its mossy sides behind him, and held his breath. Then he saw her quite close – her dark form part of a little tree, her white face part of its blossom; so still, and peering towards him. He whispered: “Megan!” and held out his hands. She ran forward, straight to his breast. When he felt her heart beating against him, Ashurst knew to the full the sensations of chivalry and passion. Because she was not of his world, because she was so simple and young and headlong, adoring and defenceless, how could he be other than her protector, in the dark! Because she was all simple Nature and beauty, as much a part of this spring night as was the living blossom, how should he not take all that she would give him, how not fulfill the spring in her heart and his! And torn between these two emotions he clasped her close, and kissed her hair. How long they stood there without speaking he did not know. The stream went on chattering, the owls hooting, the moon kept growing whiter; the blossom all round them and above brightened in suspense of living beauty. Their lips had sought each other’s, and they did not speak. The moment speech began all would be unreal! Spring has no speech, nothing but rustling and whispering. Spring has so much more than speech in its unfolding flowers and leaves, and the coursing of its streams, and in its sweet restless seeking! While her heart beat against him, and her lips quivered on his, Ashurst felt nothing but simple rapture – Destiny meant her for his arms, Love could not be flouted! But when their lips parted for breath, division began again at once. Only, passion now was so much the stronger, and he sighed:

“Oh! Megan! Why did you come?” She looked up, hurt, amazed.

“Sir, you asked me to.”

“Don’t call me ‘sir,’ my pretty sweet.”

“What should I be calling you?”


“I could not. Oh, no!”

“But you love me – don’t you?”

“I could not help loving you. I want to be with you – that’s all.”


So faint that he hardly heard, she whispered: “I shall die if I can’t be with you.”

Ashurst took a powerful breath.

“Come and be with me, then!”


Intoxicated by the awe and rapture in that “Oh!” he went on, whispering:

“We’ll go to London. I’ll show you the world. And I will take care of you, I promise, Megan. I’ll never hurt you!”

“If I can be with you – that is all.”

He stroked her hair, and whispered on:

“Tomorrow I’ll go to Torquay and get some money, and get you some clothes that won’t be noticed, and then we’ll escape. And when we get to London, soon perhaps, if you love me well enough, we’ll be married.”

He could feel her hair shiver with the shake of her head.

“Oh, no! I could not. I only want to be with you!”

Drunk on his own chivalry, Ashurst went on murmuring, “It’s I who am not good enough for you. Oh! Megan, when did you begin to love me?”

“When I saw you in the road, and you looked at me. The first night I loved you; but I never thought you would love me.”

She slipped down suddenly to her knees, trying to kiss his feet.

A shiver of horror went through Ashurst; he lifted her up and held her fast – too upset to speak.

She whispered: “Why won’t you let me?”

“It’s I who will kiss your feet!”

Her smile brought tears into his eyes. The whiteness of her moonlit face so close to his, the faint pink of her opened lips, had the living unearthly beauty of the apple blossom.

And then, suddenly, her eyes widened and stared past him painfully; she tore herself from his embrace, and whispered: “Look!”

Ashurst saw nothing but the brightened stream, the beech trees glistening, and behind them all the wide loom of the moonlit hill. Behind him came her frozen whisper: “The gipsy bogle!”


“There – by the stone – under the trees!”

Exasperated, he jumped over the stream, and ran towards the beech clump. Prank of the moonlight! Nothing! In and out of the boulders and thorn trees, muttering and cursing, yet with a kind of terror, he rushed and stumbled. Absurd! Silly! Then he went back to the apple tree. But she was gone; he could hear a rustle, the grunting of the pigs, the sound of a gate closing. Instead of her, only this old apple tree! He pressed himself against the trunk. What a substitute for her soft body; the rough moss against his face – what a substitute for her soft cheek; only the scent, as of the woods, a little the same! And above him, and around, the blossoms, more living, more moonlit than ever, seemed to glow and breathe.


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Descending from the train at Torquay station, Ashurst wandered uncertainly along the front, for he did not know this particular seaside town. He strode along in his rough Norfolk jacket, dusty boots, and shabby hat, without noticing that he looked quite different from its inhabitants. He was seeking a branch of his London bank, and having found one, found also the first obstacle to his mood. Did he know anyone in Torquay? No. In that case, if he would wire to his bank in London, they would be happy to oblige him on receipt of the reply.[81] That suspicious breath from the matter-of-fact world somewhat tarnished the brightness of his visions. But he sent the telegram.

Nearly opposite to the post office he saw a shop full of ladies’ garments, and examined the window with strange sensations. He went in. A young woman came forward; she had blue eyes and a faintly puzzled forehead. Ashurst stared at her in silence.

“Yes, sir?”

“I want a dress for a young lady.”

The young woman smiled. Ashurst frowned, the peculiarity of his request struck him with sudden force.

The young woman added hastily:

“What style would you like – something modish?”

“No. Simple.”

“What figure would the young lady be?”

“I don’t know; about two inches shorter than you, I should say.”

“Could you give me her waist measurement?”

Megan’s waist!

“Oh! anything usual!”

“Just a moment!”

While she was gone he stood disconsolately staring at the models in the window, and suddenly it seemed to him incredible that Megan – his Megan could ever be dressed in something else than the rough tweed skirt, coarse blouse, and tam-o’-shanter cap he was used to seeing her in. The young woman had come back with several dresses in her arms. There was one whose colour he liked, a dove-grey, but to imagine Megan clothed in it was beyond him. The young woman went away, and brought some more. But on Ashurst there had now come a feeling of paralysis. How choose? She would want a hat too, and shoes, and gloves; but they would commonise her, as Sunday clothes always commonised village folk![82] Why should she not travel as she was? Ah! She would be too conspicuous; this was a serious elopement. And, staring at the young woman, he thought: ‘I wonder if she guesses, and thinks me a blackguard?’

“Do you mind putting aside that grey one for me?” he said desperately at last. “I can’t decide now; I’ll come in again this afternoon.”

The young woman sighed.

“Oh! certainly. It’s a very tasteful costume. I don’t think you’ll get anything that will suit your purpose better.”

“I expect not,” Ashurst murmured, and went out.

Freed again from the suspicious matter-of-factness of the world, he took a long breath, and went back to dreams. In fancy he saw the trustful, pretty creature who was going to join her life to his; saw himself and her slipping away at night, walking over the moor under the moon, he with his arm round her, and carrying her new garments, till, in some far-off wood, when dawn was coming, she would take off her old things and put on these, and an early train at a distant station would bear them away on their honeymoon journey, till London swallowed them up, and the dreams of love came true.

“Frank Ashurst! Haven’t seen you since Rugby, old chap![83]

Ashurst’s frown dissolved; the face, close to his own, was blue-eyed, suffused with sun. And he answered:

“Phil Halliday, by Jove!”

“What are you doing here?”

“Oh! nothing. Just looking round, and getting some money. I’m staying on the moor.”

“Are you lunching anywhere? Come and lunch with us; I’m here with my young sisters. They’ve had measles.”

Hooked in by that friendly arm Ashurst went along, up a hill, down a hill, away out of the town, while the optimistic voice of Halliday explained how “in this mouldy place the only decent things were the bathing and boating,” and so on, till presently they came to a group of houses a little above and back from the sea, and made their way to the hotel.

“Come up to my room and have a wash. Lunch’ll be ready in a moment.”

When he followed Halliday into the sitting room for lunch, three faces, very fair and blue-eyed, were turned suddenly at the words: “This is Frank Ashurst, these are my young sisters.”

Two were indeed young, about eleven and ten. The third was perhaps seventeen, tall and fair-haired too, with pink-and-white cheeks just touched by the sun, and eyebrows, rather darker than the hair, running a little upwards from her nose to their outer points. The voices of all three were like Halliday’s, high and cheerful; they stood up straight, shook hands with a quick movement, looked at Ashurst critically, away again at once, and began to talk of what they were going to do in the afternoon. A regular Diana and attendant nymphs![84] After the farm this lively, eager talk, this cool, clean, natural refinement, was queer at first, and then so natural that what he had come from became suddenly remote. The names of the two little ones seemed to be Sabina and Freda; of the eldest, Stella.

Soon the one called Sabina turned to him and said:

“I say, will you come shrimping with us?[85] – it’s awful fun!”

Surprised by this unexpected friendliness, Ashurst murmured:

“I’m afraid I’ve got to get back this afternoon.”


“Can’t you put it off?”

Ashurst turned to the new speaker, Stella, shook his head, and smiled. She was very pretty! Sabina said regretfully: “You might!” Then the talk switched off to caves and swimming.

“Can you swim far?”

“About two miles.”


“I say![86]

“How jolly!”

The three pairs of blue eyes, fixed on him, made him conscious of his new importance – the sensation was agreeable. Halliday said:

“I say, you simply must stop and have a bathe. You’d better stay the night.”

“Yes, do!”

But again Ashurst smiled and shook his head. Then suddenly he found himself being catechised about his physical achievements. He had rowed – it seemed – in his college boat, played in his college football team, won his college mile; and he rose from table a sort of hero. The two little girls insisted that he must see “their” cave, and they set forth chattering like magpies, Ashurst between them, Stella and her brother a little behind. In the cave, damp and darkish like any other cave, the great feature was a pool with possibility of creatures which might be caught and put into bottles. Sabina and Freda, who wore no stockings on their brown legs, exhorted Ashurst to join and help them. He too was soon bootless and sockless. Time goes fast for one who has a sense of beauty, when there are pretty children in a pool and a young Diana on the edge, to receive with wonder anything you can catch! Ashurst never had much sense of time. It was a shock when, pulling out his watch, he saw it was well past three. No cashing his cheque today – the bank would be closed before he could get there. Watching his expression, the little girls cried out at once:

“Hurrah! Now you’ll have to stay!”

Ashurst did not answer. He was seeing again Megan’s face, when at breakfast time he had whispered: “I’m going to Torquay, darling, to get everything; I shall be back this evening. If it’s fine we can go tonight. Be ready.” He was seeing again how she quivered and hung on his words. What would she think? Then he pulled himself together, conscious suddenly of the calm scrutiny of this other young girl, so tall and fair and Diana-like, at the edge of the pool, of her wondering blue eyes under those brows which slanted up a little. If they knew what was in his mind – if they knew that this very night he had meant! Well, there would be a little sound of disgust, and he would be alone in the cave. And with a curious mixture of anger, chagrin, and shame, he put his watch back into his pocket and said abruptly:

“Yes; I’ll have to stay till tomorrow.”

“Hurrah! Now you can bathe with us.”

It was impossible not to yield a little to the contentment of these pretty children, to the smile on Stella’s lips, to Halliday’s “Excellent, old chap! I can lend you things for the night!” But again a spasm of longing and remorse throbbed through Ashurst, and he said moodily:

“I must send a wire!”

They went back to the hotel. Ashurst sent his wire, addressing it to Mrs. Narracombe: “Sorry, detained for the night, back tomorrow.” Surely Megan would understand that he had too much to do; and his heart grew lighter. It was a lovely afternoon, warm, the sea calm and blue, and swimming was his great passion; the favour of these pretty children flattered him, the pleasure of looking at them, at Stella, at Halliday’s sunny face; the slight unreality, yet extreme naturalness of it all – as of a last peep at normality before he took this plunge[87] with Megan! He got his borrowed bathing dress, and they all set forth. Halliday and he undressed behind one rock, the three girls behind another. He was first into the sea, and at once swam out with the bravado of justifying his self-given reputation. When he turned he could see Halliday swimming along shore, and the girls flopping and dipping, and riding the little waves, in the way he was accustomed to despise, but now thought pretty and sensible, since it gave him the distinction of the only deep-water fish. He wondered if they would like him, a stranger, to come into their splashing group; he felt shy, approaching that slim nymph. Then Sabina asked him to teach her to float, and between them the little girls kept him so busy that he had no time even to notice whether Stella was accustomed to his presence, till suddenly he heard a startled sound from her: She was standing submerged to the waist, leaning a little forward, her slim white arms stretched out and pointing, her wet face puckered by the sun and an expression of fear.

“Look at Phil! Is he all right? Oh, look!”

Ashurst saw at once that Phil was not all right. He was splashing and struggling out of his depth, perhaps a hundred yards away; suddenly he gave a cry, threw up his arms, and went down. Ashurst saw the girl launch herself towards him, and cried out: “Go back, Stella! Go back!” He had never swum so fast, and reached Halliday just as he was coming up a second time. It was a case of cramp, but to get him in was not difficult, for he did not struggle. The girl, who had stopped where Ashurst told her to, helped as soon as he was in his depth, and once on the beach they sat down one on each side of him to rub his limbs, while the little ones stood by with scared faces. Halliday was soon smiling. It was – he said – rotten of him, absolutely rotten! If Frank would give him an arm, he could get to his clothes all right now. Ashurst gave him the arm, and as he did so caught sight of Stella’s face, wet and flushed and tearful, all broken up out of its calm; and he thought: ‘I called her Stella! Wonder if she minded?’

While they were dressing, Halliday said quietly, “You saved my life, old chap!”


Clothed, but not quite in their right minds, they went up all together to the hotel and sat down to tea, except Halliday, who was lying down in his room. After some slices of bread and jam, Sabina said:

“I say, you know, you are a brick![88]” And Freda added:


Ashurst saw Stella looking down; he got up in confusion, and went to the window. From there he heard Sabina mutter: “I say, let’s swear blood bond. Where’s your knife, Freda?” and out of the corner of his eye could see each of them solemnly prick herself, squeeze out a drop of blood and dabble on a bit of paper. He turned and made for the door.

“Don’t be a stoat! Come back!” His arms were seized; imprisoned between the little girls he was brought back to the table. On it lay a piece of paper with a figure drawn in blood, and the three names Stella Halliday, Sabina Halliday, Freda Halliday – also in blood, running towards it like the rays of a star. Sabina said:

“That’s you. We shall have to kiss you, you know.”

And Freda echoed:

“Oh! Yes!”

Before Ashurst could escape, some wettish hair dangled against his face, something like a bite descended on his nose, he felt his left arm pinched, and other teeth softly searching his cheek. Then he was released, and Freda said:

“Now, Stella.”

Ashurst, red and rigid, looked across the table at a red and rigid Stella. Sabina giggled; Freda cried:

“Hurry up – it spoils everything!”

A queer, ashamed eagerness shot through Ashurst: then he said quietly:

“Shut up, you little demons!”

Again Sabina giggled.

“Well, then, she can kiss her hand, and you can put it against your nose. It is on one side!”

To his amazement the girl did kiss her hand and stretch it out. Solemnly he took that cool, slim hand and laid it to his cheek. The two little girls broke into clapping, and Freda said:

“Now, then, we shall have to save your life at any time; that’s settled. Can I have another cup, Stella?” Tea was resumed, and Ashurst, folding up the paper, put it in his pocket. The talk turned on the advantages of measles, tangerine oranges, honey in a spoon, no lessons, and so forth. Ashurst listened, silent, exchanging friendly looks with Stella, whose face was again of its normal sun-touched pink and white. It was soothing to be so taken to the heart of this jolly family, fascinating to watch their faces. And after tea he talked to Stella in the window seat and looked at her water-colour sketches. The whole thing was like a pleasurable dream; importance and reality suspended. Tomorrow he would go back to Megan, with nothing of all this left save the paper with the blood of these children, in his pocket. Children! Stella was not quite that – as old as Megan! Her talk was quick, rather shy, yet friendly, and about her there was something cool and virginal. At dinner, to which Halliday, who had swallowed too much sea-water, did not come, Sabina said:

“I’m going to call you Frank.”

Freda echoed:

“Frank, Frank, Franky.”

Ashurst grinned and bowed.

“Every time Stella calls you Mr. Ashurst, she’s got to pay a forfeit. It’s ridiculous.”

Ashurst looked at Stella, who grew slowly red. Sabina giggled; Freda cried:

“She’s ‘smoking[89]’ – ‘smoking!’ – Yah!”

Ashurst reached out to right and left, and grasped some fair hair in each hand.

“Look here,” he said, “you two! Leave Stella alone, or I’ll tie you together!”

Freda gurgled:

“Ouch! You are a beast!”

Sabina murmured cautiously:

“You call her Stella, you see!”

“Why shouldn’t I? It’s a jolly name!”

“All right; we give you leave to!”

Ashurst released the hair. Stella! What would she call him – after this? But she called him nothing; till at bedtime he said, deliberately:

“Good-night, Stella!”

“Good-night, Mr. – Good-night, Frank! It was jolly of you, you know!”

“Oh-that! Bosh!”

Her quick, straight handshake tightened suddenly, and as suddenly became slack.

Ashurst stood motionless in the empty sitting-room. Only last night, under the apple tree and the living blossom, he had held Megan to him, kissing her eyes and lips. And he panted, swept by that rush of remembrance. Tonight it should have begun – his life with her who only wanted to be with him! And now, twenty-four hours and more must pass, because of not looking at his watch! Why had he made friends with this family of innocents just when he was saying good-bye to innocence, and all the rest of it? ‘But I mean to marry her,’ he thought; ‘I told her so!’

He took a candle, lighted it, and went to his bedroom, which was next to Halliday’s. His friend’s voice called, as he was passing:

“Is that you, old chap? I say, come in.”

He was sitting up in bed, smoking a pipe and reading.

“Sit down a bit.”

Ashurst sat down by the open window.

“I’ve been thinking about this afternoon, you know,” said Halliday rather suddenly. “They say you go through all your past. I didn’t. I suppose I wasn’t far enough gone.”

“What did you think of?”

Halliday was silent for a little, then said quietly.

“Well, I did think of one thing – rather odd – of a girl at Cambridge that I might have – you know; I was glad I hadn’t got her on my mind. Anyhow, old chap, I owe it to you that I’m here; I should have been in the big dark by now. No more bed, or baccy;[90] no more anything. I say, what do you suppose happens to us?”

Ashurst murmured:

“Go out like flames, I expect.”


“We may flicker, and cling about a bit, perhaps.”

“Hm! I think that’s rather gloomy. I say, I hope my young sisters have been decent to you?”

“Awfully decent.”

Halliday put his pipe down, crossed his hands behind his neck, and turned his face towards the window.

“They’re not bad kids!” he said.

Watching his friend, lying there, with that smile, and the candle-light on his face, Ashurst shuddered. Quite true! He might have been lying there with no smile, with all that sunny look gone out for ever! He might not have been lying there at all, but “sanded” at the bottom of the sea, waiting for resurrection on the ninth day, was it? And that smile of Halliday’s seemed to him suddenly something wonderful, as if in it were all the difference between life and death – the little flame – the all! He got up, and said softly:

“Well, you ought to sleep, I expect. Shall I blow out?[91]

Halliday caught his hand.

“I can’t say it, you know; but it must be rotten to be dead. Good-night, old boy!”

Ashurst squeezed the hand, and went downstairs. The hall door was still open. The stars were bright in a very dark blue sky, and by their light some lilacs had that mysterious colour of flowers by night which no one can describe. Ashurst pressed his face against a spray; and before his closed eyes Megan started up, with the tiny brown spaniel pup against her breast. “I thought of a girl that I might have – you know. I was glad I hadn’t got her on my mind!” He jerked his head away from the lilac, and began walking up and down over the grass, a grey phantom coming to substance for a moment in the light from the lamp at either end. He was with her again under the living, breathing whiteness of the blossom, the stream chattering by, the moon glinting steel-blue on the bathing-pool; back in the rapture of his kisses on her upturned face of innocence and humble passion, back in the suspense and beauty of that pagan night. He stood still once more in the shadow of the lilacs. Here the sea, not the stream, was Night’s voice; the sea with its sigh and rustle; no little bird, no owl, no nightjar called; but a piano tinkled, and the white houses cut the sky with solid curve, and the scent from the lilacs filled the air. A window of the hotel, high up, was lighted; he saw a shadow move across the blind. And most queer sensations stirred within him, a sort of twining and turning of a single emotion on itself, as though spring and love, bewildered and confused, seeking the way, were baffled. This girl, who had called him Frank, whose hand had given his that sudden little clutch, this girl so cool and pure – what would she think of such wild, unlawful loving? He was sitting on the grass cross-legged, with his back to the house, motionless as some carved Buddha. Was he really going to break through innocence? Sniff the scent out of a wild flower, and – perhaps – throw it away? “Of a girl at Cambridge that I might have – you know!” He put his hands to the grass, one on each side, palms downwards, and pressed; it was just warm still – the grass, soft and firm and friendly. ‘What am I going to do?’ he thought. Perhaps Megan was at her window, looking out at the blossom, thinking of him! Poor little Megan! ‘Why not?’ he thought. ‘I love her! But do I really love her? or do I only want her because she is so pretty, and loves me? What am I going to do?’ The piano tinkled on, the stars flickered; and Ashurst stared before him at the dark sea, as if spell-bound. He got up at last, rather chilly. There was no longer light in any window. And he went in to bed.

Out of a deep and dreamless sleep he was awakened by the sound of thumping on the door. A shrill voice called:

“Hi! Breakfast’s ready.”

He jumped up. Where was he —? Ah!

He found them already eating marmalade, and sat down in the empty place between Stella and Sabina, who, after watching him a little, said:

“I say, do hurry up; we’re going to start at half-past nine.”

“We’re going to Berry Head, old chap; you must come!”

Ashurst thought: ‘Come! Impossible. I shall be getting things and going back.’ He looked at Stella. She said quickly:

“Do come!”

“It’ll be no fun without you,” said Sabina.

Freda got up and stood behind his chair.

“You’ve got to come, or else I’ll pull your hair!”

Ashurst thought: ‘Well – one day more – to think it over! One day more!’ And he said:

“All right!”


At the station he wrote a second telegram to the farm, and then tore it up; he could not have explaine

убрать рекламу

убрать рекламу

d why. From Brixham they drove in a very little wagonette. There, squeezed between Sabina and Freda, with his knees touching Stella’s, they played “Up, Jenkins”;[92] and the gloom he was feeling gave way to frolic. In this one day more to think it over, he did not want to think! They ran races, wrestled, paddled – for today nobody wanted to bathe – they sang songs, played games, and ate all they had brought. The little girls fell asleep against him on the way back, and his knees still touched Stella’s in the narrow wagonette. It seemed incredible that thirty hours ago he had never set eyes on any of those three flaxen heads. In the train he talked to Stella of poetry, discovering her favourites, and telling her his own with a pleasing sense of superiority; till suddenly she said, rather low:

“Phil says you don’t believe in a future life, Frank. I think that’s dreadful.”

Bewildered, Ashurst muttered:

“I don’t either believe or not believe – I simply don’t know.”

She said quickly:

“I couldn’t bear that. What would be the use of living?”

Watching the frown of those pretty brows, Ashurst answered:

“I don’t believe in believing things because one wants to.”

“But why should one wish to live again, if one isn’t going to?”

And she looked full at him.

He did not want to hurt her, but an itch to dominate pushed him on to say:

“While one’s alive one naturally wants to go on living for ever; that’s part of being alive. But it probably isn’t anything more.”

“Don’t you believe in the Bible at all, then?”

Ashurst thought: ‘Now I shall really hurt her!’

“I believe in the Sermon on the Mount,[93] because it’s beautiful and good for all time.”

“But don’t you believe Christ was divine?”

He shook his head.

She turned her face quickly to the window, and there sprang into his mind Megan’s prayer, repeated by little Nick: “God bless us all, and Mr. Ashes!” Who else would ever say a prayer for him, like her who at this moment must be waiting – waiting to see him come down the lane? And he thought suddenly: ‘What a scoundrel I am!’

All that evening this thought kept coming back; but, as is not unusual, each time with less poignancy, till it seemed almost a matter of course to be a scoundrel. And – strange! – he did not know whether he was a scoundrel if he meant to go back to Megan, or if he did not mean to go back to her.

They played cards till the children were sent off to bed; then Stella went to the piano. From over on the window seat, where it was nearly dark, Ashurst watched her between the candles – that fair head on the long, white neck bending to the movement of her hands. She played fluently, without much expression; but what a Picture she made, the faint golden radiance, a sort of angelic atmosphere hovering about her! Who could have passionate thoughts or wild desires in the presence of that white-clothed girl with the seraphic head? She played a thing of Schumann’s called “Warum?” Then Halliday brought out a flute, and the spell was broken.[94] After this they made Ashurst sing, Stella playing him accompaniments from a book of Schumann songs, till, in the middle of “Ich grolle nicht,” two small figures in blue dressing-gowns crept in and tried to hide themselves beneath the piano. The evening broke up in confusion, and what Sabina called “a splendid rag.”

That night Ashurst hardly slept at all. He was thinking, tossing and turning. The intense domestic intimacy of these last two days, the strength of this Halliday atmosphere, seemed to ring him round, and make the farm and Megan – even Megan – seem unreal. Had he really made love to her – really promised to take her away to live with him? He must have been bewitched by the spring, the night, the apple blossom! This May madness could but destroy them both! The notion that he was going to make her his mistress – that simple child not yet eighteen – now filled him with a sort of horror. He muttered to himself: “It’s awful, what I’ve done – awful!” And the sound of Schumann’s music throbbed and mingled with his feverish thoughts, and he saw again Stella’s cool, white, fair-haired figure and bending neck, the queer, angelic radiance about her. ‘I must have been – I must be – mad!’ he thought. ‘What came into me? Poor little Megan!’ “God bless us all, and Mr. Ashes! I want to be with you – only to be with you!” And burying his face in his pillow, he smothered down a fit of sobbing.[95] Not to go back was awful! To go back – more awful still!

Emotion, when you are young, and give real vent to it, loses its power of torture.[96] And he fell asleep, thinking: ‘What was it – a few kisses – all forgotten in a month!’

Next morning he got his cheque cashed, but avoided the shop of the dove-grey dress; and, instead, bought himself some necessaries. He spent the whole day in a queer mood. Instead of the hankering of the last two days, he felt nothing but a blank – all passionate longing gone, as if quenched in that outburst of tears… After tea Stella put a book down beside him, and said shyly:

“Have you read that, Frank?”

It was Farrar’s “Life of Christ.” Ashurst smiled. Her anxiety about his beliefs seemed to him comic, but touching. Infectious too, perhaps, for he began to have an itch to justify himself, if not to convert her. And in the evening, when the children and Halliday were mending their shrimping nets, he said:

“At the back of orthodox religion, so far as I can see, there’s always the idea of reward – what you can get for being good; a kind of begging for favours. I think it all starts in fear.”

She was sitting on the sofa making knots with a bit of string. She looked up quickly:

“I think it’s much deeper than that.”

Ashurst felt again that wish to dominate.

“You think so,” he said; “but wanting the ‘quid pro quo’[97] is about the deepest thing in all of us! It’s quite hard to get to the bottom of it!”

She wrinkled her brows in a puzzled frown.

“I don’t think I understand.”

He went on obstinately:

“Well, think, and see if the most religious people aren’t those who feel that this life doesn’t give them all they want. I believe in being good because to be good is good in itself.”

“Then you do believe in being good?”

How pretty she looked now – it was easy to be good with her! And he nodded and said:

“I say, show me how to make that knot!”

With her fingers touching his, he felt soothed and happy. And when he went to bed he wilfully kept his thoughts on her, wrapping himself in her fair, cool sisterly radiance, as in some garment of protection.

Next day he found they had arranged to go by train to Totnes, and picnic at Berry Pomeroy Castle. Still in that resolute oblivion of the past, he took his place with them in the landau[98] beside Halliday, back to the horses. And, then, along the seafront, nearly at the turning to the railway station, his heart almost leaped into his mouth. Megan – Megan herself! – was walking on the far pathway, in her old skirt and jacket and her tam-o’-shanter, looking up into the faces of the passers-by. Instinctively he threw his hand up for cover, then pretended to be clearing dust out of his eyes; but between his fingers he could see her still, moving, not with her free country step, but wavering, lost-looking, pitiful-like some little dog which has missed its master and does not know whether to run on, to run back – where to run. How had she come like this? – what excuse had she found to get away? – what did she hope for? But with every turn of the wheels bearing him away from her, his heart revolted and cried to him to stop them, to get out, and go to her! When the landau turned the corner to the station he could stand it no more, and opening the carriage door, muttered: “I’ve forgotten something! Go on – don’t wait for me! I’ll join you at the castle by the next train!” He jumped, stumbled, but recovered his balance, and walked forward, while the carriage with the astonished Hallidays rolled on.

From the corner he could only just see Megan, a long way ahead now. He ran a few steps, checked himself, then began walking. With each step nearer to her, further from the Hallidays, he walked more and more slowly. How did it change anything – this sight of her? How make the going to her, and that which must come of it, less ugly?[99] For there was no hiding it – since he had met the Hallidays he had become gradually sure that he would not marry Megan. It would only be a wild love-time, a troubled, remorseful, difficult time – and then – well, then he would get tired, just because she gave him everything, was so simple, and so trustful, so dewy. And dew – wears off! The little spot of faded colour, her tam-o’-shanter cap, wavered on far in front of him; she was looking up into every face, and at the house windows. Had any man ever such a cruel moment to go through? Whatever he did, he felt he would be a beast. And he uttered a groan which made a woman turn and stare. He saw Megan stop and lean against the sea-wall, looking at the sea; and he too stopped. Quite likely she had never seen the sea before, and even in her distress could not resist that sight. ‘Yes – she’s seen nothing,’ he thought; ‘everything’s before her. And just for a few weeks’ passion, I shall be cutting her life to ribbons.[100] I’d better go and hang myself rather than do it!’ And suddenly he seemed to see Stella’s calm eyes looking into his, the wave of fluffy hair on her forehead stirred by the wind. Ah! it would be madness, would mean giving up all that he respected, and his own self-respect. He turned and walked quickly back towards the station. But memory of that poor, bewildered little figure, those anxious eyes searching the passers-by, struck him too hard again, and once more he turned towards the sea.

The cap was no longer visible; that little spot of colour had vanished in the stream of the noon promenaders. And impelled by the passion of longing, the dearth which comes on one when life seems to be whirling something out of reach, he hurried forward. She was nowhere to be seen; for half an hour he looked for her; then on the beach threw himself face downward in the sand. To find her again he knew he had only to go to the station and wait till she returned from her fruitless quest, to take her train home; or to take train himself and go back to the farm, so that she found him there when she returned. But he lay inert in the sand, among the indifferent groups of children with their spades and buckets. Pity at her little figure wandering, seeking, was almost merged in the spring-running of his blood; for it was all wild feeling now – the chivalrous part, what there had been of it, was gone. He wanted her again, wanted her kisses, her soft, little body, all her quick, warm, pagan emotion; wanted the wonderful feeling of that night under the moonlit apple boughs; wanted it all with a horrible intensity, as the faun wants the nymph. The quick chatter of the little bright trout-stream, the rocks of the old “wild men”; the calling of the cuckoos, the hooting of the owls; and the red moon peeping out of the velvet dark at the living whiteness of the blossom; and her face just out of reach at the window, lost in its love-look; and her heart against his, her lips answering his, under the apple tree – all this besieged him. Yet he lay inert. What was it which struggled against pity and this feverish longing, and kept him there paralysed in the warm sand? Three flaxen heads – a fair face with friendly blue-grey eyes, a slim hand pressing his, a quick voice speaking his name – “So you do believe in being good?” Yes, and a sort of atmosphere as of some old English garden, with pinks, and cornflowers, and roses, and scents of lavender and fair, untouched, almost holy – all that he had been brought up to feel was clean and good. And suddenly he thought: ‘She might come along the front again and see me!’ and he got up and made his way to the rock at the far end of the beach. There, with the spray biting into his face, he could think more coolly. To go back to the farm and love Megan out in the woods, among the rocks, with everything around wild and fitting – that, he knew, was impossible. To transplant her to a great town, to keep, in some little flat or rooms, one who belonged so wholly to Nature – the poet in him shrank from it. His passion would be soon gone; in London, her very simplicity, her lack of all intellectual quality, would make her his secret plaything – nothing else. The longer he sat on the rock, with his feet dangling over a greenish pool from which the sea was ebbing, the more clearly he saw this; but it was as if her arms and all of her were slipping slowly, slowly down from him, into the pool, to be carried away out to sea; and her face looking up, her lost face with begging eyes, and dark, wet hair – possessed, haunted, tortured him! He got up at last and made his way down into a cove. Perhaps in the sea he could get back his control – lose this fever! And stripping off his clothes, he swam out. He wanted to tire himself so that nothing mattered and swam recklessly, fast and far; then suddenly, for no reason, felt afraid. Suppose he could not reach shore again – or he got cramp, like Halliday! He turned to swim in. The red cliffs looked a long way off. If he were drowned they would find his clothes. The Hallidays would know; but Megan perhaps never – they took no newspaper at the farm. And Phil Halliday’s words came back to him again: “A girl at Cambridge I might have – glad I haven’t got her on my mind!” And in that moment of unreasoning fear he vowed he would not have her on his mind. Then his fear left him; he swam in easily enough, dried himself in the sun, and put on his clothes. His heart felt sore, but no longer ached; his body cool and refreshed.

When one is as young as Ashurst, pity is not a violent emotion. And, back in the Hallidays’ sitting-room, he felt much like a man recovered from fever. Everything seemed new and clear; the tea, the buttered toast and jam tasted absurdly good; tobacco had never smelt so nice. And walking up and down the empty room, he stopped here and there to touch or look. He took up Stella’s work-basket, fingered the cotton reels and a brightly-coloured plait of sewing silks.[101] He sat down at the piano, playing tunes with one finger, thinking: ‘Tonight she’ll play; I shall watch her while she’s playing; it does me good to watch her.’ He took up the book, which still lay where she had placed it beside him, and tried to read. But Megan’s little, sad figure began to come back at once, and he got up and leaned in the window, listening to the thrushes in the gardens, gazing at the sea, dreamy and blue below the trees. A servant came in and cleared the tea away, and he still stood, breathing in the evening air, trying not to think. Then he saw the Hallidays coming through the gate, Stella a little in front of Phil and the children, with their baskets, and instinctively he drew back. His heart, too sore and disconcerted, shrank from this meeting, yet wanted its friendly solace – bore a grudge against this influence, yet longed for its cool innocence, and the pleasure of watching Stella’s face. From against the wall behind the piano he saw her come in and stand looking a little blank as though disappointed; then she saw him and smiled, a swift, brilliant smile which warmed yet irritated Ashurst.

“You never came after us, Frank.”

“No; I found I couldn’t.”

“Look! We picked such lovely late violets!” She held out a bunch. Ashurst put his nose to them, and there stirred within him vague longings, chilled at once by a vision of Megan’s anxious face lifted to the faces of the passers-by.

He said shortly: “How jolly!” and turned away. He went up to his room, and, avoiding the children, who were coming up the stairs, threw himself on his bed, and lay there with his arms crossed over his face. Now that he felt the die really cast,[102] and Megan given up, he hated himself, and almost hated the Hallidays and their atmosphere of healthy, happy English homes.

Why should they have chanced here, to drive away first love – to show him that he was going to be no better than a common seducer? What right had Stella, with her fair, shy beauty, to make him know for certain that he would never marry Megan; and, tarnishing it all, bring him such bitterness of regretful longing and such pity? Megan would be back by now, worn out by her miserable seeking – poor little thing! – expecting, perhaps, to find him there when she reached home. Ashurst bit at his sleeve, to smother a groan of remorseful longing. He went to dinner gloomy and silent, and his mood threw a dinge even over the children.[103] It was a melancholy evening, for they were all tired; several times he caught Stella looking at him with a hurt, puzzled expression, and this pleased his evil mood. He slept miserably; got up quite early, and wandered out. He went down to the beach. Alone there with the serene, the blue, the sunlit sea, his heart relaxed a little. Conceited fool – to think that Megan would take it so hard! In a week or two she would almost have forgotten! And he well, he would have the reward of virtue! A good young man! If Stella knew, she would give him her blessing for resisting that devil she believed in; and he uttered a hard laugh. But slowly the peace and beauty of sea and sky, the flight of the lonely seagulls, made him feel ashamed. He bathed, and turned homewards.

Stella herself was sitting on a camp stool, sketching. He stole up close behind. How fair and pretty she was, bent diligently, holding up her brush, measuring, wrinkling her brows.

He said gently:

“Sorry I was such a beast last night, Stella.”

She turned round, startled, flushed very pink, and said in her quick way:

“It’s all right. I knew there was something. Between friends it doesn’t matter, does it?”

Ashurst answered:

“Between friends – and we are, aren’t we?”

She looked up at him, nodded vehemently, and her upper teeth glinted again in that swift, brilliant smile.

Three days later he went back to London, travelling with the Hallidays. He had not written to the farm. What was there he could say?

On the last day of April in the following year he and Stella were married…

* * *

Such were Ashurst’s memories, sitting against the wall among the gorse, on his silver-wedding day. At this very spot, where he had laid out the lunch, Megan must have stood outlined against the sky when he had first caught sight of her. Of all queer coincidences! And there moved in him a longing to go down and see again the farm and the orchard, and the meadow of the gipsy bogle. It would not take long; Stella would come back in an hour, perhaps.

How well he remembered it all – the little crowning group of pine trees, the steep-up grass hill behind! He paused at the farm gate. The low stone house, the yew-tree porch, the flowering currants – not changed a bit; even the old green chair was out there on the grass under the window, where he had reached up to her that night to take the key. Then he turned down the lane, and stood leaning on the orchard gate – grey skeleton of a gate, as then. A black pig even was wandering in there among the trees. Was it true that twenty-six years had passed, or had he dreamed and awakened to find Megan waiting for him by the big apple tree? Unconsciously he put up his hand to his grizzled beard and brought himself back to reality. Opening the gate, he made his way down through the nettles till he came to the edge, and the old apple tree itself. Unchanged! A little more of the grey-green lichen, a dead branch or two, and for the rest it might have been only last night that he had embraced that mossy trunk after Megan’s escape, while above his head the moonlit blossom had seemed to breathe and live. In that early spring a few buds were showing already; the blackbirds shouting their songs, a cuckoo calling, the sunlight bright and warm. Incredibly the same – the chattering trout-stream, the narrow pool he had lain in every morning, splashing the water over his flanks and chest; and out there in the wild meadow the beech clump and the stone where the gipsy bogle was supposed to sit. And an ache for lost youth, a hankering, a sense of wasted love and sweetness, gripped Ashurst by the throat.[104] Surely, on this earth of such wild beauty, one was meant to hold rapture to one’s heart, as this earth and sky held it! And yet, one could not!

He went to the edge of the stream, and looking down at the little pool, thought: ‘Youth and spring! What has become of them all, I wonder?’

And then, in sudden fear of being seen, he went back to the lane, and musingly returned to the crossroads.

Beside the car an old, grey-bearded man was leaning on a stick, talking to the chauffeur. He broke off at once, as though guilty of disrespect, and touching his hat, prepared to limp on down the lane.

Ashurst pointed to the narrow green mound. “Can you tell me what this is?”

The old fellow stopped; on his face had come a look as though he were thinking: ‘You’ve come to the right shop, mister!’

“It is a grave,” he said.

“But why out here?”

The old man smiled. “That’s a tale, as you may say. And not the first time as I’ve told it – plenty of people ask about that bit of turf. ‘Maid’s Grave’ we calls it, here.”

Ashurst held out his pouch. “Have a fill?”

The old man touched his hat again, and slowly filled an old clay pipe. His eyes, looking upward out of a mass of wrinkles and hair, were still quite bright.

“If you don’t mind, sir, I’ll sit down, my leg’s hurting a bit today.” And he sat down on the mound of turf.

“There’s always a flower on this grave. And it isn’t so very lonesome, neither; lots of people go by now, in their new motor cars and things – not as it was in the old days. She’s got company up here. It was a poor soul, killed herself.”

“I see!” said Ashurst. “Cross-roads burial. I didn’t know that custom was kept up.”

“Ah! but it was a long time ago. We had a parson, he was very God-fearing then. Let me see… I were just on fifty when it happened. There’s no one knows more about it than what I do. She belonged close here; same farm as where I used to work. It belonged to Mrs. Narracombe, and it is Nick Narracombe’s now; I do a bit for him still, sometimes.”

Ashurst, who was leaning against the gate, lighting his pipe, left his hands before his face for long after the flame of the match had gone out.

“Yes?” he said, and to himself his voice sounded hoarse and queer.

“She was one in a hundred, poor maid! I put a flower here every time I pass. Pretty maid and good maid she was, though they wouldn’t bury her up to the church, nor where she wanted to be burried neither.” The old labourer paused, and put his hairy, twisted hand flat down on the turf beside the bluebells.

“Yes?” said Ashurst.

“In a manner of speaking,” the old man went on, “I think as it was a love-story – though there’s no one never knew for certain. You can’t tell what’s in a maid’s head but that’s what I think about it.” He drew his hand along the turf. “I was fond of that maid – don’ know if there was anyone as wasn’t fond of her. But she was to loving-hearted – that’s where it was, I think.” He looked up. And Ashurst, whose lips were trembling in the cover of his beard, murmured again: “Yes?”

“It was in the spring, about now as it might be, or a little later – blossom time – and we had a young college gentlemen staying at the farm – nice fellow too, with his head in the air. I liked him very well, and I never saw nothing between them, but to my thinking he turned the maid’s fancy.” The old man took the pipe out of his mouth, spat, and went on:

“You see, he went away suddenly one day, and never came back. They got his knapsack and bits of things down there still. That’s what stuck in my mind – he never sent for them. His name was Ashes, or something like that.”

“Yes?” said Ashurst once more.

The old man licked his lips.

“She never said nothing, but from that day she went kind of dazed looking; didn’t seem rightly there at all.[105] I never knew a human creature so changed in my life – never. There was another young fellow at the farm – Joe Biddaford his name was, that was in love with her, too; I guess he used to plague her with his attention. She got to look quite wild. I’d see her sometimes in the evening when I was bringing up the calves; there she’d stand in the orchard, under the big apple tree, looking straight before her. ‘Well,’ I used to think, ‘I dunno what it is that’s the matter with you, but you’re looking pitiful!’”

The old man sucked at his pipe reflectively.[106]

“Yes?” said Ashurst.

“I remember one day I said to her: ‘What’s the matter, Megan?’ – her name was Megan David, she came from Wales same as her aunt, old Missis Narracombe. ‘You’re fretting about something. I say. ‘No, Jim,’ she says, ‘I’m not fretting.’ ‘Yes, you are!’ I say. ‘No,’ she says, and the tears came rolling out. ‘You’re crying – what’s that, then?’ I say. She puts her hand over her heart: ‘It hurts me,’ she says; ‘but it will soon be better,’ she says. ‘But if anything should happen to me, Jim, I want to be buried under this apple tree.’ I laughed. ‘What’s going to happen to you?’ I say; ‘don’t you be foolish.’ ‘No,’ she says, ‘I won’t be foolish.’ Well, I know what maids are, and I never thought no more about it, till two days after that, about six in the evening I was coming up with the calves, when I saw something dark lying in the stream, close to that big apple tree. I said to myself: ‘Is that a pig – funny place for a pig to get to!’ and I went up to it, and I saw what it was.”

The old man stopped; his eyes, turned upward, had a bright, suffering look.

“It was the maid, in a little narrow pool there – where I saw the young gentleman bathing once or twice. She was lying on her face in the water. There was a plant of buttercups growing out of the stone just above her head. And when I came to look at her face, it was lovely, beautiful, so calm as a baby’s – wonderful and beautiful it was. When the doctor saw her, he said: ‘She couldn’t have never done it in that little bit of water if she hadn’t been in an ecstasy.’ Ah! and judging from her face, that was just how she was. It made me cry – so beautiful she was! It was June then, but she’d found a little bit of apple-blossom left over somewhere, and stuck it in her hair. That’s why I think she must’ve been in an ecstasy, to go to it jolly, like that. Why! there wasn’t more than a foot and half of water. But I tell you one thing – that meadow’s haunted; I knew it, and she knew it; and no one’ll persuade me as it isn’t. I told them what she said to me about being buried under the apple tree. But I think that turned them – made it look too much as if she’d had it in her mind deliberate; and so they buried her up here. Parson we had then was very particular, he was.”

Again the old man drew his hand over the turf.

“It is wonderful, it seems,” he added slowly, “what maids will do for love. She had a loving-heart; I guess it was broken. But we never knew nothing!”

He looked up as if for approval of his story, but Ashurst had walked past him as if he were not there.

Up on the top of the hill, beyond where he had spread the lunch, over, out of sight, he lay down on his face. So had his virtue been rewarded, and “the Cyprian,[107]” goddess of love, taken her revenge! And before his eyes, dim with tears, came Megan’s face with the spray of apple blossom in her dark, wet hair. ‘What did I do that was wrong?’ he thought. ‘What did I do?’ But he could not answer. Spring, with its rush of passion, its flowers and song – the spring in his heart and Megan’s! Was it just Love seeking a victim! The Greek was right, then – the words of the “Hippolytus” as true today!

“For mad is the heart of Love,
And gold the gleam of his wing;
And all to the spell thereof
Bend when he makes his spring.
All life that is wild and young
In mountain and wave and stream
All that of earth is sprung,
Or breathes in the red sunbeam;
Yea, and Mankind. O’er all a royal throne,
Cyprian, Cyprian, is thine alone!”[108]

The Greek was right! Megan! Poor little Megan – coming over the hill! Megan under the old apple tree waiting and looking! Megan dead, with beauty printed on her!

A voice said:

“Oh, there you are! Look!”

Ashurst rose, took his wife’s sketch, and stared at it in silence.

“Is the foreground right, Frank?”


“But there’s something wanting, isn’t there?”

Ashurst nodded. Wanting? The apple tree, the singing, and the gold!

And solemnly he put his lips to her forehead. It was his silver-wedding day.


убрать рекламу

убрать рекламу

eturn false;>Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

absence n  рассеянность; отсутствие, отлучка

accustomed adj  привыкший, привычный

acquiescent adj  уступчивый, соглашающийся

admirer n  обожатель, поклонник

admit v  допускать, признавать

adorn v  украшать

adroitness n  ловкость; находчивость

afflict v  причинять боль; беспокоить

air n  вид, выражение лица

amber adj  янтарный

amble v  идти неторопливо, лёгким шагом

amorous adj  влюблённый

ante-bellum adj  довоенный

approval n  одобрение

ardent adj  пылкий, пламенный

artlessness n  безыскусность, бесхитростность, простота

awe n  трепет, благоговение

baffle v  ставить в тупик, сбивать с толку

bandage n  бинт; перевязочный материал

barrel n  ствол, дуло

bash v  бить, ударять

beatifically adv  блаженно

becoming adj  подходящий; соответствующий

beech n  бук

belittle v  принижать, умалять

bend v  гнуться, сгибаться, нагибаться

besiege v  осаждать

bewilder v  смущать, приводить в замешательство

bewitch v  заколдовывать, околдовывать

bitter adj  мучительный; резкий

blackbird n  чёрный дрозд

blackguard n  подлец, негодяй

blackthorn n  терновник

blank n  пустота

blossom n  цветок (плодового дерева) 

blossom v  цвести, расцветать, распускаться

blouse v  нависать, свисать

bluebell n  колокольчик (цветок) 

blurred adj  неясный, расплывчатый

bogle n  призрак, привидение

bold adj  смелый; наглый

bosh n  чепуха, ерунда, глупости

bough n  сук

boulder n  валун, булыжник

braid v  обшивать тесьмой

break off – v прерывать(ся), прекращать(ся)

bride n  невеста

bridegroom n  жених

bucket n  ведро

buckle n  пряжка

bud n  почка, бутон

bundle n  узел, связка

butler n  дворецкий

buttercup n  лютик

buttonhole v  задерживать (кого-л.)  для разговора

calf n  телёнок

captivate v  очаровывать, пленять, покорять

caress n  ласка

carfare n  плата за проезд

cart-wheel n  колесо телеги

cask n  бочка, бочонок

catechise v  допрашивать, расспрашивать

chaff v  подшучивать, подтрунивать

chagrin n  досада, огорчение

chatter n  щебетание; журчание

check v  останавливать; ограничивать, сдерживать

cherish v  лелеять (в мыслях)  ; питать (чувство) 

china n  фарфор

chip in – v скидываться, вносить свой вклад

chivalrous adj  рыцарский

chivalry n  рыцарство, благородство

choke v  душить, сдавливать горло

chuckle n  тихий смех

clasp v  сжимать, пожимать

clipping n  газетная вырезка

clump n  заросли, группа (деревьев, кустарников) 

cluster n  пучок; куст

coarse adj  грубый, шероховатый

coax v  добиться, вытянуть (что-л. из кого-л.) 

comb n  гребень (для волос) 

commingle v  смешиваться, соединяться

conceited adj  самодовольный, самоуверенный

confidant n  доверенное лицо; наперсник

consolingly adv  утешительно

conspicuous adj  видный, заметный

contemptible adj  презренный, недостойный

contemptuous adj  высокомерный, пренебрежительный

cornflower n  василёк

courtier n  придворный

cove n  небольшая бухта

cramp n  судорога, спазм

creak v  скрипеть

creep v  (про)красться

crimson adj  малиновый, тёмно-красный; кровавый

cross-roads n  перекрёсток

crutch n  костыль

currant n  смородина

cut in v  перехватить одного из партнёров в танцующей паре

dabble v  обрызгивать, опрыскивать

daffodil n  жёлтый нарцисс

damming n  преграждение, перекрытие

dangle v  болтать (ногами); свободно свисать

dapple v  покрывать пятнами; испещрять

dawn n  рассвет, заря

dearth n  нехватка, отсутствие

decent adj  приличный; сносный

deny v  отрицать, отвергать

depreciate v  обесценивать

descant v  обсуждать, рассуждать

despise v  презирать

detachment n  отряд

detest v  ненавидеть, питать отвращение

devotion n  преданность; привязанность

dew n  роса

dewy adj  увлажнённый; блестящий от влаги

dignity n  достоинство, чувство собственного достоинства

dilate v  расширяться

diligently adv  усердно, старательно

dim adj  тусклый, неяркий

dip v  окунаться; нырять

disconcert v  сбивать с толку; смущать

disconsolately adv  безутешно, несчастно

discouraging adj  обескураживающий; отбивающий охоту

disgraced adj  опозоренный; дискредитированный

disgruntled adj  недовольный, рассерженный

disguise v  маскировать; скрывать

distinguish v  различать, распознавать

distraught adj  смятенный, растерянный

distress n  горе, несчастье

draw back v  отходить назад, отступать

dread v  страшиться, бояться

dressing-gown n  халат

dryad n  дриада

dusk n  сумерки; полумрак

dusky adj  тёмный, сумеречный; тенистый

earnestly adv  серьёзно, убедительно

earthenware n  глиняная посуда

earthly adj  земной

ebb v  убывать, отливать

elopement n  тайное бегство (с возлюбленным) 

entity n  существо, сущность

ethereal adj  неземной; неосязаемый

exasperated adj  раздражённый; разгневанный

excuse n  предлог, оправдание

exhort v  уговаривать, убеждать

faint adj  слабый, вялый

falter v  колебаться; замяться

faun n  фавн

favour n  расположение, благосклонность; одобрение

feat n  достижение; трюк; подвиг

fee n  гонорар, плата (за что-л.) 

fellow n  человек; парень; приятель

fend (off) – v отгонять, отталкивать

feverish adj  лихорадочный; возбуждённый, взволнованный

fiddle n  скрипка

flank n  бок

flatter v  льстить

flaxen adj  льняной, светло-жёлтый

flicker v  мерцать, сверкать; мелькнуть

flippant adj  легкомысленный, несерьёзный

flop v  плюхаться, шлёпаться

flout v  презирать; насмехаться

flush n  краска, румянец

flutter v  порхать

forfeit adj  хрупкий

frankincense n  ладан

fret v  беспокоиться, тревожиться

frieze n  грубая ворсистая шерстяная ткань

frolic n  веселье; игривость

frown v  (на)хмуриться

fumbling adj  неловкий, неуклюжий

gag v  давиться

garments n  одежда

get rid (of smth) – v  избавляться, освобождаться (от чего-л.) 

giggle n  хихиканье

gipsy n  цыган

glint n  сверкание; яркий блеск

glisten v  сиять, блестеть

gloomy adj  мрачный, угрюмый, печальный

gnat n  комар; мошка

goatee n  козлиная бородка; эспаньолка

gorse n  утёсник

grass-plot n  газон, лужайка

grim adj  суровый, мрачный; неумолимый

grin v  широко улыбаться; скалить зубы, ухмыляться

grizzled adj  седой, седеющий

groan n  стон

grudge n  обида, злость

grunt v  хрюкать

gurgle n  журчание, бульканье

gutter n  канавка, бороздка

hack v  рубить, разрубать; кромсать

hankering n  страстное желание, стремление

hastily adv  поспешно, торопливо

headlong adj  безрассудный, опрометчивый

highbred adj  хорошо воспитанный

highbrow n  интеллектуал; «умник»

high-light n  наиболее освещённый участок изображения; световой эффект

hoarse adj  хриплый, сиплый

hollow n  впадина, углубление

hoot v  ухать (о сове) 

hover v  реять, парить; нависать

howl v  рыдать, реветь

hustle v  толкаться; торопиться, суетиться

hut n  барак; временное жилище

hyacinth n  гиацинт

idle adj  ленивый, праздный

idyll n  идиллия

illiterate adj  неграмотный, невежественный

impel v  побуждать, принуждать

impermanence n  непостоянство, неустойчивость

inaccessibility n  недоступность, недосягаемость

inaudible adj  неотчётливый, неслышный

incompatible adj  несовместимый

incurably adv  неизлечимо

indissolubly adv  неразрывно, неразделимо

indulgently adv  снисходительно

ineradicable adj  неискоренимый

insipidity n  безвкусие

intent adj  сконцентрированный, пристальный

ivory n  слоновая кость

jerk v  дёргать, резко двигать(ся)

jolly adj  приятный, чудный, замечательный

knapsack n  рюкзак

laboriously adv  напряженно, с трудом

lame adj  хромой

lane n  узкая дорога, тропинка

lean v  наклонять(ся), прислонять(ся)

lichen n  лишайник

lilac n  сирень

limb n  конечность

limp v  хромать, прихрамывать

linger v  засиживаться, задерживаться

litigant n  сторона в судебном процессе

lodging(s) n  сдаваемая(ые) комната(ы)

lonesome adj  уединённый, отдалённый; одинокий

longing n  сильное желание, стремление, жажда

loom n  очертания

lordliness n  высокомерие, надменность

lull n  временное затишье; перерыв

magi n  волхвы

magpie n  сорока

maid n  девушка

maiden n  девушка

make up v  выдумывать, сочинять; помириться

matter-of-fact adj  сухой, прозаичный

meadow n  луг

measles n  корь

mend v  чинить

merge v  погружать(ся), сливаться; поглощать

mermaiden n  русалка; сирена

mistress n  хозяйка; возлюбленная, любовница

mock v  насмехаться, высмеивать

modish adj  модный

moodily adv  угрюмо, мрачно

moor n  участок, поросший вереском

mop n  копна (волос) 

mossy adj  покрытый мхом

moth n  мотылёк, ночная бабочка

motor v  ехать на автомобиле

mouldy adj  заплесневелый

mound n  насыпь, холмик; могильный холм

murmur v  шептать, бормотать

musingly adv  задумчиво

nail v  прибивать (гвоздями) 

nettle n  крапива

nightingale n  соловей

nightjar n  козодой (птица) 

nip v  повредить, побить (морозом)

nod v  кивать головой

noncommittal adj  уклончивый, неопределённый

oak (tree) – n  дуб

obstacle n  преграда, препятствие

obstinately adv  упрямо, упорно

odd – adj  странный, необычный

orchard n  фруктовый сад

outmoded adj  устаревший, вышедший из моды

outrage v  оскорблять; приводить в гнев

overhang v  нависать; свешиваться

paddle v  шлёпать (по воде);  плескаться

pagan adj  языческий

pang n  внезапная острая боль

pant v  задыхаться, тяжело дышать; пыхтеть

paralysis n  паралич, оцепенение

parlour n  гостиная

parson n  священник

pasture n  выгон, пастбище

peculiarity n  специфичность; странность

peer v  заглянуть; вглядываться

perspicacity n  проницательность

petal n  лепесток

pier n  пирс, пристань

pierce v  прокалывать, пронзать

pillar n  колонна

pipe n  трубка (курительная) 

plague v  изводить; досаждать

plaything n  игрушка

pluck v  срывать, выдёргивать

poignant adj  горький, пронизывающий; трогательный

poultice n  припарка

prank n  проделка, шутка

precede v  предшествовать

premise n  предпосылка, исходное условие

prick v  (у)колоть, проколоть

primeval adj  первобытный

promptly adv  быстро, сразу

prophecy n  предсказание, пророчество

pucker v  (с)морщить

pump n  водокачка, насос

purr v  мурлыкать, урчать

pursuit n  преследование, погоня

put up v  останавливаться, размещаться; принять, приютить

puzzled adj  озадаченный

queer adj  странный, чудной

quench v  подавлять, гасить

quilt n  лоскутное одеяло; мозаика

radiance n  сияние

rag n  шумное веселье

ransack v  обшаривать; рыться в поисках

rapture n  восторг, радость

rascal n  плут, негодник

rasping adj  хриплый, скрипучий

ravages n  разрушительные действия

reach n  досягаемость; протяжение

reassure v  заверять, уверять

recklessly adv  опрометчиво, без оглядки

recognition n  узнавание; осознание

reconcile v  примирять(ся), привыкать

refinement n  утончённость, изящество

remorse n  раскаяние; сожаление

remote adj  расположенный на расстоянии; отдалённый

resist v  противостоять; устоять

resolute adj  решительный, твёрдый

restive adj  беспокойный, нетерпеливый

resume v  возобновлять

resurrection n  воскресение

retain v  сохранять, удерживать

revel v  наслаждаться

revelation n  открытие; откровение

revenge n  месть, отмщение

revolt v  восставать, бунтовать

rigid adj  неподвижный; строгий

ripple v  струиться

rookie n  новичок, новобранец

rot n  чушь, чепуха, нелепость

rotten adj  скверный, мерзкий, отвратительный

rove v  блуждать, бродить

ruby n  рубин

rustic n  селянин; мужлан

rustle n  треск; шелест, шуршание

sacrilege n  кощунство, святотатство

sane adj  нормальный, в своём уме

scarcely adv  едва, едва ли, почти не

scent n  запах, аромат

scoundrel n  мерзавец, подлец

scrutiny n  внимательный осмотр; наблюдение

seafront n  набережная

seducer n  соблазнитель

seraphic adj  серафический, ангельский

serene n  безоблачное небо; спокойное море

sew v  шить

shabby adj  потрёпанный, потёртый; обшарпанный

shade n  тон, оттенок

shiver n  трепет, дрожь

shrill adj  пронзительный; визгливый

shrink (back) – v  отскочить, отпрянуть; избегать; исчезать

shut off v  выключать

side-whiskers n  бакенбарды

sink v  опускать(ся), падать; ослабевать

sit up v  садиться (из горизонтального положения);  вскакивать

sketch out – v описывать в общих чертах, обрисовывать

slack adj  слабый; расслабленный

slim adj  стройный, тонкий, худой

slip (away) – v  (у)скользнуть

sly adj  лукавый, озорной

smooth (out) – v  разглаживать

soar v  парить, подниматься ввысь

soiled adj  грязный, запачканный

solace n  утешение

solemnly adv  торжественно, важно

somnolent adj  засыпающий, сонный

soothe v  успокаивать, утешать

sore adj  больной, болезненный; страдающий

spade n  лопата

specimen n  образец; экземпляр

spell-bound adj  зачарованный, заворожённый

splash v  плескаться, брызгаться

splendid adj  роскошный, великолепный

sprawl v  развалиться, раскинуться

spray n  веточка (цветущего дерева или кустарника) 

spread v  расстилать; развертывать

squeeze v  сжимать, пожимать (руку);  втискивать(ся)

stable n  конюшня, стойло; хлев

stagger v  шататься, покачиваться

stammer v  заикаться, запинаться

stare v  пристально глядеть, вглядываться

startle v  поразить, сильно удивить

stealthily adv  тайно, украдкой

stir v  шевелить

stolid adj  невозмутимый, безэмоциональный

stout adj  коренастый, дородный

stoutly adv  решительно, твёрдо

strand n  нитка, прядь; пучок

strap n  ремешок

straw n  солома

stream n  река, ручей

stroke v  гладить

struggle v  делать усилия; стараться изо всех сил

stumble v  случайно найти, натолкнуться; спотыкаться

stupefaction n  изумление; оцепенение

suffuse v  покрывать; наполнять

sugar-coat v  подслащать, приукрашивать

sumptuous adj  богатый, пышный, великолепный

sun-dial n  солнечные часы

suspend v  приостанавливать; откладывать

swallow n  ласточка

swallow v  проглатывать, поглощать

swell v  разбухать, опухать

swift adj  быстрый, скорый

tam-o’-shanter n  шотландский берет с помпоном

tarnish v  лишать блеска, делать тусклым

tend v  заботиться, ухаживать

tentative adj  неуверенный, осторожный

thicket n  чаща, заросли

thorn n  шип, колючка

threshold n  порог

throb v  волноваться, трепетать; пульсировать

throng v  толпиться

throw (smb) over v  бросать, оставлять (кого-л.) 

thrush n  дрозд

thump n  глухой звук (удара); глухой шум

tie v  привязывать, связывать

tinkle v  звенеть, звякать

tiresome adj  утомительный; скучный

toll n  потери, жертвы

tomb n  могила

torture v  мучить, пытать

toss v  бросать, кидать; ворочаться, метаться

tow – n  пакля

tremble v  дрожать, трепетать

trembly adj  застенчивый, робкий

tresses n  локоны

trout n  форель

tuck (up) – v  подгибать, подворачивать

tumultuous adj  возбуждённый, беспокойный

turf n  дёрн

twine v  сплетать(ся), обвивать(ся)

underbrush n  подлесок, поросль

undue adj  чрезмерный; неуместный

uneventful adj  непримечательный, заурядный

unfold v  раскрываться; распускаться

upward adj  направленный вверх

utter v  издавать звук; произносить

vacancy n  безучастность, бездеятельность; рассеянность

vague adj  неопределённый, неясный, смутный

vanish v  скрыться из вида, исчезнуть

veal n  телятина

vehemently adv  энергично, рьяно

verse n  поэзия; стихотворение

vine n  виноградная лоза; ползучее растение

virtue n  добродетель, достоинство

voluble adj  беглый, многословный; непринуждённый

vow v  клясться

waft (away) – v  гнать, уносить (о ветре) 

wage v  вести (войну)

wail n  вопль, стон; стенания

wander v  бродить; прохаживаться, прогуливаться

wasp n  оса

watercolour n  акварель (краска/рисунок) 

waver v  колебаться (в нерешительности); колыхаться

wayside n  придорожная полоса; обочина

weave v  плести, сплетаться

weep v  плакать, рыдать

wheedling adj  льстивый, вкрадчивый

whirl n  кружение; завихрение

wilfully adv  преднамеренно, сознательно

willy-nilly – adv волей-неволей

wire n  телеграмма

wistful adj  тоскующий; томящийся

wither (up) – v  иссушать; испепелять

worship n  поклонение, обожание

yew (tree) – n  тис

yield v  уступать; поддаваться


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

pier-glass – трюмо


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

the Queen of Sheba – царица Савская


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

fob chain – цепочка для карманных часов

убрать рекламу

убрать рекламу



 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

on the sly – украдкой


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason – её возбуждённость уступила место предусмотрительности и благоразумию


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

curling irons – щипцы для завивки волос


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

truant schoolboy – школьник, прогуливающий уроки


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Coney Island chorus girl – хористка с Кони-Айленда


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

chops – мясные котлеты (куски мяса на кости)


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

to be burdened with a family – быть обременённым семьёй


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

why you had me going a while at first – почему я сначала так опешил


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

alas! – увы!


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

in a Broadway window – в витрине магазина на Бродвее


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

tortoise-shell – черепаховый


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

with jewelled rims – украшенные по краям драгоценными камнями


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

she hugged them to her bosom – она прижала их к груди


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Isn’t it a dandy? – Разве это не прелесть?


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

a genius for pictorial art – талант живописца


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

see above – смотри выше


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

A sharp – ля диез (нота)


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

it cannot fit too close – он не может быть слишком тесным


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

to keep the chafing dish bubbling – чтобы удержаться на плаву


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

lay cobblestones – укладывать булыжник


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

you’re a trump and a dear – ты умница и прелесть


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

the semiquavers and the demisemiquavers – шестнадцатые и тридцать вторые (ноты)


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Welsh rabbit – гренки по-валлийски (гренки с расплавленным сыром)


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

nearly went distracted – чуть с ума не сошёл


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

furnaceman – истопник, оператор печи


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

engine room – котельная


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

smoothing-iron – утюг (нагреваемый на огне)


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

I’ve been firing the engine in that laundry – я топлю котёл в этой прачечной


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

a preempted beauty – красавица, обещанная другому


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

collar pin – булавка для воротника


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

as if each bar were trickling off a precious minute of that time – как будто с каждым тактом по капле утекали драгоценные минуты того времени


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

I hoped I was of the former – я надеялся, что принадлежу к первым


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

from the ranks; even from the drafted divisions – из рядовых; даже из призывников


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

She’s no jane or anything like that – она не какая-нибудь там девица


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

digging her in the ribs – тыча её в бок


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

transfer – транзитный билет


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

he crawled – он подплыл кролем


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

ticket punch – билетный компостер


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

mess – столовая в военном лагере


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

she’s sore – она обиделась


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

street car – трамвай


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

incapable of passing judgments on the ostensibly aristocratic heart – неспособные вынести приговор её мнимо аристократическому сердцу


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

The contractors took it all down – подрядчики всё снесли


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

race course – ипподром


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

highball – виски с содовой


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

drive – подъездная аллея (к дому)


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

cutting him dead – совершенно его игнорируя


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

sleigh ride – катание на санях


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

I had the mumps – я заболел свинкой


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Nancy moved him – Нэнси пробуждала в нём чувства


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Stories have a way of getting around – могут пойти слухи


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Donald had lost a good deal – Дональд многое потерял


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

sorrow has set her seal upon his brow – печаль наложила свою печать на его чело


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with your own heart’s-blood – ты должен создать её из звуков музыки при свете луны и обагрить её кровью своего сердца


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

to press closer against the thorn – прижаться к шипу сильнее


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

girdle of petals – венчик (лепестков)


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

a film came over her eyes – глаза заволокло пеленой


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

winding blue silk on a reel – наматывая на катушку голубой шёлк


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Murray’s “Hippolytus” of Euripides – «Ипполит» Еврипида в переводе А. Т. Мюррея


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

no clammy sepulchre among other hideous graves carved with futilities – не холодный могильный камень среди других безобразных памятников с высеченными на них пустыми словами


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

on a tramp – в пути


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

taking them in from head to heel – оглядев их с головы до ног


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Theocritus – Феокрит (древнегреческий поэт, известный главным образом своими идиллиями)


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

cider – сидр


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

just enrolled a barrister – только что пополнил ряды адвокатов


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

what was evidently greek to her – то, о чём она, очевидно, не имела никакого понятия


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

cords – брюки или бриджи из вельвета


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

junket – творожный десерт


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

he slept like a top – он спал как убитый


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Dunno = don’t know


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

gave an angry grunt – что-то сердито проворчал


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

her eyes cast down – с опущенными глазами


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

groped his way – пробрался на ощупь


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

The ashes be later than the oaks this year – ясени в этом году зацветут позже, чем дубы


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Maybe they knew he was going – может быть, они знали, что он умирает


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

tobacco pouch – кисет


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

have a fill – закуривайте


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

they would be happy to oblige him on receipt of the reply – ему будут рады услужить при получении ответа


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Sunday clothes always commonised village folk – нарядная одежда всего простит деревенских людей


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

old chap – старина


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

A regular Diana and attendant nymphs – настоящая Диана и её спутницы-нимфы


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

I say, will you come shrimping with us? – Послушайте, а пойдёмте с нами ловить креветок?


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

I say! – Вот это да!


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

before he took this plunge – перед тем как сделать этот решительный шаг


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

you are a brick! – ты настоящий молодчина!


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

She’s ‘smoking’! – она вся пылает!


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

baccy = tobacco


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Shall I blow out? – Потушить свечу?


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

“Up, Jenkins” – командная игра, в которой соперники поочередно угадывают, кто из членов противоположной команды прячет в руке монетку


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

the Sermon on the Mount – Нагорная проповедь


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

the spell was broken – чары были разрушены


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

And burying his face in his pillow, he smothered down a fit of sobbing – И, зарывшись лицом в подушку, он подавил в себе приступ рыдания


убрать рекламу

убрать рекламу

alse;>Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Emotion, when you are young, and give real vent to it, loses its power of torture – В молодости, когда даёшь эмоциям выход, они теряют свою силу и мучительность


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

quid pro quo – услуга за услугу (лат.)


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

landau – ландо (четырёхколесный экипаж со съёмным верхом)


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

How make the going to her, and that which must come of it, less ugly? – Как сделать их встречу и то, что за ней последует, менее неприятным?


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

I shall be cutting her life to ribbons – я разрушу её жизнь


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

plait of sewing silks – моток швейного шёлка


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

the die really cast – жребий наконец брошен


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

his mood threw a dinge even over the children – его настроение передалось даже детям


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

gripped Ashurst by the throat – сжали Эшерсту горло


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

she went kind of dazed looking; didn’t seem rightly there at all – ходила как оцепенелая; будто была совсем не в себе


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

The old man sucked at his pipe reflectively – Старик задумчиво затянулся трубкой


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Cyprian – Киприда (прозвище Афродиты – богини любви и красоты в греческой мифологии)


 Сделать закладку на этом месте книги

Безумие – сердце любви,
И золотом блещет крыло.
Покорно ее колдовству.
Все в мире весной расцвело.
Где молодость в дикой красе
Смеется, сияет, растет,
Весенней порою земля
Под солнцем любовью цветет.
Ликуй, человек! Надо всем вознесен,
Киприда, Киприда, твой царственный трон!

(Джон Голсуорси, “Цвет яблони” в переводе Р. Райт-Ковалёвой )

убрать рекламу

убрать рекламу

убрать рекламу

На главную » Маевская И. С. » Лучшие истории о любви / Best love stories.