THE VOYAGE OUT
Whether too slight or too vague the ties that bind people casually meeting in a hotel at midnight, they possess one advantage at least over the bonds which unite the elderly, who have lived together once and so must live for ever. Slight they may be, but vivid and genuine, merely because the power to break them is within the grasp of each, and there is no reason for continuance except a true desire that continue they shall. When two people have been married for years they seem to become unconscious of each other’s bodily presence so that they move as if alone, speak aloud things which they do not expect to be answered, and in general seem to experience all the comfort of solitude without its loneliness. The joint lives of Ridley and Helen had arrived at this stage of community, and it was often necessary for one or the other to recall with an effort whether a thing had been said or only thought, shared or dreamt in private. At four o’clock in the afternoon two or three days later Mrs. Ambrose was standing brushing her hair, while her husband was in the dressing–room which opened out of her room, and occasionally, through the cascade of water—he was washing his face—she caught exclamations, “So it goes on year after year; I wish, I wish, I wish I could make an end of it,” to which she paid no attention.
“It’s white? Or only brown?” Thus she herself murmured, examining a hair which gleamed suspiciously among the brown. She pulled it out and laid it on the dressing–table. She was criticising her own appearance, or rather approving of it, standing a little way back from the glass and looking at her own face with superb pride and melancholy, when her husband appeared in the doorway in his shirt sleeves, his face half obscured by a towel.
“You often tell me I don’t notice things,” he remarked.
“Tell me if this is a white hair, then?” she replied. She laid the hair on his hand.
“There’s not a white hair on your head,” he exclaimed.
“Ah, Ridley, I begin to doubt,” she sighed; and bowed her head under his eyes so that he might judge, but the inspection produced only a kiss where the line of parting ran, and husband and wife then proceeded to move about the room, casually murmuring.
“What was that you were saying?” Helen remarked, after an interval of conversation which no third person could have understood.
“Rachel—you ought to keep an eye upon Rachel,” he observed significantly, and Helen, though she went on brushing her hair, looked at him. His observations were apt to be true.
“Young gentlemen don’t interest themselves in young women’s education without a motive,” he remarked.
“Oh, Hirst,” said Helen.
“Hirst and Hewet, they’re all the same to me—all covered with spots,” he replied. “He advises her to read Gibbon. Did you know that?”
Helen did not know that, but she would not allow herself inferior to her husband in powers of observation. She merely said:
“Nothing would surprise me. Even that dreadful flying man we met at the dance—even Mr. Dalloway—even—”
“I advise you to be circumspect,” said Ridley. “There’s Willoughby, remember—Willoughby”; he pointed at a letter.
Helen looked with a sigh at an envelope which lay upon her dressing–table. Yes, there lay Willoughby, curt, inexpressive, perpetually jocular, robbing a whole continent of mystery, enquiring after his daughter’s manners and morals—hoping she wasn’t a bore, and bidding them pack her off to him on board the very next ship if she were—and then grateful and affectionate with suppressed emotion, and then half a page about his own triumphs over wretched little natives who went on strike and refused to load his ships, until he roared English oaths at them, “popping my head out of the window just as I was, in my shirt sleeves. The beggars had the sense to scatter.”
“If Theresa married Willoughby,” she remarked, turning the page with a hairpin, “one doesn’t see what’s to prevent Rachel—”
But Ridley was now off on grievances of his own connected with the washing of his shirts, which somehow led to the frequent visits of Hughling Elliot, who was a bore, a pedant, a dry stick of a man, and yet Ridley couldn’t simply point at the door and tell him to go. The truth of it was, they saw too many people. And so on and so on, more conjugal talk pattering softly and unintelligibly, until they were both ready to go down to tea.
The first thing that caught Helen’s eye as she came downstairs was a carriage at the door, filled with skirts and feathers nodding on the tops of hats. She had only time to gain the drawing–room before two names were oddly mispronounced by the Spanish maid, and Mrs. Thornbury came in slightly in advance of Mrs. Wilfrid Flushing.
“Mrs. Wilfrid Flushing,” said Mrs. Thornbury, with a wave of her hand. “A friend of our common friend Mrs. Raymond Parry.”
Mrs. Flushing shook hands energetically. She was a woman of forty perhaps, very well set up and erect, splendidly robust, though not as tall as the upright carriage of her body made her appear.
She looked Helen straight in the face and said, “You have a charmin’ house.”
She had a strongly marked face, her eyes looked straight at you, and though naturally she was imperious in her manner she was nervous at the same time. Mrs. Thornbury acted as interpreter, making things smooth all round by a series of charming commonplace remarks.
“I’ve taken it upon myself, Mr. Ambrose,” she said, “to promise that you will be so kind as to give Mrs. Flushing the benefit of your experience. I’m sure no one here knows the country as well as you do. No one takes such wonderful long walks. No one, I’m sure, has your encyclopaedic knowledge upon every subject. Mr. Wilfrid Flushing is a collector. He has discovered really beautiful things already. I had no notion that the peasants were so artistic—though of course in the past—”
“Not old things—new things,” interrupted Mrs. Flushing curtly. “That is, if he takes my advice.”
The Ambroses had not lived for many years in London without knowing something of a good many people, by name at least, and Helen remembered hearing of the Flushings. Mr. Flushing was a man who kept an old furniture shop; he had always said he would not marry because most women have red cheeks, and would not take a house because most houses have narrow staircases, and would not eat meat because most animals bleed when they are killed; and then he had married an eccentric aristocratic lady, who certainly was not pale, who looked as if she ate meat, who had forced him to do all the things he most disliked—and this then was the lady. Helen looked at her with interest. They had moved out into the garden, where the tea was laid under a tree, and Mrs. Flushing was helping herself to cherry jam. She had a peculiar jerking movement of the body when she spoke, which caused the canary–coloured plume on her hat to jerk too. Her small but finely–cut and vigorous features, together with the deep red of lips and cheeks, pointed to many generations of well–trained and well–nourished ancestors behind her.
“Nothin’ that’s more than twenty years old interests me,” she continued. “Mouldy old pictures, dirty old books, they stick ’em in museums when they’re only fit for burnin’.”
“I quite agree,” Helen laughed. “But my husband spends his life in digging up manuscripts which nobody wants.” She was amused by Ridley’s expression of startled disapproval.
“There’s a clever man in London called John who paints ever so much better than the old masters,” Mrs. Flushing continued. “His pictures excite me—nothin’ that’s old excites me.”
“But even his pictures will become old,” Mrs. Thornbury intervened.
“Then I’ll have ’em burnt, or I’ll put it in my will,” said Mrs. Flushing.
“And Mrs. Flushing lived in one of the most beautiful old houses in England—Chillingley,” Mrs. Thornbury explained to the rest of them.
“If I’d my way I’d burn that to–morrow,” Mrs. Flushing laughed. She had a laugh like the cry of a jay, at once startling and joyless.
“What does any sane person want with those great big houses?” she demanded. “If you go downstairs after dark you’re covered with black beetles, and the electric lights always goin’ out. What would you do if spiders came out of the tap when you turned on the hot water?” she demanded, fixing her eye on Helen.
Mrs. Ambrose shrugged her shoulders with a smile.
“This is what I like,” said Mrs. Flushing. She jerked her head at the Villa. “A little house in a garden. I had one once in Ireland. One could lie in bed in the mornin’ and pick roses outside the window with one’s toes.”
“And the gardeners, weren’t they surprised?” Mrs. Thornbury enquired.
“There were no gardeners,” Mrs. Flushing chuckled. “Nobody but me and an old woman without any teeth. You know the poor in Ireland lose their teeth after they’re twenty. But you wouldn’t expect a politician to understand that—Arthur Balfour wouldn’t understand that.”
Ridley sighed that he never expected any one to understand anything, least of all politicians.
“However,” he concluded, “there’s one advantage I find in extreme old age—nothing matters a hang except one’s food and one’s digestion. All I ask is to be left alone to moulder away in solitude. It’s obvious that the world’s going as fast as it can to—the Nethermost Pit, and all I can do is to sit still and consume as much of my own smoke as possible.” He groaned, and with a melancholy glance laid the jam on his bread, for he felt the atmosphere of this abrupt lady distinctly unsympathetic.
“I always contradict my husband when he says that,” said Mrs. Thornbury sweetly. “You men! Where would you be if it weren’t for the women!”
“Read the Symposium,” said Ridley grimly.
“Symposium?” cried Mrs. Flushing. “That’s Latin or Greek? Tell me, is there a good translation?”
“No,” said Ridley. “You will have to learn Greek.”
Mrs. Flushing cried, “Ah, ah, ah! I’d rather break stones in the road. I always envy the men who break stones and sit on those nice little heaps all day wearin’ spectacles. I’d infinitely rather break stones than clean out poultry runs, or feed the cows, or—”
Here Rachel came up from the lower garden with a book in her hand.
“What’s that book?” said Ridley, when she had shaken hands.
“It’s Gibbon,” said Rachel as she sat down.
“The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?” said Mrs. Thornbury. “A very wonderful book, I know. My dear father was always quoting it at us, with the result that we resolved never to read a line.”
“Gibbon the historian?” enquired Mrs. Flushing. “I connect him with some of the happiest hours of my life. We used to lie in bed and read Gibbon—about the massacres of the Christians, I remember—when we were supposed to be asleep. It’s no joke, I can tell you, readin’ a great big book, in double columns, by a night–light, and the light that comes through a chink in the door. Then there were the moths—tiger moths, yellow moths, and horrid cockchafers. Louisa, my sister, would have the window open. I wanted it shut. We fought every night of our lives over that window. Have you ever seen a moth dyin’ in a night–light?” she enquired.
Again there was an interruption. Hewet and Hirst appeared at the drawing–room window and came up to the tea–table.
Rachel’s heart beat hard. She was conscious of an extraordinary intensity in everything, as though their presence stripped some cover off the surface of things; but the greetings were remarkably commonplace.
“Excuse me,” said Hirst, rising from his chair directly he had sat down. He went into the drawing–room, and returned with a cushion which he placed carefully upon his seat.
“Rheumatism,” he remarked, as he sat down for the second time.
“The result of the dance?” Helen enquired.
“Whenever I get at all run down I tend to be rheumatic,” Hirst stated. He bent his wrist back sharply. “I hear little pieces of chalk grinding together!”
Rachel looked at him. She was amused, and yet she was respectful; if such a thing could be, the upper part of her face seemed to laugh, and the lower part to check its laughter.
Hewet picked up the book that lay on the ground.
“You like this?” he asked in an undertone.
“No, I don’t like it,” she replied. She had indeed been trying all the afternoon to read it, and for some reason the glory which she had perceived at first had faded, and, read as she would, she could not grasp the meaning with her mind.
“It goes round, round, round, like a roll of oil–cloth,” she hazarded. Evidently she meant Hewet alone to hear her words, but Hirst demanded, “What d’you mean?”
She was instantly ashamed of her figure of speech, for she could not explain it in words of sober criticism.
“Surely it’s the most perfect style, so far as style goes, that’s ever been invented,” he continued. “Every sentence is practically perfect, and the wit—”
“Ugly in body, repulsive in mind,” she thought, instead of thinking about Gibbon’s style. “Yes, but strong, searching, unyielding in mind.” She looked at his big head, a disproportionate part of which was occupied by the forehead, and at the direct, severe eyes.
“I give you up in despair,” he said. He meant it lightly, but she took it seriously, and believed that her value as a human being was lessened because she did not happen to admire the style of Gibbon. The others were talking now in a group about the native villages which Mrs. Flushing ought to visit.
“I despair too,” she said impetuously. “How are you going to judge people merely by their minds?”
“You agree with my spinster Aunt, I expect,” said St. John in his jaunty manner, which was always irritating because it made the person he talked to appear unduly clumsy and in earnest. “’Be good, sweet maid’—I thought Mr. Kingsley and my Aunt were now obsolete.”
“One can be very nice without having read a book,” she asserted. Very silly and simple her words sounded, and laid her open to derision.
“Did I ever deny it?” Hirst enquired, raising his eyebrows.
Most unexpectedly Mrs. Thornbury here intervened, either because it was her mission to keep things smooth or because she had long wished to speak to Mr. Hirst, feeling as she did that young men were her sons.
“I have lived all my life with people like your Aunt, Mr. Hirst,” she said, leaning forward in her chair. Her brown squirrel–like eyes became even brighter than usual. “They have never heard of Gibbon. They only care for their pheasants and their peasants. They are great big men who look so fine on horseback, as people must have done, I think, in the days of the great wars. Say what you like against them—they are animal, they are unintellectual; they don’t read themselves, and they don’t want others to read, but they are some of the finest and the kindest human beings on the face of the earth! You would be surprised at some of the stories I could tell. You have never guessed, perhaps, at all the romances that go on in the heart of the country. There are the people, I feel, among whom Shakespeare will be born if he is ever born again. In those old houses, up among the Downs—”
“My Aunt,” Hirst interrupted, “spends her life in East Lambeth among the degraded poor. I only quoted my Aunt because she is inclined to persecute people she calls ‘intellectual,’ which is what I suspect Miss Vinrace of doing. It’s all the fashion now. If you’re clever it’s always taken for granted that you’re completely without sympathy, understanding, affection—all the things that really matter. Oh, you Christians! You’re the most conceited, patronising, hypocritical set of old humbugs in the kingdom! Of course,” he continued, “I’m the first to allow your country gentlemen great merits. For one thing, they’re probably quite frank about their passions, which we are not. My father, who is a clergyman in Norfolk, says that there is hardly a squire in the country who does not—”
“But about Gibbon?” Hewet interrupted. The look of nervous tension which had come over every face was relaxed by the interruption.
“You find him monotonous, I suppose. But you know—” He opened the book, and began searching for passages to read aloud, and in a little time he found a good one which he considered suitable. But there was nothing in the world that bored Ridley more than being read aloud to, and he was besides scrupulously fastidious as to the dress and behaviour of ladies. In the space of fifteen minutes he had decided against Mrs. Flushing on the ground that her orange plume did not suit her complexion, that she spoke too loud, that she crossed her legs, and finally, when he saw her accept a cigarette that Hewet offered her, he jumped up, exclaiming something about “bar parlours,” and left them. Mrs. Flushing was evidently relieved by his departure. She puffed her cigarette, stuck her legs out, and examined Helen closely as to the character and reputation of their common friend Mrs. Raymond Parry. By a series of little strategems she drove her to define Mrs. Parry as somewhat elderly, by no means beautiful, very much made up—an insolent old harridan, in short, whose parties were amusing because one met odd people; but Helen herself always pitied poor Mr. Parry, who was understood to be shut up downstairs with cases full of gems, while his wife enjoyed herself in the drawing–room. “Not that I believe what people say against her—although she hints, of course—” Upon which Mrs. Flushing cried out with delight:
“She’s my first cousin! Go on—go on!”
When Mrs. Flushing rose to go she was obviously delighted with her new acquaintances. She made three or four different plans for meeting or going on an expedition, or showing Helen the things they had bought, on her way to the carriage. She included them all in a vague but magnificent invitation.
As Helen returned to the garden again, Ridley’s words of warning came into her head, and she hesitated a moment and looked at Rachel sitting between Hirst and Hewet. But she could draw no conclusions, for Hewet was still reading Gibbon aloud, and Rachel, for all the expression she had, might have been a shell, and his words water rubbing against her ears, as water rubs a shell on the edge of a rock.
Hewet’s voice was very pleasant. When he reached the end of the period Hewet stopped, and no one volunteered any criticism.
“I do adore the aristocracy!” Hirst exclaimed after a moment’s pause. “They’re so amazingly unscrupulous. None of us would dare to behave as that woman behaves.”
“What I like about them,” said Helen as she sat down, “is that they’re so well put together. Naked, Mrs. Flushing would be superb. Dressed as she dresses, it’s absurd, of course.”
“Yes,” said Hirst. A shade of depression crossed his face. “I’ve never weighed more than ten stone in my life,” he said, “which is ridiculous, considering my height, and I’ve actually gone down in weight since we came here. I daresay that accounts for the rheumatism.” Again he jerked his wrist back sharply, so that Helen might hear the grinding of the chalk stones. She could not help smiling.
“It’s no laughing matter for me, I assure you,” he protested. “My mother’s a chronic invalid, and I’m always expecting to be told that I’ve got heart disease myself. Rheumatism always goes to the heart in the end.”
“For goodness’ sake, Hirst,” Hewet protested; “one might think you were an old cripple of eighty. If it comes to that, I had an aunt who died of cancer myself, but I put a bold face on it—” He rose and began tilting his chair backwards and forwards on its hind legs. “Is any one here inclined for a walk?” he said. “There’s a magnificent walk, up behind the house. You come out on to a cliff and look right down into the sea. The rocks are all red; you can see them through the water. The other day I saw a sight that fairly took my breath away—about twenty jelly–fish, semi–transparent, pink, with long streamers, floating on the top of the waves.”
“Sure they weren’t mermaids?” said Hirst. “It’s much too hot to climb uphill.” He looked at Helen, who showed no signs of moving.
“Yes, it’s too hot,” Helen decided.
There was a short silence.
“I’d like to come,” said Rachel.
“But she might have said that anyhow,” Helen thought to herself as Hewet and Rachel went away together, and Helen was left alone with St. John, to St. John’s obvious satisfaction.
He may have been satisfied, but his usual difficulty in deciding that one subject was more deserving of notice than another prevented him from speaking for some time. He sat staring intently at the head of a dead match, while Helen considered—so it seemed from the expression of her eyes—something not closely connected with the present moment.
At last St. John exclaimed, “Damn! Damn everything! Damn everybody!” he added. “At Cambridge there are people to talk to.”
“At Cambridge there are people to talk to,” Helen echoed him, rhythmically and absent–mindedly. Then she woke up. “By the way, have you settled what you’re going to do—is it to be Cambridge or the Bar?”
He pursed his lips, but made no immediate answer, for Helen was still slightly inattentive. She had been thinking about Rachel and which of the two young men she was likely to fall in love with, and now sitting opposite to Hirst she thought, “He’s ugly. It’s a pity they’re so ugly.”
She did not include Hewet in this criticism; she was thinking of the clever, honest, interesting young men she knew, of whom Hirst was a good example, and wondering whether it was necessary that thought and scholarship should thus maltreat their bodies, and should thus elevate their minds to a very high tower from which the human race appeared to them like rats and mice squirming on the flat.
“And the future?” she reflected, vaguely envisaging a race of men becoming more and more like Hirst, and a race of women becoming more and more like Rachel. “Oh no,” she concluded, glancing at him, “one wouldn’t marry you. Well, then, the future of the race is in the hands of Susan and Arthur; no—that’s dreadful. Of farm labourers; no—not of the English at all, but of Russians and Chinese.” This train of thought did not satisfy her, and was interrupted by St. John, who began again:
“I wish you knew Bennett. He’s the greatest man in the world.”
“Bennett?” she enquired. Becoming more at ease, St. John dropped the concentrated abruptness of his manner, and explained that Bennett was a man who lived in an old windmill six miles out of Cambridge. He lived the perfect life, according to St. John, very lonely, very simple, caring only for the truth of things, always ready to talk, and extraordinarily modest, though his mind was of the greatest.
“Don’t you think,” said St. John, when he had done describing him, “that kind of thing makes this kind of thing rather flimsy? Did you notice at tea how poor old Hewet had to change the conversation? How they were all ready to pounce upon me because they thought I was going to say something improper? It wasn’t anything, really. If Bennett had been there he’d have said exactly what he meant to say, or he’d have got up and gone. But there’s something rather bad for the character in that—I mean if one hasn’t got Bennett’s character. It’s inclined to make one bitter. Should you say that I was bitter?”
Helen did not answer, and he continued:
“Of course I am, disgustingly bitter, and it’s a beastly thing to be. But the worst of me is that I’m so envious. I envy every one. I can’t endure people who do things better than I do—perfectly absurd things too—waiters balancing piles of plates—even Arthur, because Susan’s in love with him. I want people to like me, and they don’t. It’s partly my appearance, I expect,” he continued, “though it’s an absolute lie to say I’ve Jewish blood in me—as a matter of fact we’ve been in Norfolk, Hirst of Hirstbourne Hall, for three centuries at least. It must be awfully soothing to be like you—every one liking one at once.”
“I assure you they don’t,” Helen laughed.
“They do,” said Hirst with conviction. “In the first place, you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen; in the second, you have an exceptionally nice nature.”
If Hirst had looked at her instead of looking intently at his teacup he would have seen Helen blush, partly with pleasure, partly with an impulse of affection towards the young man who had seemed, and would seem again, so ugly and so limited. She pitied him, for she suspected that he suffered, and she was interested in him, for many of the things he said seemed to her true; she admired the morality of youth, and yet she felt imprisoned. As if her instinct were to escape to something brightly coloured and impersonal, which she could hold in her hands, she went into the house and returned with her embroidery. But he was not interested in her embroidery; he did not even look at it.
“About Miss Vinrace,” he began,—”oh, look here, do let’s be St. John and Helen, and Rachel and Terence—what’s she like? Does she reason, does she feel, or is she merely a kind of footstool?”
“Oh no,” said Helen, with great decision. From her observations at tea she was inclined to doubt whether Hirst was the person to educate Rachel. She had gradually come to be interested in her niece, and fond of her; she disliked some things about her very much, she was amused by others; but she felt her, on the whole, a live if unformed human being, experimental, and not always fortunate in her experiments, but with powers of some kind, and a capacity for feeling. Somewhere in the depths of her, too, she was bound to Rachel by the indestructible if inexplicable ties of sex. “She seems vague, but she’s a will of her own,” she said, as if in the interval she had run through her qualities.
The embroidery, which was a matter for thought, the design being difficult and the colours wanting consideration, brought lapses into the dialogue when she seemed to be engrossed in her skeins of silk, or, with head a little drawn back and eyes narrowed, considered the effect of the whole. Thus she merely said, “Um–m–m” to St. John’s next remark, “I shall ask her to go for a walk with me.”
Perhaps he resented this division of attention. He sat silent watching Helen closely.
“You’re absolutely happy,” he proclaimed at last.
“Yes?” Helen enquired, sticking in her needle.
“Marriage, I suppose,” said St. John.
“Yes,” said Helen, gently drawing her needle out.
“Children?” St. John enquired.
“Yes,” said Helen, sticking her needle in again. “I don’t know why I’m happy,” she suddenly laughed, looking him full in the face. There was a considerable pause.
“There’s an abyss between us,” said St. John. His voice sounded as if it issued from the depths of a cavern in the rocks. “You’re infinitely simpler than I am. Women always are, of course. That’s the difficulty. One never knows how a woman gets there. Supposing all the time you’re thinking, ‘Oh, what a morbid young man!’”
Helen sat and looked at him with her needle in her hand. From her position she saw his head in front of the dark pyramid of a magnolia–tree. With one foot raised on the rung of a chair, and her elbow out in the attitude for sewing, her own figure possessed the sublimity of a woman’s of the early world, spinning the thread of fate—the sublimity possessed by many women of the present day who fall into the attitude required by scrubbing or sewing. St. John looked at her.
“I suppose you’ve never paid any a compliment in the course of your life,” he said irrelevantly.
“I spoil Ridley rather,” Helen considered.
“I’m going to ask you point blank—do you like me?”
After a certain pause, she replied, “Yes, certainly.”
“Thank God!” he exclaimed. “That’s one mercy. You see,” he continued with emotion, “I’d rather you liked me than any one I’ve ever met.”
“What about the five philosophers?” said Helen, with a laugh, stitching firmly and swiftly at her canvas. “I wish you’d describe them.”
Hirst had no particular wish to describe them, but when he began to consider them he found himself soothed and strengthened. Far away to the other side of the world as they were, in smoky rooms, and grey medieval courts, they appeared remarkable figures, free–spoken men with whom one could be at ease; incomparably more subtle in emotion than the people here. They gave him, certainly, what no woman could give him, not Helen even. Warming at the thought of them, he went on to lay his case before Mrs. Ambrose. Should he stay on at Cambridge or should he go to the Bar? One day he thought one thing, another day another. Helen listened attentively. At last, without any preface, she pronounced her decision.
“Leave Cambridge and go to the Bar,” she said. He pressed her for her reasons.
“I think you’d enjoy London more,” she said. It did not seem a very subtle reason, but she appeared to think it sufficient. She looked at him against the background of flowering magnolia. There was something curious in the sight. Perhaps it was that the heavy wax–like flowers were so smooth and inarticulate, and his face—he had thrown his hat away, his hair was rumpled, he held his eye–glasses in his hand, so that a red mark appeared on either side of his nose—was so worried and garrulous. It was a beautiful bush, spreading very widely, and all the time she had sat there talking she had been noticing the patches of shade and the shape of the leaves, and the way the great white flowers sat in the midst of the green. She had noticed it half–consciously, nevertheless the pattern had become part of their talk. She laid down her sewing, and began to walk up and down the garden, and Hirst rose too and paced by her side. He was rather disturbed, uncomfortable, and full of thought. Neither of them spoke.
The sun was beginning to go down, and a change had come over the mountains, as if they were robbed of their earthly substance, and composed merely of intense blue mist. Long thin clouds of flamingo red, with edges like the edges of curled ostrich feathers, lay up and down the sky at different altitudes. The roofs of the town seemed to have sunk lower than usual; the cypresses appeared very black between the roofs, and the roofs themselves were brown and white. As usual in the evening, single cries and single bells became audible rising from beneath.
St. John stopped suddenly.
“Well, you must take the responsibility,” he said. “I’ve made up my mind; I shall go to the Bar.”
His words were very serious, almost emotional; they recalled Helen after a second’s hesitation.
“I’m sure you’re right,” she said warmly, and shook the hand he held out. “You’ll be a great man, I’m certain.”
Then, as if to make him look at the scene, she swept her hand round the immense circumference of the view. From the sea, over the roofs of the town, across the crests of the mountains, over the river and the plain, and again across the crests of the mountains it swept until it reached the villa, the garden, the magnolia–tree, and the figures of Hirst and herself standing together, when it dropped to her side.