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Amaryllis came up to London the following week to say good-bye to John,
so Verisschenzko did not go down to Ardayre to see her.
John's leave-taking was characteristic. He could not break through the
iron band of his reserve, he longed to say something loving to her, but
the more deeply he felt things the greater was his difficulty in
self-expression. And the knowledge of the secret he hid in his heart made
him still more ill at ease with Amaryllis. She too was changed--he felt
it at once. Her grey eyes were mysterious--they had grown from a girl's
into a woman's. She did not mention the coming child until he did--and
then it was she who showed desire to change the conversation. All this
pained John, while he felt that he himself was the cause--he knew that he
had frozen her. He thought over his marriage from the beginning. He
thought of the night when he had sat on the bench outside her window
until dawn, of the agony he suffered, realising at last that the axe had
indeed fallen, and that some day she must know the truth. And would she
reproach him and say that he should have warned her that this possibility
might occur? He remembered his talk with Lemon Bridges. He had been going
to give him a definite answer that morning, but John had missed the
appointment, so they spoke at the ball.
Would it have been better if he had let himself go and fondly kissed and
netted Amaryllis? Or would that have been misleading and still more
unkind? It was too late now, in any case. He must learn to take the only
satisfaction which was left to him, the knowledge that there was the hope
of a true Ardayre to carry on.
He talked long to his wife of his desires for the child's education,
should it prove a boy, and he should not return, and Amaryllis listened
Her mind was filled with wonder all the time. She had been through much
emotion since the passionate outburst after Denzil had gone, but was
quite calm now. She had classified things in her mind. She felt no
resentment against John. He ought not to have married her perhaps, but it
might be that at the time he did not know. Only she wondered when she
looked at him sitting opposite her, talking gravely about the baby, in
the library of Brook Street, how he could possibly be feeling. What an
immense influence the thought of the family must have in his life. She
understood it in a great measure herself. She remembered Verisschenzko's
words upon the occasions when he had spoken to her about it, and of her
duties towards it, and how she must uphold it. She particularly
remembered that which he had said when they walked by the lake, and he
had seemed to be transmitting some message to her, which she had not
understood at the time. Did Verisschenzko know then that John must always
be heirless and had he been suggesting to her that the line should go on
through her? Some of the pride in it all had come to her before she had
left the dark church after parting with Denzil. Perhaps she was
fulfilling destiny. She must not be angry with John. She did not try to
cease from loving Denzil. She had not knowingly been unfaithful to
John--and now, she would be faithful to Denzil, he was her love and her
mate. Indeed, even in the fortnight which elapsed between her farewell
to him, and now when she was going to say farewell to John, she had many
months of tender consolation in the thought of the baby--Denzil's son.
She could revive and revel in that exquisite exaltation which she had
experienced at first and which John had withered. Denzil far surpassed
even the imagined lover into which she had turned John. So now Denzil had
become the reality, and John the dream.
She felt sorry for her husband too. She was fine enough to understand and
divine his difficulties.
She found that she felt just nothing for him but a kindly affection. He
might have been Archie de la Paule--or any of her other cousins. She knew
that her whole being was given to Denzil--who represented her dream.
She tried to be very kind to John, and when he kissed her before
starting, the tears came to her eyes.
Poor good, cold John!
And when he had departed--all the de la Paule family had been there at
Brook Street also--Lady de la Paule wondered at her niece's set face. But
what a mercy it was the marriage was such a success after all and that
there might be a son!
So both Denzil and John went to the war--and Amaryllis was alone.
Verisschenzko had returned to Paris without seeing her--and it was the
beginning of December before he was in England again and rang her up at
Brook Street where she had returned for a week, asking if he might call.
"Of course!" she said, and so he came.
The library was looking its best. Amaryllis had a knack of arranging
flowers and cushions and such things--her rooms always breathed an air of
home and repose, and Verisschenzko was struck by the sweet scent and the
warmth and cosiness when he came in out of the gloomy fog.
She rose to greet him, her face more ethereal still than when he had
dined with her.
"You are looking like an angel," he said, when she had given him some tea
and they were seated on the big sofa before the fire. "What have you to
tell me? I know that you are going to have a child; I am very interested
about it all."
Amaryllis blushed a soft pink--he went on with perfect calm.
"You blush as though I had said something unheard of! How custom rules
you still! For a blush is caused by feeling some sort of shame or
discomfort, or agitating surprise at some discovery. We may get red with
anger, or get pale, but that bright, sudden flush always has some
self-conscious element of shame in it. It is just convention which has
wrapped the most natural and divine thing in life round with discomfort
in this way. You are deeply to be congratulated that you are going to
have a baby, do you not think so?"
"Of course I do--" and Amaryllis controlled her uneasy bashfulness. She
really wished to talk to her friend.
"Who told you about it?" she asked.
Amaryllis drew in her breath suddenly. Verisschenzko's eyes were looking
her through and through.
"Yes,--he is glad that there may be the possibility of a son for
"How do you feel about it? It is an enormous responsibility to have
"I feel that--I want to do the wisest things from the beginning--"
"You must take great care of yourself, and always remain serene. Never
let your mind become agitated by speculation as to the _presently_, keep
all thoughts fixed upon the now."
Amaryllis looked at him a little troubled. What did he know? Something
tangible, or were these views of his just applicable to any case? Her
eyes were full of question and pleading.
"What do you want to ask me?" His eyes narrowed in contemplating her.
"I--I--do not know."
"Yes, you want to hear of Denzil--is it not so?"
She clasped her hands.
"He is well--I heard from him yesterday. He asked me to come to you. His
mother is still at Bath--he wishes you to meet."
Suddenly the impossibleness of everything seemed to come over Amaryllis.
She rose quickly and threw out her hands:
"Oh! if I could only understand the meaning of things, my friend! I am
afraid to think!"
"You love Denzil very much--yes?"
"Sit down and let us talk about it, lady of my soul. I am your
She sank into her seat beside him, among the green silk pillows--and he
leaned back and watched her for a while.
"He fulfils some imaginary picture, _hein?_ You had not seen him really
until we all dined?"
"You were bound to be drawn to him--he is everything a woman could
desire--but it was not only that--tell me?"
"He was what I had hoped John would be--the likeness is so great--"
"It is much deeper than that--nature was drawing you unconsciously."
She covered her face with her hands. It seemed as if Verisschenzko must
know the truth. Had Denzil told him, or was it his wonderful intuition
which was enlightening him now, or was it just her sensitive conscience?
"You see custom and convention and false shames have so distorted most
natural things that no one has been taught to understand them. Men were
intended in the scheme of things to love women and to have children;
women were meant to love men and to desire to be mothers. These instincts
are primordial, the life of the world depends upon them. They have been
distorted and abused into sins and vices and excesses and every evil by
civilisation, so that now we rule them out of every calculation in
judging of a circumstance; if we are 'nice' people they are taboo.
Supposing we so suppressed and distorted and misused the other two
primitive instincts, to obtain food and to kill one's enemy, the world
would have ended long ago. We have done what we could to distort those
also, but nothing to the extent to which we have debased the nobility of
the recreative instinct!"
Amaryllis listened attentively, and he went on:
"It is admitted that we require food to live--and that if we are
threatened with death from an enemy we have the right to kill him in
self-defence. But it is never admitted that it is equally natural that we
desire to recreate our species. Under certain circumstances of vows and
restrictions, we are permitted to take one partner for life--and--if this
person turns out to be a fraud for the purpose for which we made the
promise, we may not have another. Supposing hungry savages were given
covered dishes purporting to contain food, and upon lifting the cover one
of them discovered his dish was empty--what would happen? He would bear
it as long as he could, but when he was starving he would certainly try
to steal some food from his neighbour--and might even knock him on the
head and obtain it! Civilisation has controlled primitive instincts, so
that a civilised man might perhaps prefer to die himself from starvation
rather than kill or steal. He is master of his actions, _but he is not
master of the effects of his abstinence--Nature wins these,_ and whatever
would be the natural physical result of his abstinence occurs. Now you
can reason this thought out in all its branches, and you will see where
it leads to--"
Amaryllis mused for some moments--and she saw the justice of his
"But for hundreds of years there have been priests and nuns and companies
of ascetics," she remarked tentatively.
"There have been hundreds of lunatics also--and madness is not on the
decrease. When you destroy nature you always produce the abnormal, when
life survives from your treatment."
"You think that it is natural that one should have a mate then?"--she
"It is more important than the keeping of vows?"
"No, the spirit is degraded by the knowledge of broken vows--only one
must have intelligence to realise what the price of keeping them will be,
and then summon strength enough to carry out whatever course is best for
the soul, or best for the ideal one is living for. Sometimes that end
requires ruthlessness, and sometimes that end requires that we starve in
one way or another, so _we must_ be prepared for sacrifice perhaps of
life, or what makes life worth living, if we are strong enough to keep
vows which we have been short-sighted enough to make too hastily."
Amaryllis gazed in front of her--then she asked softly:
"Do you think it is wicked of me to be thinking of Denzil--not John?"
"No--it is quite natural--the wickedness would be if you pretended to
John that you were thinking of him. Deception is wickedness."
"Everything is so sad now. Both have gone to fight. I do not dare to
think at all."
"Yes, you must think--you must think of your child and draw to it all the
good forces, so that it may come to life unhampered by any weakness of
balance in you. That must be your constant self-discipline. Keep serene
and try to live in a world of noble ideals and serenity. Now I am going
to play to you--"
Amaryllis had never heard Verisschenzko play. He arranged the sofa
cushions and made her lie comfortably among them, then he went to the
piano--and presently it seemed to her that her soul was floating upward
into realms of perfect content. She had never even dreamed of such
playing. It was like nothing she had ever heard before, the sounds
touched all the highest chords in her spirit. She did not ask whose was
the music. She seemed to know that it was Verisschenzko's own, which was
just talking to her, telling her to be calm and brave and true.
He played for a whole hour--and at last softly and yet more softly, and
when he finished he saw that she was quietly asleep.
A smile as tender as a mother's came into his rugged face, and he stole
from the room noiselessly, breathing a blessing as he passed.
And somewhere in France, Denzil and John were thinking of her too, each
with great love in his heart.
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