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CHAPTER XV

When on the afternoon of that same day Miltoun did not come, all the
chilly doubts which his presence alone kept away, crowded thick and
fast into the mind of one only too prone to distrust her own
happiness. It could not last--how could it?

His nature and her own were so far apart! Even in that giving of
herself which had been such happiness, she had yet doubted; for there
was so much in him that was to her mysterious. All that he loved in
poetry and nature, had in it something craggy and culminating. The
soft and fiery, the subtle and harmonious, seemed to leave him cold.
He had no particular love for all those simple natural things, birds,
bees, animals, trees, and flowers, that seemed to her precious and
divine.

Though it was not yet four o'clock she was already beginning to droop
like a flower that wants water. But she sat down to her piano,
resolutely, till tea came; playing on and on with a spirit only half
present, the other half of her wandering in the Town, seeking for
Miltoun. After tea she tried first to read, then to sew, and once
more came back to her piano. The clock struck six; and as if its
last stroke had broken the armour of her mind, she felt suddenly sick
with anxiety. Why was he so long? But she kept on playing, turning
the pages without taking in the notes, haunted by the idea that he
might again have fallen ill. Should she telegraph? What good, when
she could not tell in the least where he might be? And all the
unreasoning terror of not knowing where the loved one is, beset her
so that her hands, in sheer numbness, dropped from the keys. Unable
to keep still, now, she wandered from window to door, out into the
little hall, and back hastily to the window. Over her anxiety
brooded a darkness, compounded of vague growing fears. What if it
were the end? What if he had chosen this as the most merciful way of
leaving her? But surely he would never be so cruel! Close on the
heels of this too painful thought came reaction; and she told herself
that she was a fool. He was at the House; something quite ordinary
was keeping him. It was absurd to be anxious! She would have to get
used to this now. To be a drag on him would be dreadful. Sooner
than that she would rather--yes--rather he never came back! And she
took up her book, determined to read quietly till he came. But the
moment she sat down her fears returned with redoubled force-the cold
sickly horrible feeling of uncertainty, of the knowledge that she
could do nothing but wait till she was relieved by something over
which she had no control. And in the superstition that to stay there
in the window where she could see him come, was keeping him from her,
she went into her bedroom. From there she could watch the sunset
clouds wine-dark over the river. A little talking wind shivered
along the houses; the dusk began creeping in. She would not turn on
the light, unwilling to admit that it was really getting late, but
began to change her dress, lingering desperately over every little
detail of her toilette, deriving therefrom a faint, mysterious
comfort, trying to make herself feel beautiful. From sheer dread of
going back before he came, she let her hair fall, though it was quite
smooth and tidy, and began brushing it. Suddenly she thought with
horror of her efforts at adornment--by specially preparing for him,
she must seem presumptuous to Fate. At any little sound she stopped
and stood listening--save for her hair and eyes, as white from head
to foot as a double narcissus flower in the dusk, bending towards
some faint tune played to it somewhere oft in the fields. But all
those little sounds ceased, one after another--they had meant
nothing; and each time, her spirit returning--within the pale walls
of the room, began once more to inhabit her lingering fingers.
During that hour in her bedroom she lived through years. It was dark
when she left it.




The Patrician by John Galsworthy
Category:
Contemporary

General Fiction
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