类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-09-22 16:03:26


She had gone up to bed early, feeling that nameless stir of the spirit which can only find expansion in solitude. She wanted to let herself go, to be herself, and the presence of her family forced her to wear the carapace of convention. But having pleaded fatigue at ten o’clock, though her eyes sparkled behind her spectacles, she escaped from the cramping influence of the drawing room, and locked herself into her own bedroom with her thoughts and her glowing altar-cloth.‘Then if you have finished with that,’ she said, ‘shall we pass on to the other matter you said you wanted to talk to me about.’

This seemed a very proper speech to Mrs Keeling. It was delivered in clear, pleasant tones, with the appearance of respect, and she could not make out why Alice gave one of her queer, crooked smiles, or why she said,An awful spirit of raillery seized the unfortunate woman. She would say something lightly and humorously, just to show she had nothing but goodwill towards Miss Propert; it should be quite in that felicitous comedy-style which had made the business of the slippers such a success.

‘I never heard of such talk,’ said she. ‘Pray don’t let us have any more of it. For shame!’

‘She spoke to me of that,’ said Charles, ‘and asked that you would send it to me, to forward to her. But I can’t give you her address without her express permission.’‘Faithfully yours,

{324}‘I won’t hush. You did all those things, and what was a girl to make of them except what I made of them? I put the natural construction on them. And you know it.’‘Well, dear,’ she said. ‘You couldn’t well be more warmly attached to Julia than you were. I’m sure you used to be quite inseparable.’

But as the fire began to die down, the invigorating prospect of next day lost its quality, and there began to stir in her mind a vague disquiet. Hitherto it had really been enough for her that Mr Silverdale existed; to put him on a pedestal and adore in company with other reverential worshippers had satisfied her, and the inspiration had resulted in many useful activities. But to-night she began to wish that there had not been{113} so many other worshippers, towards whom he exhibited the same benignant and affectionate aspect. There was Julia Fyson, for instance: he would walk between them with an arm for each, and a pressure of the hand for Julia as well as herself. In moments of expansion she and Julia had confided to each other their adoration and its rewards; they had sung their hymns of praise together, and had bewailed to each other the rare moments when he seemed to be cold and distant with them, each administering comfort to the other, and being secretly rather pleased. But now Alice felt that any story of his coldness to Julia would give her more than a little pleasure. She would like him to be always cold to Julia. She wanted him herself. And at that moment the truth struck her: she was in love with him. Till then, she had not known it: till then, perhaps, there had been nothing definite and personal to know. But now, as the fire died down, she was aware of nothing else, and her heart starved and cried out. She had admired and adored before; those were self-supporting emotions. But this cried out for its due sustenance.

For the first time, now that his wife so lavishly applauded his action, Keeling began to be not so satisfied with it. The fact that it commended itself to her type of mind, was an argument against it: her praise disgusted him: it was at least as impertinent as Norah’s disapprobation.‘Dear me, Mamma!’ said Mrs Keeling, ‘you talk as if the gentleman was a bit of beef.’It is not too much to say that the room was of the nature of a temple, for here a very essential and withdrawn part of himself passed hours of praise and worship. Born in the humblest circumstances, he had, from the days when he slept on a piece of sacking below the counter in his father’s most unprofitable shop, devoted all the push, all the activity of his energies to the grappling of business problems and the pursuit of money-making. To many this becomes by the period of{33} middle age a passion not less incurable than drug drinking, and not less ruinous than that to the nobler appetites of life. But Keeling had never allowed it thus to usurp and swamp him; he always had guarded his secret garden, fencing it impenetrably off from the clatter of the till. Here, though undeveloped and sundered from the rest of his life, grew the rose of romance, namely the sense of beauty in books; here shone for him the light which never was on sea or land, which inspires every artist’s dream. He was not in any degree creative, he had not the desire any more than the skill to write or to draw when he lost himself in reverie over the printed page or the illustrations in his sumptuous editions. But the sense of wonder and admiration which is the oil in the artist’s lamp burned steadily for him, and lit with a never-flickering flame the hours he passed among his books. Above all, when he was here he lost completely a certain sense of loneliness which was his constant companion.

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‘But you did: you kissed me on the forehead and called me a little child,’ said Alice, with indignation that waxed as she recalled those tokens.She fingered the edge of the table, and with her instinct for tidiness, put straight a couple of papers that lay there.‘I was going to typewrite these at once,’ she said, ‘if you’ll allow me, and then go and help Charles in the book department.’

Well, he was not going to ask twice after one refusal of his favours, but, as the next week went by, he found the ‘sir’ and the dropped eyes altogether intolerable. These absolutely impersonal relationships were mysteriously worrying. She had shown herself a compatriot of the secret garden, and now she had retreated into the shell of the secretary again. This week the weather turned suddenly cold, and since there was no fireplace in her room, he invited her to sit at the table by the window in his, which was close to the central-heating hot-water pipes. A certain employer-sense of pride had come to his aid, and now he hardly ever glanced at her. But one day the whole card-house of this pride fell softly on the table, just as he took his hat and stick after the day’s work.Alice gave a great jerk of emotion which most unfortunately upset her embroidery-frame, which fell off the table with a crash that might have{101} awaked the dead, and certainly awoke the living.‘I was just going to leave this note at your office, Sir Thomas,’ said Lord Inverbroom. ‘May I give it you instead and save myself a further walk? It is just the acknowledgment of your letter about the termination of our lease. Perhaps you will glance at it, to see that it is in order.’




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