Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter XII

When, walking from Lennan's studio, Olive reentered her dark little hall, she approached its alcove and glanced first at the hat-stand. They were all there--the silk hat, the bowler, the straw! So he was in! And within each hat, in turn, she seemed to see her husband's head--with the face turned away from her--so distinctly as to note the leathery look of the skin of his cheek and neck. And she thought: "I pray that he will die! It is wicked, but I pray that he will die!" Then, quietly, that he might not hear, she mounted to her bedroom. The door into his dressing-room was open, and she went to shut it. He was standing there at the window.

"Ah! You're in! Been anywhere?"

"To the National Gallery."

It was the first direct lie she had ever told him, and she was surprised to feel neither shame nor fear, but rather a sense of pleasure at defeating him. He was the enemy, all the more the enemy because she was still fighting against herself, and, so strangely, in his behalf.

"Alone?"

"Yes."

"Rather boring, wasn't it? I should have thought you'd have got young Lennan to take you there."

"Why?"

By instinct she had seized on the boldest answer; and there was nothing to be told from her face. If he were her superior in strength, he was her inferior in quickness.

He lowered his eyes, and said:

"His line, isn't it?"

With a shrug she turned away and shut the door. She sat down on the edge of her bed, very still. In that little passage of wits she had won, she could win in many such; but the full hideousness of things had come to her. Lies! lies! That was to be her life! That; or to say farewell to all she now cared for, to cause despair not only in herself, but in her lover, and--for what? In order that her body might remain at the disposal of that man in the next room--her spirit having flown from him for ever. Such were the alternatives, unless those words: "Then come to me," were to be more than words. Were they? Could they be? They would mean such happiness if--if his love for her were more than a summer love? And hers for him? Was it--were they--more than summer loves? How know? And, without knowing, how give such pain to everyone? How break a vow she had thought herself quite above breaking? How make such a desperate departure from all the traditions and beliefs in which she had been brought up! But in the very nature of passion is that which resents the intrusion of hard and fast decisions. . . . And suddenly she thought: If our love cannot stay what it is, and if I cannot yet go to him for always, is there not still another way?

She got up and began to dress for dinner. Standing before her glass she was surprised to see that her face showed no signs of the fears and doubts that were now her comrades. Was it because, whatever happened, she loved and was beloved! She wondered how she had looked when he kissed her so passionately; had she shown her joy before she checked him?

In her garden by the river were certain flowers that, for all her care, would grow rank and of the wrong colour--wanting a different soil. Was she, then, like those flowers of hers? Ah! Let her but have her true soil, and she would grow straight and true enough!

Then in the doorway she saw her husband. She had never, till to- day, quite hated him; but now she did, with a real blind horrible feeling. What did he want of her standing there with those eyes fixed on her--those forceful eyes, touched with blood, that seemed at once to threaten, covet, and beseech! She drew her wrapper close round her shoulders. At that he came up and said:

"Look at me, Olive!"

Against instinct and will she obeyed, and he went on:

"Be careful! I say, be careful!"

Then he took her by the shoulders, and raised her up to him. And, quite unnerved, she stood without resisting.

"I want you," he said; "I mean to keep you."

Then, suddenly letting her go, he covered his eyes with his hands. That frightened her most--it was so unlike him. Not till now had she understood between what terrifying forces she was balancing. She did not speak, but her face grew white. From behind those hands he uttered a sound, not quite like a human noise, turned sharply, and went out. She dropped back into the chair before her mirror, overcome by the most singular feeling she had ever known; as if she had lost everything, even her love for Lennan, and her longing for his love. What was it all worth, what was anything worth in a world like this? All was loathsome, herself loathsome! All was a void! Hateful, hateful, hateful! It was like having no heart at all! And that same evening, when her husband had gone down to the House, she wrote to Lennan:

"Our love must never turn to earthiness as it might have this afternoon. Everything is black and hopeless. He suspects. For you to come here is impossible, and too dreadful for us both. And I have no right to ask you to be furtive, I can't bear to think of you like that, and I can't bear it myself. I don't know what to do or say. Don't try to see me yet. I must have time, I must think."

John Galsworthy