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Chapter 9

"...When I first saw Derek I thought I should never feel anything but shy and hopeless. In four days, only in four days, the whole world is different.... And yet, if it hadn't been for that thunder-storm, I shouldn't have got over being shy in time. He has never loved anybody--nor have I. It can't often be like that--it makes it solemn. There's a picture somewhere--not a good one, I know--of a young Highlander being taken away by soldiers from his sweetheart. Derek is fiery and wild and shy and proud and dark--like the man in that picture. That last day along the hills--along and along--with the wind in our faces, I could have walked forever; and then Joyfields at the end! Their mother's wonderful; I'm afraid of her. But Uncle Tod is a perfect dear. I never saw any one before who noticed so many things that I didn't, and nothing that I did. I am sure he has in him what Mr. Cuthcott said we were all losing--the love of simple, natural conditions. And then, THE moment, when I stood with Derek at the end of the orchard, to say good-by. The field below covered with those moony-white flowers, and the cows all dark and sleepy; the holy feeling down there was wonderful, and in the branches over our heads, too, and the velvety, starry sky, and the dewiness against one's face, and the great, broad silence--it was all worshipping something, and I was worshipping--worshipping happiness. I WAS happy, and I think HE was. Perhaps I shall never be so happy again. When he kissed me I didn't think the whole world had so much happiness in it. I know now that I'm not cold a bit; I used to think I was. I believe I could go with him anywhere, and do anything he wanted. What would Dad think? Only the other day I was saying I wanted to know everything. One only knows through love. It's love that makes the world all beautiful--makes it like those pictures that seem to be wrapped in gold, makes it like a dream--no, not like a dream--like a wonderful tune. I suppose that's glamour--a goldeny, misty, lovely feeling, as if my soul were wandering about with his--not in my body at all. I want it to go on and on wandering--oh! I don't want it back in my body, all hard and inquisitive and aching! I shall never know anything so lovely as loving him and being loved. I don't want anything more--nothing! Stay with me, please--Happiness! Don't go away and leave me!... They frighten me, though; he frightens me--their idealism; wanting to do great things, and fight for justice. If only I'd been brought up more like that--but everything's been so different. It's their mother, I think, even more than themselves. I seem to have grown up just looking on at life as at a show; watching it, thinking about it, trying to understand--not living it at all. I must get over that; I will. I believe I can tell the very moment I began to love him. It was in the schoolroom the second evening. Sheila and I were sitting there just before dinner, and he came, in a rage, looking splendid. 'That footman put out everything just as if I were a baby--asked me for suspenders to fasten on my socks; hung the things on a chair in order, as if I couldn't find out for myself what to put on first; turned the tongues of my shoes out!--curled them over!' Then Derek looked at me and said: 'Do they do that for you?--And poor old Gaunt, who's sixty-six and lame, has three shillings a week to buy him everything. Just think of that! If we had the pluck of flies--' And he clenched his fists. But Sheila got up, looked hard at me, and said: 'That'll do, Derek.' Then he put his hand on my arm and said: 'It's only Cousin Nedda!' I began to love him then; and I believe he saw it, because I couldn't take my eyes away. But it was when Sheila sang 'The Red Sarafan,' after dinner, that I knew for certain. 'The Red Sarafan'--it's a wonderful song, all space and yearning, and yet such calm--it's the song of the soul; and he was looking at me while she sang. How can he love me? I am nothing--no good for anything! Alan calls him a 'run-up kid, all legs and wings.' Sometimes I hate Alan; he's conventional and stodgy--the funny thing is that he admires Sheila. She'll wake him up; she'll stick pins into him. No, I don't want Alan hurt--I want every one in the world to be happy, happy--as I am.... The next day was the thunder-storm. I never saw lightning so near--and didn't care a bit. If he were struck I knew I should be; that made it all right. When you love, you don't care, if only the something must happen to you both. When it was over, and we came out from behind the stack and walked home through the fields, all the beasts looked at us as if we were new and had never been seen before; and the air was ever so sweet, and that long, red line of cloud low down in the purple, and the elm-trees so heavy and almost black. He put his arm round me, and I let him.... It seems an age to wait till they come to stay with us next week. If only Mother likes them, and I can go and stay at Joyfields. Will she like them? It's all so different to what it would be if they were ordinary. But if he were ordinary I shouldn't love him; it's because there's nobody like him. That isn't a loverish fancy--you only have to look at him against Alan or Uncle Stanley or even Dad. Everything he does is so different; the way he walks, and the way he stands drawn back into himself, like a stag, and looks out as if he were burning and smouldering inside; even the way he smiles. Dad asked me what I thought of him! That was only the second day. I thought he was too proud, then. And Dad said: 'He ought to be in a Highland regiment; pity--great pity!' He is a fighter, of course. I don't like fighting, but if I'm not ready to, he'll stop loving me, perhaps. I've got to learn. O Darkness out there, help me! And Stars, help me! O God, make me brave, and I will believe in you forever! If you are the spirit that grows in things in spite of everything, until they're like the flowers, so perfect that we laugh and sing at their beauty, grow in me, too; make me beautiful and brave; then I shall be fit for him, alive or dead; and that's all I want. Every evening I shall stand in spirit with him at the end of that orchard in the darkness, under the trees above the white flowers and the sleepy cows, and perhaps I shall feel him kiss me again.... I'm glad I saw that old man Gaunt; it makes what they feel more real to me. He showed me that poor laborer Tryst, too, the one who mustn't marry his wife's sister, or have her staying in the house without marrying her. Why should people interfere with others like that? It does make your blood boil! Derek and Sheila have been brought up to be in sympathy with the poor and oppressed. If they had lived in London they would have been even more furious, I expect. And it's no use my saying to myself 'I don't know the laborer, I don't know his hardships,' because he is really just the country half of what I do know and see, here in London, when I don't hide my eyes. One talk showed me how desperately they feel; at night, in Sheila's room, when we had gone up, just we four. Alan began it; they didn't want to, I could see; but he was criticising what some of those Bigwigs had said--the 'Varsity makes boys awfully conceited. It was such a lovely night; we were all in the big, long window. A little bat kept flying past; and behind the copper-beech the moon was shining on the lake. Derek sat in the windowsill, and when he moved he touched me. To be touched by him gives me a warm shiver all through. I could hear him gritting his teeth at what Alan said--frightfully sententious, just like a newspaper: 'We can't go into land reform from feeling, we must go into it from reason.' Then Derek broke out: 'Walk through this country as we've walked; see the pigsties the people live in; see the water they drink; see the tiny patches of ground they have; see the way their roofs let in the rain; see their peeky children; see their patience and their hopelessness; see them working day in and day out, and coming on the parish at the end! See all that, and then talk about reason! Reason! It's the coward's excuse, and the rich man's excuse, for doing nothing. It's the excuse of the man who takes jolly good care not to see for fear that he may come to feel! Reason never does anything, it's too reasonable. The thing is to act; then perhaps reason will be jolted into doing something.' But Sheila touched his arm, and he stopped very suddenly. She doesn't trust us. I shall always be being pushed away from him by her. He's just twenty, and I shall be eighteen in a week; couldn't we marry now at once? Then, whatever happened, I couldn't be cut off from him. If I could tell Dad, and ask him to help me! But I can't--it seems desecration to talk about it, even to Dad. All the way up in the train to-day, coming back home, I was struggling not to show anything; though it's hateful to keep things from Dad. Love alters everything; it melts up the whole world and makes it afresh. Love is the sun of our spirits, and it's the wind. Ah, and the rain, too! But I won't think of that!... I wonder if he's told Aunt Kirsteen!..."


John Galsworthy