Tải bản đầy đủ

The enchanted april


TheProjectGutenbergeBook,TheEnchantedApril,byElizabethvonArnim
ThiseBookisfortheuseofanyoneanywhereatnocostandwithalmostno
restrictionswhatsoever.Youmaycopyit,giveitawayorre-useitunderthe
termsoftheProjectGutenbergLicenseincludedwiththiseBookoronlineat
www.gutenberg.net

Title:TheEnchantedApril
Author:ElizabethvonArnim

ReleaseDate:July29,2005[eBook#16389][Lastupdated:September7,2014]
Language:English

***STARTOFTHEPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKTHEENCHANTED
APRIL***
E-textpreparedbyManetteRothermel

THEENCHANTEDAPRIL
by
ELIZABETHVONARNIM



ItbeganinaWoman'sClubinLondononaFebruaryafternoon—an
uncomfortableclub,andamiserableafternoon—whenMrs.Wilkins,whohad
comedownfromHampsteadtoshopandhadlunchedatherclub,tookupThe
Timesfromthetableinthesmoking-room,andrunningherlistlesseyedownthe
AgonyColumnsawthis:
ToThoseWhoAppreciateWistariaandSunshine.SmallmediaevalItalian
CastleontheshoresoftheMediterraneantobeLetfurnishedforthemonthof
April.Necessaryservantsremain.Z,Box1000,TheTimes.
Thatwasitsconception;yet,asinthecaseofmanyanother,theconceiverwas
unawareofitatthemoment.
SoentirelyunawarewasMrs.WilkinsthatherAprilforthatyearhadthenand
therebeensettledforherthatshedroppedthenewspaperwithagesturethatwas
bothirritatedandresigned,andwentovertothewindowandstareddrearilyout
atthedrippingstreet.
Notforherweremediaevalcastles,eventhosethatarespeciallydescribedas
small.NotforhertheshoresinApriloftheMediterranean,andthewisteriaand
sunshine.Suchdelightswereonlyfortherich.Yettheadvertisementhadbeen
addressedtopersonswhoappreciatethesethings,sothatithadbeen,anyhow
addressedtootoher,forshecertainlyappreciatedthem;morethananybody
knew;morethanshehadevertold.Butshewaspoor.Inthewholeworldshe
possessedofherveryownonlyninetypounds,savedfromyeartoyear,putby
carefullypoundbypound,outofherdressallowance.Shehadscrapedthissum
togetheratthesuggestionofherhusbandasashieldandrefugeagainstarainy
day.Herdressallowance,givenherbyherfather,was£100ayear,sothatMrs.
Wilkins'sclotheswerewhatherhusband,urginghertosave,calledmodestand
becoming,andheracquaintancetoeachother,whentheyspokeofheratall,
whichwasseldomforshewasverynegligible,calledaperfectsight.
Mr.Wilkins,asolicitor,encouragedthrift,exceptthatbranchofitwhichgotinto
hisfood.Hedidnotcallthatthrift,hecalleditbadhousekeeping.Butforthe
thriftwhich,likemoth,penetratedintoMrs.Wilkins'sclothesandspoiltthem,he
hadmuchpraise."Youneverknow,"hesaid,"whentherewillbearainyday,
andyoumaybeverygladtofindyouhaveanest-egg.Indeedwebothmay."
LookingoutoftheclubwindowintoShaftesburyAvenue—herswasan


economicalclub,butconvenientforHampstead,whereshelived,andfor
Shoolbred's,wheresheshopped—Mrs.Wilkins,havingstoodtheresometime
verydrearily,hermind'seyeontheMediterraneaninApril,andthewisteria,and
theenviableopportunitiesoftherich,whileherbodilyeyewatchedthereally


extremelyhorriblesootyrainfallingsteadilyonthehurryingumbrellasand
splashingomnibuses,suddenlywonderedwhetherperhapsthiswasnottherainy
dayMellersh—MellershwasMr.Wilkins—hadsooftenencouragedherto
preparefor,andwhethertogetoutofsuchaclimateandintothesmall
mediaevalcastlewasn'tperhapswhatProvidencehadallalongintendedherto
dowithhersavings.Partofhersavings,ofcourse;perhapsquiteasmallpart.
Thecastle,beingmediaeval,mightalsobedilapidated,anddilapidationswere
surelycheap.Shewouldn'tintheleastmindafewofthem,becauseyoudidn't
payfordilapidationswhichwerealreadythere,onthecontrary—byreducingthe
priceyouhadtopaytheyreallypaidyou.Butwhatnonsensetothinkofit...
Sheturnedawayfromthewindowwiththesamegestureofmingledirritation
andresignationwithwhichshehadlaiddownTheTimes,andcrossedtheroom
towardsthedoorwiththeintentionofgettinghermackintoshandumbrellaand
fightingherwayintooneoftheovercrowdedomnibusesandgoingto
Shoolbred'sonherwayhomeandbuyingsomesolesforMellersh'sdinner—
Mellershwasdifficultwithfishandlikedonlysoles,exceptsalmon—whenshe
beheldMrs.Arbuthnot,awomansheknewbysightasalsolivinginHampstead
andbelongingtotheclub,sittingatthetableinthemiddleoftheroomonwhich
thenewspapersandmagazineswerekept,absorbed,inherturn,inthefirstpage
ofTheTimes.
Mrs.WilkinshadneveryetspokentoMrs.Arbuthnot,whobelongedtooneof
thevariouschurchsets,andwhoanalysed,classified,dividedandregisteredthe
poor;whereassheandMellersh,whentheydidgoout,wenttothepartiesof
impressionistpainters,ofwhominHampsteadthereweremany.Mellershhada
sisterwhohadmarriedoneofthemandlivedupontheHeath,andbecauseof
thisallianceMrs.Wilkinswasdrawnintoacirclewhichwashighlyunnaturalto
her,andshehadlearnedtodreadpictures.Shehadtosaythingsaboutthem,and
shedidn'tknowwhattosay.Sheusedtomurmur,"marvelous,"andfeelthatit
wasnotenough.Butnobodyminded.Nobodylistened.Nobodytookanynotice
ofMrs.Wilkins.Shewasthekindofpersonwhoisnotnoticedatparties.Her
clothes,infestedbythrift,madeherpracticallyinvisible;herfacewasnonarresting;herconversationwasreluctant;shewasshy.Andifone'sclothesand
faceandconversationareallnegligible,thoughtMrs.Wilkins,whorecognized


herdisabilities,what,atparties,isthereleftofone?
AlsoshewasalwayswithWilkins,thatclean-shaven,fine-lookingman,who
gaveaparty,merelybycomingtoit,agreatair.Wilkinswasveryrespectable.
Hewasknowntobehighlythoughtofbyhisseniorpartners.Hissister'scircle
admiredhim.Hepronouncedadequatelyintelligentjudgmentsonartandartists.
Hewaspithy;hewasprudent;heneversaidawordtoomuch,nor,ontheother
had,didheeversayawordtoolittle.Heproducedtheimpressionofkeeping
copiesofeverythinghesaid;andhewassoobviouslyreliablethatitoften
happenedthatpeoplewhomethimatthesepartiesbecamediscontentedwith
theirownsolicitors,andafteraperiodofrestlessnessextricatedthemselvesand
wenttoWilkins.
NaturallyMrs.Wilkinswasblottedout."She,"saidhissister,withsomething
herselfofthejudicial,thedigested,andthefinalinhermanner,"shouldstayat
home."ButWilkinscouldnotleavehiswifeathome.Hewasafamilysolicitor,
andallsuchhavewivesandshowthem.Withhisintheweekhewenttoparties,
andwithhisonSundayshewenttochurch.Beingstillfairlyyoung—hewas
thirty-nine—andambitiousofoldladies,ofwhomhehadnotyetacquiredinhis
practiceasufficientnumber,hecouldnotaffordtomisschurch,anditwasthere
thatMrs.Wilkinsbecamefamiliar,thoughneverthroughwords,withMrs.
Arbuthnot.
Shesawhermarshallingthechildrenofthepoorintopews.Shewouldcomein
attheheadoftheprocessionfromtheSundaySchoolexactlyfiveminutes
beforethechoir,andgetherboysandgirlsneatlyfittedintotheirallottedseats,
anddownontheirlittlekneesintheirpreliminaryprayer,andupagainontheir
feetjustas,totheswellingorgan,thevestrydooropened,andthechoirand
clergy,bigwiththelitaniesandcommandmentstheywerepresentlytorollout,
emerged.Shehadasadface,yetshewasevidentlyefficient.Thecombination
usedtomakeMrs.Wilkinswonder,forshehadbeentoldbyMellersh,ondays
whenshehadonlybeenabletogetplaice,thatifonewereefficientonewouldn't
bedepressed,andthatifonedoesone'sjobwellonebecomesautomatically
brightandbrisk.
AboutMrs.Arbuthnottherewasnothingbrightandbrisk,thoughmuchinher
waywiththeSundaySchoolchildrenthatwasautomatic;butwhenMrs.
Wilkins,turningfromthewindow,caughtsightofherintheclubshewasnot
beingautomaticatall,butwaslookingfixedlyatoneportionofthefirstpageof


TheTimes,holdingthepaperquitestill,hereyesnotmoving.Shewasjust
staring;andherface,asusual,wasthefaceofapatientanddisappointed
Madonna.
Mrs.Wilkinswatchedheraminute,tryingtoscrewupcouragetospeaktoher.
Shewantedtoaskherifshehadseentheadvertisement.Shedidnotknowwhy
shewantedtoaskherthis,butshewantedto.Howstupidnottobeabletospeak
toher.Shelookedsokind.Shelookedsounhappy.Whycouldn'ttwounhappy
peoplerefresheachotherontheirwaythroughthisdustybusinessoflifebya
littletalk—real,naturaltalk,aboutwhattheyfelt,whattheywouldhaveliked,
whattheystilltriedtohope?AndshecouldnothelpthinkingthatMrs.
Arbuthnot,too,wasreadingthatverysameadvertisement.Hereyeswereonthe
verypartofthepaper.Wasshe,too,picturingwhatitwouldbelike—thecolour,
thefragrance,thelight,thesoftlappingoftheseaamonglittlehotrocks?
Colour,fragrance,light,sea;insteadofShaftesburyAvenue,andthewet
omnibuses,andthefishdepartmentatShoolbred's,andtheTubetoHampstead,
anddinner,andto-morrowthesameandthedayafterthesameandalwaysthe
same...
SuddenlyMrs.Wilkinsfoundherselfleaningacrossthetable."Areyoureading
aboutthemediaevalcastleandthewisteria?"sheheardherselfasking.
NaturallyMrs.Arbuthnotwassurprised;butshewasnothalfsomuchsurprised
asMrs.Wilkinswasatherselfforasking.
Mrs.Arbuthnothadnotyettoherknowledgeseteyesontheshabby,lank,
loosely-put-togetherfiguresittingoppositeher,withitssmallfreckledfaceand
biggreyeyesalmostdisappearingunderasmashed-downwet-weatherhat,and
shegazedatheramomentwithoutanswering.Shewasreadingaboutthe
mediaevalcastleandthewisteria,orratherhadreadaboutittenminutesbefore,
andsincethenhadbeenlostindreams—oflight,ofcolour,offragrance,ofthe
softlappingoftheseaamonglittlehotrocks...
"Whydoyouaskmethat?"shesaidinhergravevoice,forhertrainingofandby
thepoorhadmadehergraveandpatient.
Mrs.Wilkinsflushedandlookedexcessivelyshyandfrightened."Oh,only
becauseIsawittoo,andIthoughtperhaps—Ithoughtsomehow—"she
stammered.


WhereuponMrs.Arbuthnot,hermindbeingusedtogettingpeopleintolistsand
divisions,fromhabitconsidered,asshegazedthoughtfullyatMrs.Wilkins,
underwhatheading,supposingshehadtoclassifyher,shecouldmostproperly
beput.
"AndIknowyoubysight,"wentonMrs.Wilkins,who,likealltheshy,onceshe
wasstarted;lungedon,frighteningherselftomoreandmorespeechbythesheer
soundofwhatshehadsaidlastinherears."EverySunday—Iseeyouevery
Sundayinchurch—"
"Inchurch?"echoedMrs.Arbuthnot.
"Andthisseemssuchawonderfulthing—thisadvertisementaboutthewisteria
—and—"
Mrs.Wilkins,whomusthavebeenatleastthirty,brokeoffandwriggledinher
chairwiththemovementofanawkwardandembarrassedschoolgirl.
"Itseemssowonderful,"shewentoninakindofburst,"and—itissucha
miserableday..."
AndthenshesatlookingatMrs.Arbuthnotwiththeeyesofanimprisoneddog.
"Thispoorthing,"thoughtMrs.Arbuthnot,whoselifewasspentinhelpingand
alleviating,"needsadvice."
Sheaccordinglypreparedherselfpatientlytogiveit.
"Ifyouseemeinchurch,"shesaid,kindlyandattentively,"Isupposeyoulivein
Hampsteadtoo?"
"Ohyes,"saidMrs.Wilkins.Andsherepeated,herheadonitslongthinneck
droopingalittleasiftherecollectionofHampsteadbowedher,"Ohyes."
"Where?"askedMrs.Arbuthnot,who,whenadvicewasneeded,naturallyfirst
proceededtocollectthefacts.
ButMrs.Wilkins,layingherhandsoftlyandcaressinglyonthepartofThe
Timeswheretheadvertisementwas,asthoughthemereprintedwordsofitwere
precious,onlysaid,"Perhapsthatiswhythisseemssowonderful."


"No—Ithinkthat'swonderfulanyhow,"saidMrs.Arbuthnot,forgettingfacts
andfaintlysighing.
"Thenyouwerereadingit?"
"Yes,"saidMrs.Arbuthnot,hereyesgoingdreamyagain.
"Wouldn'titbewonderful?"murmuredMrs.Wilkins.
"Wonderful,"saidMrs.Arbuthnot.Herface,whichhadlitup,fadedinto
patienceagain."Verywonderful,"shesaid."Butit'snousewastingone'stime
thinkingofsuchthings."
"Oh,butitis,"wasMrs.Wilkins'squick,surprisingreply;surprisingbecauseit
wassomuchunliketherestofher—thecharacterlesscoatandskirt,the
crumpledhat,theundecidedwispofhairstragglingout,"Andjustthe
consideringofthemisworthwhileinitself—suchachangefromHampstead—
andsometimesIbelieve—Ireallydobelieve—ifoneconsidershardenoughone
getsthings."
Mrs.Arbuthnotobservedherpatiently.Inwhatcategorywouldshe,supposing
shehadto,puther?
"Perhaps,"shesaid,leaningforwardalittle,"youwilltellmeyourname.Ifwe
aretobefriends"—shesmiledhergravesmile—"asIhopeweare,wehadbetter
beginatthebeginning."
"Ohyes—howkindofyou.I'mMrs.Wilkins,"saidMrs.Wilkins."Idon't
expect,"sheadded,flushing,asMrs.Arbuthnotsaidnothing,"thatitconveys
anythingtoyou.Sometimesit—itdoesn'tseemtoconveyanythingtomeeither.
But"—shelookedroundwithamovementofseekinghelp—"IamMrs.
Wilkins."
Shedidnotlikehername.Itwasamean,smallname,withakindoffacetious
twist,shethought,aboutitsendliketheupwardcurveofapugdog'stail.Thereit
was,however.Therewasnodoinganythingwithit.Wilkinsshewasand
Wilkinsshewouldremain;andthoughherhusbandencouragedhertogiveiton
alloccasionsasMrs.Mellersh-Wilkinssheonlydidthatwhenhewaswithin
earshot,forshethoughtMellershmadeWilkinsworse,emphasizingitintheway
Chatsworthonthegate-postsofavillaemphasizesthevilla.


WhenfirsthesuggestedsheshouldaddMellershshehadobjectedfortheabove
reason,andafterapause—Mellershwasmuchtooprudenttospeakexceptafter
apause,duringwhichpresumablyhewastakingacarefulmentalcopyofhis
comingobservation—hesaid,muchdispleased,"ButIamnotavilla,"and
lookedatherashelookswhohopes,forperhapsthehundredthtime,thathemay
nothavemarriedafool.
Ofcoursehewasnotavilla,Mrs.Wilkinsassuredhim;shehadneversupposed
hewas;shehadnotdreamedofmeaning...shewasonlyjustthinking...
ThemoresheexplainedthemoreearnestbecameMellersh'shope,familiarto
himbythistime,forhehadthenbeenahusbandfortwoyears,thathemightnot
byanychancehavemarriedafool;andtheyhadaprolongedquarrel,ifthatcan
becalledaquarrelwhichisconductedwithdignifiedsilenceononesideand
earnestapologyontheother,astowhetherornoMrs.Wilkinshadintendedto
suggestthatMr.Wilkinswasavilla.
"Ibelieve,"shehadthoughtwhenitwasatlastover—ittookalongwhile—"that
anybodywouldquarrelaboutanythingwhenthey'venotleftoffbeingtogether
forasingledayfortwowholeyears.Whatwebothneedisaholiday."
"Myhusband,"wentonMrs.WilkinstoMrs.Arbuthnot,tryingtothrowsome
lightonherself,"isasolicitor.He—"Shecastaboutforsomethingshecouldsay
elucidatoryofMellersh,andfound:"He'sveryhandsome."
"Well,"saidMrs.Arbuthnotkindly,"thatmustbeagreatpleasuretoyou."
"Why?"askedMrs.Wilkins.
"Because,"saidMrs.Arbuthnot,alittletakenaback,forconstantintercourse
withthepoorhadaccustomedhertohaveherpronouncementsacceptedwithout
question,"becausebeauty—handsomeness—isagiftlikeanyother,andifitis
properlyused—"
Shetrailedoffintosilence.Mrs.Wilkins'sgreatgreyeyeswerefixedonher,and
itseemedsuddenlytoMrs.Arbuthnotthatperhapsshewasbecoming
crystallizedintoahabitofexposition,andofexpositionafterthemannerof
nursemaids,throughhavinganaudiencethatcouldn'tbutagree,thatwouldbe
afraid,ifitwished,tointerrupt,thatdidn'tknow,thatwas,infact,athermercy.


ButMrs.Wilkinswasnotlistening;forjustthen,absurdasitseemed,apicture
hadflashedacrossherbrain,andthereweretwofiguresinitsittingtogether
underagreattrailingwisteriathatstretchedacrossthebranchesofatreeshe
didn'tknow,anditwasherselfandMrs.Arbuthnot—shesawthem—shesaw
them.Andbehindthem,brightinsunshine,wereoldgreywalls—themediaeval
castle—shesawit—theywerethere...
ShethereforestaredatMrs.Arbuthnotanddidnothearawordshesaid.And
Mrs.ArbuthnotstaredtooatMrs.Wilkins,arrestedbytheexpressiononher
face,whichwassweptbytheexcitementofwhatshesaw,andwasasluminous
andtremulousunderitaswaterinsunlightwhenitisruffledbyagustofwind.
Atthismoment,ifshehadbeenataparty,Mrs.Wilkinswouldhavebeenlooked
atwithinterest.
Theystaredateachother;Mrs.Arbuthnotsurprised,inquiringly,Mrs.Wilkins
withtheeyesofsomeonewhohashadarevelation.Ofcourse.Thatwashowit
couldbedone.Sheherself,shebyherself,couldn'taffordit,andwouldn'tbe
able,evenifshecouldaffordit,togothereallalone;butsheandMrs.Arbuthnot
together...
Sheleanedacrossthetable,"Whydon'twetryandgetit?"shewhispered.
Mrs.Arbuthnotbecameevenmorewide-eyed."Getit?"sherepeated.
"Yes,"saidMrs.Wilkins,stillasthoughshewereafraidofbeingoverheard.
"NotjustsithereandsayHowwonderful,andthengohometoHampstead
withouthavingputoutafinger—gohomejustasusualandseeaboutthedinner
andthefishjustaswe'vebeendoingforyearsandyearsandwillgoondoingfor
yearsandyears.Infact,"saidMrs.Wilkins,flushingtotherootsofherhair,for
thesoundofwhatshewassaying,ofwhatwascomingpouringout,frightened
her,andyetshecouldn'tstop,"Iseenoendtoit.Thereisnoendtoit.Sothat
thereoughttobeabreak,thereoughttobeintervals—ineverybody'sinterests.
Why,itwouldreallybebeingunselfishtogoawayandbehappyforalittle,
becausewewouldcomebacksomuchnicer.Yousee,afterabiteverybody
needsaholiday."
"But—howdoyoumean,getit?"askedMrs.Arbuthnot.
"Takeit,"saidMrs.Wilkins.


"Takeit?"
"Rentit.Hireit.Haveit."
"But—doyoumeanyouandI?"
"Yes.Betweenus.Share.Thenitwouldonlycosthalf,andyoulookso—you
lookexactlyasifyouwanteditjustasmuchasIdo—asifyououghttohavea
rest—havesomethinghappyhappentoyou."
"Why,butwedon'tknoweachother."
"Butjustthinkhowwellwewouldifwewentawaytogetherforamonth!And
I'vesavedforarainyday—lookatit—"
"Sheisunbalanced,"thoughtMrs.Arbuthnot;yetshefeltstrangelystirred.
"Thinkofgettingawayforawholemonth—fromeverything—toheaven—"
"Sheshouldn'tsaythingslikethat,"thoughtMrs.Arbuthnot."Thevicar—"Yet
shefeltstrangelystirred.Itwouldindeedbewonderfultohavearest,a
cessation.
Habit,however,steadiedheragain;andyearsofintercoursewiththepoormade
hersay,withtheslightthoughsympatheticsuperiorityoftheexplainer,"But
then,yousee,heavenisn'tsomewhereelse.Itishereandnow.Wearetoldso."
Shebecameveryearnest,justasshedidwhentryingpatientlytohelpand
enlightenthepoor."Heaveniswithinus,"shesaidinhergentlelowvoice."We
aretoldthatontheveryhighestauthority.Andyouknowthelinesaboutthe
kindredpoints,don'tyou—"
"Ohyes,Iknowthem,"interruptedMrs.Wilkinsimpatiently.
"Thekindredpointsofheavenandhome,"continuedMrs.Arbuthnot,whowas
usedtofinishinghersentences."Heavenisinourhome."
"Itisn't,"saidMrs.Wilkins,againsurprisingly.
Mrs.Arbuthnotwastakenaback.Thenshesaidgently,"Oh,butitis.Itisthereif


wechoose,ifwemakeit."
"Idochoose,andIdomakeit,anditisn't,"saidMrs.Wilkins.
ThenMrs.Arbuthnotwassilent,forshetoosometimeshaddoubtsabouthomes.
ShesatandlookeduneasilyatMrs.Wilkins,feelingmoreandmoretheurgent
needtogettingherclassified.IfshecouldonlyclassifyMrs.Wilkins,gether
safelyunderherproperheading,shefeltthatsheherselfwouldregainher
balance,whichdidseemverystrangelytobeslippingalltooneside.Forneither
hadshehadaholidayforyears,andtheadvertisementwhenshesawithadset
herdreaming,andMrs.Wilkins'sexcitementaboutitwasinfectious,andshehad
thesensation,asshelistenedtoherimpetuous,oddtalkandwatchedherlit-up
face,thatshewasbeingstirredoutofsleep.
ClearlyMrs.Wilkinswasunbalanced,butMrs.Arbuthnothadmetthe
unbalancedbefore—indeedshewasalwaysmeetingthem—andtheyhadno
effectonherownstabilityatall;whereasthisonewasmakingherfeelquite
wobbly,quiteasthoughtobeoffandaway,awayfromhercompasspointsof
God,Husband,HomeandDuty—shedidn'tfeelasifMrs.WilkinsintendedMr.
Wilkinstocometoo—andjustforoncebehappy,wouldbebothgoodand
desirable.Whichofcourseitwasn't;whichcertainlyofcourseitwasn't.She,
also,hadanest-egg,investedgraduallyinthePostOfficeSavingsBank,butto
supposethatshewouldeverforgetherdutytotheextentofdrawingitoutand
spendingitonherselfwassurelyabsurd.Surelyshecouldn't,shewouldn'tever
dosuchathing?Surelyshewouldn't,shecouldn'teverforgetherpoor,forget
miseryandsicknessascompletelyasthat?NodoubtatriptoItalywouldbe
extraordinarilydelightful,butthereweremanydelightfulthingsonewouldlike
todo,andwhatwasstrengthgiventooneforexcepttohelponenottodothem?
SteadfastasthepointsofthecompasstoMrs.Arbuthnotwerethegreatfour
factsoflife:God,Husband,Home,Duty.Shehadgonetosleeponthesefacts
yearsago,afteraperiodofmuchmisery,herheadrestingonthemasona
pillow;andshehadagreatdreadofbeingawakenedoutofsosimpleand
untroublesomeacondition.Thereforeitwasthatshesearchedwithearnestness
foraheadingunderwhichtoputMrs.Wilkins,andinthiswayillumineand
steadyherownmind;andsittingtherelookingatheruneasilyafterherlast
remark,andfeelingherselfbecomingmoreandmoreunbalancedandinfected,
shedecidedprotem,asthevicarsaidatmeetings,toputherundertheheading
Nerves.Itwasjustpossiblethatsheoughttogostraightintothecategory


Hysteria,whichwasoftenonlytheantechambertoLunacy,butMrs.Arbuthnot
hadlearnednottohurrypeopleintotheirfinalcategories,havingonmorethan
oneoccasiondiscoveredwithdismaythatshehadmadeamistake;andhow
difficultithadbeentogetthemoutagain,andhowcrushedshehadbeenwith
themostterribleremorse.
Yes.Nerves.Probablyshehadnoregularworkforothers,thoughtMrs.
Arbuthnot;noworkthatwouldtakeheroutsideherself.Evidentlyshewas
rudderless—blownaboutbygusts,byimpulses.Nerveswasalmostcertainlyher
category,orwouldbequitesoonifnoonehelpedher.Poorlittlething,thought
Mrs.Arbuthnot,herownbalancereturninghandinhandwithhercompassion,
andunable,becauseofthetable,toseethelengthofMrs.Wilkins'slegs.Allshe
sawwashersmall,eager,shyface,andherthinshoulders,andthelookof
childishlonginginhereyesforsomethingthatshewassurewasgoingtomake
herhappy.No;suchthingsdidn'tmakepeoplehappy,suchfleetingthings.Mrs.
ArbuthnothadlearnedinherlonglifewithFrederick—hewasherhusband,and
shehadmarriedhimattwentyandwasnotthirty-three—wherealonetruejoys
aretobefound.Theyaretobefound,shenowknew,onlyindaily,inhourly,
livingforothers;theyaretobefoundonly—hadn'tsheoverandoveragain
takenherdisappointmentsanddiscouragementsthere,andcomeaway
comforted?—atthefeetofGod.
Frederickhadbeenthekindofhusbandwhosewifebetakesherselfearlytothe
feetofGod.Fromhimtothemhadbeenashortthoughpainfulstep.Itseemed
shorttoherinretrospect,butithadreallytakenthewholeofthefirstyearof
theirmarriage,andeveryinchofthewayhadbeenastruggle,andeveryinchof
itwasstained,shefeltatthetime,withherheart'sblood.Allthatwasovernow.
Shehadlongsincefoundpeace.AndFrederick,fromherpassionatelyloved
bridegroom,fromherworshippedyounghusband,hadbecomesecondonlyto
Godonherlistofdutiesandforbearances.Therehehung,thesecondin
importance,abloodlessthingbledwhitebyherprayers.Foryearsshehadbeen
abletobehappyonlybyforgettinghappiness.Shewantedtostaylikethat.She
wantedtoshutouteverythingthatwouldremindherofbeautifulthings,that
mightsetheroffagainlong,desiring...
"I'dlikesomuchtobefriends,"shesaidearnestly."Won'tyoucomeandseeme,
orletmecometoyousometimes?Wheneveryoufeelasifyouwantedtotalk.
I'llgiveyoumyaddress"—shesearchedinherhandbag—"andthenyouwon't
forget."Andshefoundacardandhelditout.


Mrs.Wilkinsignoredthecard.
"It'ssofunny,"saidMrs.Wilkins,justasifshehadnotheardher,"ButIseeus
both—youandme—thisAprilinthemediaevalcastle."
Mrs.Arbuthnotrelapsedintouneasiness."Doyou?"shesaid,makinganeffortto
staybalancedunderthevisionarygazeoftheshininggreyeyes."Doyou?"
"Don'tyoueverseethingsinakindofflashbeforetheyhappen?"askedMrs.
Wilkins.
"Never,"saidMrs.Arbuthnot.
Shetriedtosmile;shetriedtosmilethesympatheticyetwiseandtolerantsmile
withwhichshewasaccustomedtolistentothenecessarilybiasedand
incompleteviewofthepoor.Shedidn'tsucceed.Thesmiletrembledout.
"Ofcourse,"shesaidinalowvoice,almostasifshewereafraidthevicarand
theSavingsBankwerelistening,"itwouldbemostbeautiful—mostbeautiful—"
"Evenifitwerewrong,"saidMrs.Wilkins,"itwouldonlybeforamonth."
"That—"beganMrs.Arbuthnot,quiteclearastothereprehensiblenessofsucha
pointofview;butMrs.Wilkinsstoppedherbeforeshecouldfinish.
"Anyhow,"saidMrs.Wilkins,stoppingher,"I'msureit'swrongtogoonbeing
goodfortoolong,tillonegetsmiserable.AndIcanseeyou'vebeengoodfor
yearsandyears,becauseyoulooksounhappy"—Mrs.Arbuthnotopenedher
mouthtoprotest—"andI—I'vedonenothingbutduties,thingsforotherpeople,
eversinceIwasagirl,andIdon'tbelieveanybodylovesmeabit—abit—thebbetter—andIlong—oh,Ilong—forsomethingelse—somethingelse—"
Wasshegoingtocry?Mrs.Arbuthnotbecameacutelyuncomfortableand
sympathetic.Shehopedshewasn'tgoingtocry.Notthere.Notinthatunfriendly
room,withstrangerscomingandgoing.
ButMrs.Wilkins,aftertuggingagitatedlyatahandkerchiefthatwouldn'tcome
outofherpocket,didsucceedatlastinmerelyapparentlyblowinghernosewith
it,andthen,blinkinghereyesveryquicklyonceortwice,lookedatMrs.
Arbuthnotwithaquiveringairofhalfhumble,halffrightenedapology,and


smiled.
"Willyoubelieve,"shewhispered,tryingtosteadyhermouth,evidently
dreadfullyashamedofherself,"thatI'veneverspokentoanyonebeforeinmy
lifelikethis?Ican'tthink,Isimplydon'tknow,whathascomeoverme."
"It'stheadvertisement,"saidMrs.Arbuthnot,noddinggravely.
"Yes,"saidMrs.Wilkins,dabbingfurtivelyathereyes,"andusbothbeingso
—"—sheblewhernoseagainalittle—"miserable."


Chapter2
OfcourseMrs.Arbuthnotwasnotmiserable—howcouldshebe,sheasked
herself,whenGodwastakingcareofher?—butsheletthatpassforthemoment
unrepudiated,becauseofherconvictionthatherewasanotherfellow-creaturein
urgentneedofherhelp;andnotjustbootsandblanketsandbettersanitary
arrangementsthistime,butthemoredelicatehelpofcomprehension,offinding
theexactrightwords.
Theexactrightwords,shepresentlydiscovered,aftertryingvariousonesabout
livingforothers,andprayer,andthepeacetobefoundinplacingoneself
unreservedlyinGod'shands—tomeetallthesewordsMrs.Wilkinshadother
words,incoherentandyet,forthemomentatleast,tillonehadhadmoretime,
difficulttoanswer—theexactrightwordswereasuggestionthatitwoulddono
harmtoanswertheadvertisement.Non-committal.Mereinquiry.Andwhat
disturbedMrs.Arbuthnotaboutthissuggestionwasthatshedidnotmakeit
solelytocomfortMrs.Wilkins;shemadeitbecauseofherownstrangelonging
forthemediaevalcastle.
Thiswasverydisturbing.Thereshewas,accustomedtodirect,tolead,toadvise,
tosupport—exceptFrederick;shelongsincehadlearnedtoleaveFrederickto
God—beingledherself,beinginfluencedandthrownoffherfeet,byjustan
advertisement,byjustanincoherentstranger.Itwasindeeddisturbing.She
failedtounderstandhersuddenlongingforwhatwas,afterall,self-indulgence,
whenforyearsnosuchdesirehadenteredherheart.
"There'snoharminsimplyasking,"shesaidinalowvoice,asifthevicarand
theSavingsBankandallherwaitinganddependentpoorwerelisteningand
condemning.
"Itisn'tasifitcommittedustoanything,"saidMrs.Wilkins,alsoinalowvoice,
buthervoiceshook.


Theygotupsimultaneously—Mrs.Arbuthnothadasensationofsurprisethat
Mrs.Wilkinsshouldbesotall—andwenttoawriting-table,andMrs.Arbuthnot
wrotetoZ,Box1000,TheTimes,forparticulars.Sheaskedforallparticulars,
buttheonlyonetheyreallywantedwastheoneabouttherent.Theybothfelt
thatitwasMrs.Arbuthnotwhooughttowritetheletteranddothebusinesspart.
Notonlywassheusedtoorganizingandbeingpractical,butshealsowasolder,
andcertainlycalmer;andsheherselfhadnodoubttoothatshewaswiser.
NeitherhadMrs.Wilkinsanydoubtofthis;theverywayMrs.Arbuthnotparted
herhairsuggestedagreatcalmthatcouldonlyproceedfromwisdom.
Butifshewaswiser,olderandcalmer,Mrs.Arbuthnot'snewfriendnevertheless
seemedtohertobetheonewhoimpelled.Incoherent,sheyetimpelled.She
appearedtohave,apartfromherneedofhelp,anupsettingkindofcharacter.
Shehadacuriousinfectiousness.Sheledoneon.Andthewayherunsteady
mindleapedatconclusions—wrongones,ofcourse;witnesstheonethatshe,
Mrs.Arbuthnot,wasmiserable—thewaysheleapedatconclusionswas
disconcerting.
Whatevershewas,however,andwhateverherunsteadiness,Mrs.Arbuthnot
foundherselfsharingherexcitementandherlonging;andwhentheletterhad
beenpostedintheletter-boxinthehallandactuallywasbeyondgettingback
again,bothsheandMrs.Wilkinsfeltthesamesenseofguilt.
"Itonlyshows,"saidMrs.Wilkinsinawhisper,astheyturnedawayfromthe
letter-box,"howimmaculatelygoodwe'vebeenallourlives.Theveryfirsttime
wedoanythingourhusbandsdon'tknowaboutwefeelguilty."
"I'mafraidIcan'tsayI'vebeenimmaculatelygood,"gentlyprotestedMrs.
Arbuthnot,alittleuncomfortableatthisfreshexampleofsuccessfulleapingat
conclusions,forshehadnotsaidawordaboutherfeelingofguilt.
"Oh,butI'msureyouhave—Iseeyoubeinggood—andthat'swhyyou'renot
happy."
"Sheshouldn'tsaythingslikethat,"thoughtMrs.Arbuthnot."Imusttryandhelp
hernotto."
Aloudshesaidgravely,"Idon'tknowwhyyouinsistthatI'mnothappy.When
youknowmebetterIthinkyou'llfindthatIam.AndI'msureyoudon'tmean
reallythatgoodness,ifonecouldattainit,makesoneunhappy."


"Yes,Ido,"saidMrs.Wilkins."Oursortofgoodnessdoes.Wehaveattainedit,
andweareunhappy.Therearemiserablesortsofgoodnessandhappysorts—the
sortwe'llhaveatthemediaevalcastle,forinstance,isthehappysort."
"Thatis,supposingwegothere,"saidMrs.Arbuthnotrestrainingly.Shefeltthat
Mrs.Wilkinsneededholdingonto."Afterall,we'veonlywrittenjusttoask.
Anybodymaydothat.Ithinkitquitelikelyweshallfindtheconditions
impossible,andeveniftheywerenot,probablybyto-morrowweshallnotwant
togo."
"Iseeusthere,"wasMrs.Wilkins'sanswertothat.
Allthiswasveryunbalancing.Mrs.Arbuthnot,asshepresentlysplashedthough
thedrippingstreetsonherwaytoameetingshewastospeakat,wasinan
unusuallydisturbedconditionofmind.Shehad,shehoped,shownherselfvery
calmtoMrs.Wilkins,verypracticalandsober,concealingherownexcitement.
Butshewasreallyextraordinarilymoved,andshefelthappy,andshefeltguilty,
andshefeltafraid,andshehadallthefeelings,thoughthisshedidnotknow,of
awomanwhowascomeawayfromasecretmeetingwithherlover.That,
indeed,waswhatshelookedlikewhenshearrivedlateonherplatform;she,the
open-browed,lookedalmostfurtiveashereyesfellonthestaringwoodenfaces
waitingtohearhertryandpersuadethemtocontributetothealleviationofthe
urgentneedsoftheHampsteadpoor,eachoneconvincedthattheyneeded
contributionsthemselves.Shelookedasthoughshewerehidingsomething
discreditablebutdelightful.Certainlyhercustomaryclearexpressionofcandor
wasnotthere,anditsplacewastakenbyakindofsuppressedandfrightened
pleasedness,whichwouldhaveledamoreworldly-mindedaudiencetothe
instantconvictionofrecentandprobablyimpassionedlovemaking.
Beauty,beauty,beauty...thewordskeptringinginherearsasshestoodonthe
platformtalkingofsadthingstothesparselyattendedmeeting.Shehadnever
beentoItaly.Wasthatreallywhathernest-eggwastobespentonafterall?
Thoughshecouldn'tapproveofthewayMrs.Wilkinswasintroducingtheidea
ofpredestinationintoherimmediatefuture,justasifshehadnochoice,justasif
tostruggle,oreventoreflect,wereuseless,ityetinfluencedher.Mrs.Wilkins's
eyeshadbeentheeyesofaseer.Somepeoplewerelikethat,Mrs.Arbuthnot
knew;andifMrs.Wilkinshadactuallyseenheratthemediaevalcastleitdid
seemprobablethatstrugglingwouldbeawasteoftime.Still,tospendhernesteggonself-indulgence—Theoriginofthisegghadbeencorrupt,butshehadat


leastsupposeditsendwastobecreditable.Wasshetodeflectitfromits
intendeddestination,whichalonehadappearedtojustifyherkeepingit,and
spenditongivingherselfpleasure?
Mrs.Arbuthnotspokeonandon,somuchpracticedinthekindofspeechthat
shecouldhavesaiditallinhersleep,andattheendofthemeeting,hereyes
dazzledbyhersecretvisions,shehardlynoticedthatnobodywasmovedinany
waywhatever,leastofallinthewayofcontributions.
Butthevicarnoticed.Thevicarwasdisappointed.Usuallyhisgoodfriendand
supporterMrs.Arbuthnotsucceededbetterthanthis.And,whatwasevenmore
unusual,sheappeared,heobserved,noteventomind.
"Ican'timagine,"hesaidtoherastheyparted,speakingirritably,forhewas
irritatedbothbytheaudienceandbyher,"whatthesepeoplearecomingto.
Nothingseemstomovethem."
"Perhapstheyneedaholiday,"suggestedMrs.Arbuthnot;anunsatisfactory,a
queerreply,thevicarthought.
"InFebruary?"hecalledafterhersarcastically.
"Ohno—nottillApril,"saidMrs.Arbuthnotoverhershoulder.
"Veryodd,"thoughtthevicar."Veryoddindeed."Andhewenthomeandwas
notperhapsquiteChristiantohiswife.
ThatnightinherprayersMrs.Arbuthnotaskedforguidance.Shefeltsheought
reallytoask,straightoutandroundly,thatthemediaevalcastleshouldalready
havebeentakenbysomeoneelseandthewholethingthusbesettled,buther
couragefailedher.Supposeherprayerweretobeanswered?No;shecouldn't
askit;shecouldn'triskit.Andafterall—shealmostpointedthisouttoGod—if
shespentherpresentnest-eggonaholidayshecouldquitesoonaccumulate
another.Frederickpressedmoneyonher;anditwouldonlymean,whileshe
rolledupasecondegg,thatforatimehercontributionstotheparishcharities
wouldbeless.Andthenitcouldbethenextnest-eggwhoseoriginalcorruption
wouldbepurgedawaybytheusetowhichitwasfinallyput.
ForMrs.Arbuthnot,whohadnomoneyofherown,wasobligedtoliveonthe
proceedsofFrederick'sactivities,andherverynest-eggwasthefruit,


posthumouslyripened,ofancientsin.ThewayFrederickmadehislivingwas
oneofthestandingdistressesofherlife.Hewroteimmenselypopularmemoirs,
regularly,everyyear,ofthemistressesofkings.Therewereinhistorynumerous
kingswhohadhadmistresses,andtherewerestillmorenumerousmistresses
whohadhadkings;sothathehadbeenabletopublishabookofmemoirsduring
eachyearofhismarriedlife,andevensothereweregreaterfurtherpilesofthese
ladieswaitingtobedealtwith.Mrs.Arbuthnotwashelpless.Whethersheliked
itornot,shewasobligedtoliveontheproceeds.Hegaveheradreadfulsofa
once,afterthesuccessofhisDuBarrimemoir,withswollencushionsandsoft,
receptivelap,anditseemedtoheramiserablethingthatthere,inherveryhome,
shouldflauntthisre-incarnationofadeadoldFrenchsinner.
Simplygood,convincedthatmoralityisthebasisofhappiness,thefactthatshe
andFrederickshoulddrawtheirsustenancefromguilt,howevermuchpurgedby
thepassageofcenturies,wasoneofthesecretreasonsofhersadness.Themore
thememoiredladyhadforgottenherself,themorehisbookaboutherwasread
andthemorefree-handedhewastohiswife;andallthathegaveherwasspent,
afteraddingslightlytohernest-egg—forshedidhopeandbelievethatsomeday
peoplewouldceasetowanttoreadofwickedness,andthenFrederickwould
needsupporting—onhelpingthepoor.Theparishflourishedbecause,totakea
handfulatrandom,oftheill-behavioroftheladiesDuBarri,Montespan,
Pompadour,Ninondel'Enclos,andevenoflearnedMaintenon.Thepoorwere
thefilterthroughwhichthemoneywaspassed,tocomeout,Mrs.Arbuthnot
hoped,purified.Shecoulddonomore.Shehadtriedindaysgonebytothink
thesituationout,todiscovertheexactrightcourseforhertotake,buthadfound
it,asshehadfoundFrederick,toodifficult,andhadleftit,asshehadleft
Frederick,toGod.Nothingofthismoneywasspentonherhouseordress;those
remained,exceptforthegreatsoftsofa,austere.Itwasthepoorwhoprofited.
Theirverybootswerestoutwithsins.Buthowdifficultithadbeen.Mrs.
Arbuthnot,gropingforguidance,prayedaboutittoexhaustion.Oughtshe
perhapstorefusetotouchthemoney,toavoiditasshewouldhaveavoidedthe
sinswhichwereitssource?Butthenwhatabouttheparish'sboots?Sheasked
thevicarwhathethought,andthroughmuchdelicatelanguage,evasiveand
cautious,itdidfinallyappearthathewasfortheboots.
AtleastshehadpersuadedFrederick,whenfirsthebeganhisterriblesuccessful
career—heonlybeganitaftertheirmarriage;whenshemarriedhimhehadbeen
ablamelessofficialattachedtothelibraryoftheBritishMuseum—topublishthe
memoirsunderanothername,sothatshewasnotpubliclybranded.Hampstead


readthebookswithglee,andhadnoideathattheirwriterlivedinitsmidst.
Frederickwasalmostunknown,evenbysight,inHampstead.Heneverwentto
anyofitsgatherings.Whateveritwashedidinthewayofrecreationwasdone
inLondon,butheneverspokeofwhathedidorwhomhesaw;hemighthave
beenperfectlyfriendlessforanymentionheevermadeoffriendstohiswife.
Onlythevicarknewwherethemoneyfortheparishcamefrom,andheregarded
it,hetoldMrs.Arbuthnot,asamatterofhonournottomentionit.
Andatleastherlittlehousewasnothauntedbythelooselivedladies,for
Frederickdidhisworkawayfromhome.HehadtworoomsneartheBritish
Museum,whichwasthesceneofhisexhumations,andtherehewentevery
morning,andhecamebacklongafterhiswifewasasleep.Sometimeshedidnot
comebackatall.Sometimesshedidnotseehimforseveraldaystogether.Then
hewouldsuddenlyappearatbreakfast,havinglethimselfinwithhislatchkey
thenightbefore,veryjovialandgood-naturedandfree-handedandgladifshe
wouldallowhimtogivehersomething—awell-fedman,contentedwiththe
world;ajolly,full-blooded,satisfiedman.Andshewasalwaysgentle,and
anxiousthathiscoffeeshouldbeashelikedit.
Heseemedveryhappy.Life,sheoftenthought,howevermuchonetabulatedwas
yetamystery.Therewerealwayssomepeopleitwasimpossibletoplace.
Frederickwasoneofthem.Hedidn'tseemtobeartheremotestresemblanceto
theoriginalFrederick.Hedidn'tseemtohavetheleastneedofanyofthethings
heusedtosayweresoimportantandbeautiful—love,home,complete
communionofthoughts,completeimmersionineachother'sinterests.After
thoseearlypainfulattemptstoholdhimuptothepointfromwhichtheyhad
handinhandsosplendidlystarted,attemptsinwhichsheherselfhadgotterribly
hurtandtheFrederickshesupposedshehadmarriedwasmangledoutof
recognition,shehunghimupfinallybyherbedsideasthechiefsubjectofher
prayers,andlefthim,exceptforthose,entirelytoGod.ShehadlovedFrederick
toodeeplytobeablenowtodoanythingbutprayforhim.Hehadnoideathat
heneverwentoutofthehousewithoutherblessinggoingwithhimtoo,
hovering,likealittleechooffinishedlove,roundthatoncedearhead.Shedidn't
darethinkofhimasheusedtobe,ashehadseemedtohertobeinthose
marvelousfirstdaysoftheirlove-making,oftheirmarriage.Herchildhaddied;
shehadnothing,nobodyofherowntolavishherselfon.Thepoorbecameher
children,andGodtheobjectofherlove.Whatcouldbehappierthansuchalife,
shesometimesaskedherself;butherface,andparticularlyhereyes,continued
sad.


"Perhapswhenwe'reold...perhapswhenwearebothquiteold..."shewould
thinkwistfully.


Chapter3
TheownerofthemediaevalcastlewasanEnglishman,aMr.Briggs,whowasin
Londonatthemomentandwrotethatithadbedsenoughforeightpeople,
exclusiveofservants,threesitting-rooms,battlements,dungeons,andelectric
light.Therentwas£60forthemonth,theservants'wageswereextra,andhe
wantedreferences—hewantedassurancesthatthesecondhalfofhisrentwould
bepaid,thefirsthalfbeingpaidinadvance,andhewantedassurancesof
respectabilityfromasolicitor,oradoctor,oraclergyman.Hewasverypolitein
hisletter,explainingthathisdesireforreferenceswaswhatwasusualandshould
beregardedasamereformality.
Mrs.ArbuthnotandMrs.Wilkinshadnotthoughtofreferences,andtheyhad
notdreamedarentcouldbesohigh.Intheirmindshadfloatedsumslikethree
guineasaweek;orless,seeingthattheplacewassmallandold.
Sixtypoundsforasinglemonth.
Itstaggeredthem.
BeforeMrs.Arbuthnot'seyesroseupboots:endlessvistas,allthestoutboots
thatsixtypoundswouldbuy;andbesidestherenttherewouldbetheservants'
wagesandthefood,andtherailwayjourneysoutandhome.Whileasfor
references,thesedidindeedseemastumbling-block;itdidseemimpossibleto
giveanywithoutmakingtheirplanmorepublicthantheyhadintended.
Theyhadboth—evenMrs.Arbuthnot,luredforonceawayfromperfectcandour
bytherealizationofthegreatsavingoftroubleandcriticismanimperfect
explanationwouldproduce—theyhadboththoughtitwouldbeagoodplanto
giveout,eachtoherowncircle,theircirclesbeingluckilydistinct,thateachwas
goingtostaywithafriendwhohadahouseinItaly.Itwouldbetrueasfarasit
went—Mrs.Wilkinsassertedthatitwouldbequitetrue,butMrs.Arbuthnot


thoughtitwouldn'tbequite—anditwastheonlyway,Mrs.Wilkinssaid,tokeep
Mellershevenapproximatelyquiet.Tospendanyofhermoneyjustonthemere
gettingtoItalywouldcausehimindignation;whathewouldsayifheknewshe
wasrentingpartofamediaevalcastleonherownaccountMrs.Wilkins
preferrednottothink.Itwouldtakehimdaystosayitall;andthisalthoughit
washerveryownmoney,andnotapennyofithadeverbeenhis.
"ButIexpect,"shesaid,"yourhusbandisjustthesame.Iexpectallhusbandsare
alikeinthelongrun."
Mrs.Arbuthnotsaidnothing,becauseherreasonfornotwantingFrederickto
knowwastheexactlyoppositeone—Frederickwouldbyonlytoopleasedfor
hertogo,hewouldnotminditintheveryleast;indeed,hewouldhailsucha
manifestationofself-indulgenceandworldlinesswithanamusementthatwould
hurt,andurgehertohaveagoodtimeandnottohurryhomewithacrushing
detachment.Farbetter,shethought,tobemissedbyMellershthantobespedby
Frederick.Tobemissed,tobeneeded,fromwhatevermotive,was,shethought,
betterthanthecompletelonelinessofnotbeingmissedorneededatall.
Shethereforesaidnothing,andallowedMrs.Wilkinstoleapatherconclusions
unchecked.Buttheydid,bothofthem,forawholedayfeelthattheonlythingto
bedonewastorenouncethemediaevalcastle;anditwasinarrivingatthisbitter
decisionthattheyreallyrealizedhowacutehadbeentheirlongingforit.
ThenMrs.Arbuthnot,whosemindwastrainedinthefindingofwaysoutof
difficulties,foundawayoutofthereferencedifficulty;andsimultaneouslyMrs.
Wilkinshadavisionrevealingtoherhowtoreducetherent.
Mrs.Arbuthnot'splanwassimple,andcompletelysuccessful.Shetookthe
wholeoftherentinpersontotheowner,drawingitoutofherSavingsBank—
againshelookedfurtiveandapologetic,asiftheclerkmustknowthemoney
waswantedforpurposesofself-indulgence—and,goingupwiththesixten
poundnotesinherhand-bagtotheaddressneartheBromptonOratorywherethe
ownerlived,presentedthemtohim,waivingherrighttopayonlyhalf.And
whenhesawher,andherpartedhairandsoftdarkeyesandsoberapparel,and
heardhergravevoice,hetoldhernottobotheraboutwritingroundforthose
references.
"It'llbeallright,"hesaid,scribblingareceiptfortherent."Dositdown,won't


you?Nastyday,isn'tit?You'llfindtheoldcastlehaslotsofsunshine,whatever
elseithasn'tgot.Husbandgoing?"
Mrs.Arbuthnot,unusedtoanythingbutcandour,lookedtroubledatthisquestion
andbegantomurmurinarticulately,andtheowneratonceconcludedthatshe
wasawidow—awarone,ofcourse,forotherwidowswereold—andthathehad
beenafoolnottoguessit.
"Oh,I'msorry,"hesaid,turningredrightuptohisfairhair.
"Ididn'tmean—h'm,h'm,h'm—"
Heranhiseyeoverthereceipthehadwritten."Yes,Ithinkthat'sallright,"he
said,gettingupandgivingittoher."Now,"headded,takingthesixnotesshe
heldoutandsmiling,forMrs.Arbuthnotwasagreeabletolookat,"I'mricher,
andyou'rehappier.I'vegotmoney,andyou'vegotSanSalvatore.Iwondergot
whichisbest."
"Ithinkyouknow,"saidMrs.Arbuthnotwithhersweetsmile.
Helaughedandopenedthedoorforher.Itwasapitytheinterviewwasover.He
wouldhavelikedtoaskhertolunchwithhim.Shemadehimthinkofhis
mother,ofhisnurse,ofallthingskindandcomforting,besideshavingthe
attractionofnotbeinghismotherorhisnurse.
"Ihopeyou'llliketheoldplace,"hesaid,holdingherhandaminuteatthedoor.
Theveryfeelofherhand,eventhroughitsglove,wasreassuring;itwasthesort
ofhand,hethought,thatchildrenwouldliketoholdinthedark."InApril,you
know,it'ssimplyamassofflowers.Andthenthere'sthesea.Youmustwear
white.You'llfitinverywell.Thereareseveralportraitsofyouthere."
"Portraits?"
"Madonnas,youknow.There'soneonthestairsreallyexactlylikeyou."
Mrs.Arbuthnotsmiledandsaidgood-byeandthankedhim.Withouttheleast
troubleandatonceshehadgothimplacedinhispropercategory:hewasan
artistandofaneffervescenttemperament.
Sheshookhandsandleft,andhewishedshehadn't.Aftershewasgonehe
supposedthatheoughttohaveaskedforthosereferences,ifonlybecauseshe


Tài liệu bạn tìm kiếm đã sẵn sàng tải về

Tải bản đầy đủ ngay

×