John Galsworthy.

Jocelyn online

. (page 4 of 14)
Online LibraryJohn GalsworthyJocelyn → online text (page 4 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


with his usual elaborate languor.

" I have been waiting for the chance of giving
you this, my dear lady," he said, bowing. " It
was presented to me by my dear frriend Dick
Garron ; it comes from Yokohama, you know ; I
have been tortured," and he spread his hands
expressively, " for fear it should be destrroyed
by my cats. I should not feel it so deeply,
don't you see, if it were destrroyed by other
people's cats."

Irma's tired face, yellow-white from constant



i



JOCELYN 69

pain, lighted up with a smile. Jocelyn had
brought her flowers, Mrs. Travis, chocolate ;
the three characteristic gifts touched her fancy
humorously. As she murmured her gracious,
foreign thanks, her eyes — like those of a souled
monkey — kept glancing from Jocelyn as she put
the flowers in water, to Giles, who leant against
the door watching her. He caught one look
from his wife ; there was such sadness, such
depth of comprehension, such mockery in it,
that he knew once for all there was nothing to
hide from her. He dropped his eyes, and there
was a moment when his feelings were a strange
mingling of shame, regret, bitterness, and compas-
sion — a moment of absolute physical discomfort ;
then he stepped across, smoothed her cushions,
and with a muttered excuse left the room.

Nielsen, an old friend with a great and sym-
pathetic admiration for the sick woman, had
much to say, and proceeded to say it. Mrs.
Travis was busy inspecting the silver in two
cabinets against the wall, examining the pattern
critically, and murmuring a constant approval.
Jocelyn, left to herself, talked to two bullfinches,
who instantly became her friends. Her nerves



70 JOCELYN

were on edge, the strain of the situation, whether
she would or no, was being forced upon her
reason. Her aunt's complacent comments, Niel-
sen's languid chatter, Irma's eyes so full of
meaning and knowledge, and yet so kind, jarred
her. The colour came and went in her face,
and her eyes looked restlessly about her ; she
revolted impatiently in a hardly-repressed irrita-
tion against the confinement of the pretty, dainty
room, shaded by the verandahs from the power-
ful beat and throb of life outside. She longed
to get into the sunshine, away from the thoughts
that crowded painfully upon her mind.

She felt an immense relief when Giles's voice
summoned them to the carriage, and she went
out and drew a deep breath, with Irma's fare-
well words sounding in her ears —

" Good-bye, dear one, you are young and so
beautiful ; have a good time, it is right, it is
fitting." . . .

To the jingling of their ear bells, the pair of
little flea-bitten greys raised a whirling column
of dust on the winding, downward road to
Ventimiglia. With every step gained from the
villa, Jocelyn's spirits rose in the rapid motion



JOCELYN 71

through the warm dry air ; she lost herself in
the brilliant day, in the passing glimpses of the
laughing sea, in the hot pine scent from above
the road. She shook her parasol gaily, with
a smiling " Buon Giorno," at a group of Italian
Deasant girls swinging along, slowly and erect,
".o market ; the flowers which she had tied
round its handle swayed and quivered, sending
their perfume over to Giles, who sat opposite
her. She did not look at him ; it seemed as
though she had determined to forget everything
— everything but the throb of the warm life
that stirred around her.

As they rose a slight hill, they passed a man
with a gun slung over his shoulder by a strap.
Side-whiskered, with a hard felt hat and a
nondescript dog, he was going out to shoot
singing birds.

''Le sport!" said Giles, with a disgusted shrug
of his shoulders.

" The brute ! " said Jocelyn, her face crimson
with sudden anger. " I should like to wring
his neck, only " — recovering herself slightly
under the surprise in her aunt's and Nielsen's
faces, " it looks so dirty."



72 JOCELYN

Giles glanced at her sympathetically — he knew
her great love for all birds and animals, and
understood.

" You must not be angry with the poor man,"
said Nielsen, "they are not a sportin' people,
the Italians, don't you know."

But Jocelyn's feelings were still rufHed.

" I hate people who drop their final g's," she
said.

Nielsen regarded her through his eyeglass
with great consternation.

" I beg your pardon," he said at last.

" My dear ! " said Mrs. Travis — want of affa-
bility in other people was a crime to her, it
rendered things so uncomfortable.

" Oh ! You are excused," said Jocelyn, whose
sudden anger had evaporated now that they
were out of sight of the intending sportsman —
" it doesn't matter for foreigners, you know,
only you mustn't do it again."

She experienced a sudden compunction, and
smiled at him appealingly.

Nielsen, who accepted her shrewdly as one
not to be judged by ordinary standards, liked her
the better for the swift changing of her moods.



JOCELYN 73

They passed through VentimigHa and along
the level road that runs to Bordighera ; past the
odorous tannery, past the town's custom-house,
past the ill-looking, outlying, roadside cafes.

A villainous Italian, with a dirty face, coming
out of one of these, took his slouch hat off to
Giles, who returned him a nod.

"Who is that horrid -looking man?" said
Jocelyn.

" A friend of mine," replied Giles gravely ; " he
pays professional visits to the villa sometimes ;
he is one of a profession the most elevated in
these parts, plays the barrel-organ."

" Ah ! Mais ce n^est pas une profession, ^a, c^est
une carriere vous saves," put in Nielsen, sotto voce.

They drove past the long, dull, modern street,
and the picturesque town of old Bordighera,
tumbled together in lofty and evil-smelling seclu-
sion above. At the garden of palms beyond,
the drive came to an end.

Some one suggested picnicking on the rocks
below the road ; they left the carriage, and made
their way down to the beach, where they lunched
in the shade of a huge, seaworn boulder.

After the things were cleared and taken back



74 JOCELYN

to the carriage, Giles returned from giving direc-
tions to the coachman to find Mrs. Travis on
the verge of sleep, her mouth slightly open, her
hand feebly grasping a drooping parasol, her
head nodding from side to side.

He could see Jocelyn at the water's edge, and
Nielsen moving towards her ; and he felt a great
pang of jealousy.

Lighting a cigar, he strolled away from Mrs.
Travis ; he did not wish to embarrass the good
lady upon her awakening. With his hat over
his eyes, he leant against a rock, sending vicious
puffs of smoke between his lips, and looking
down at a footprint Jocelyn had left in the
sand.



CHAPTER VII

JOCELYN had strolled away by herself — she had
a longing to be alone with the sea. She did
not know exactly what it was that she wanted,
but it seemed to her that the sea would give her
a feeling of rest. She was annoyed presently to
find Nielsen beside her. He had humbly brought
her the service of his green-lined umbrella, and
she had not the heart to send him away, when
he asked gently if he bored her.

They strolled together towards a group of rocks
that jutted in a blunt, curving point into the sea.

** I want to get on that little green rock,"
said Jocelyn, pointing to the furthermost rock
separated from the others by an eddy of rippling,
shallow water. In a moment she had whipped
off her shoes and stockings, and with skirts
raised to her ankles, was scrambling through
the ripples of the circling waves, up the slippery,
green slope of the rock.



76 JOCELYN

Nielsen regarded her proceedings from the
beach with an air of comical dismay and
admiration.

"Take care, my dear young lady," he kept on
saying, rolling his r's more than usual. His eye-
glass was damp with the interest of his glance, and
his umbrella hung uselessly over his shoulder.

" Come along," said Jocelyn, " I thought you
used to be an athlete ? "

" It was not the part of the athlete in my day
to climb slipperry rocks with young ladies," he
said plaintively, gallantly removing a boot, and
standing on one leg in an amiable hesitation.

" Mais en verite" he muttered to himself, draw-
ing off the other boot and revealing pink socks,
in the toe of one of which was a decided hole ;
" she is not a milk and butter Miss, cette chere
Jocelyn," and he hastily divested himself of the
holey sock.

Jocelyn having reached the summit, dropped
her skirts, and, shading her face with her hand
from the burning sun, looked over the hesitating
Nielsen at the lines of the bay, that curved in
under the stony, sparsely-covered mountains.

It was one of those cloudless Riviera days.



JOCELYN 77

when, seen from behind the sun, the coast loses
all other colouring in the vivid tints of the sky
and sea. The blue of the distant Esterelles
melted in the far west into the paler blue of the
heavens, and all the nearer hills and jutting pro-
montories were bathed in a wonderful violet
ether. One ultimate snowy peak reared itself
aloft, emerging triumphant from the trammels
of the light. Looking eastwards, where the sun
had already sped his course, every line and
patch of colouring was thrown into an intense
relief. The white houses stared along the stony,
drab slopes. The Campanile with the little black
cross upon its summit, sprang up high over the
old town of Bordighera, against masses of glis-
tening olives beyond. Along a far spur of the
hills an old Italian village stretched in straggling
seclusion.

Jocelyn bent over to look into the turquoise
pools that lapped with white edges round the
green, weed-covered rocks, and now and again
caught the shadowy gleam of a fish in the
cloudy-blue water. On the next rock to her,
two picturesque bare-legged fishers angled lazily
with twelve-foot rods of stiff bamboo. The



78 JOCELYN

breeze caught her hair, and she turned and
looked away over the sea, drawing the soft, salt
air through her nostrils with an intense feeling
of pleasure.

She was in one of her gipsy moods — it was
good to set her back to the land, to those eternal
ridges of hills which forced upon her a feeling
of imprisonment ; very good to turn to the
sea, the salt sea, stretching before her in blue,
illimitable vastness.

A wonderful glow of life and freedom came
upon her with the beating of the soft wind
against her face. She felt a wild desire to spread
her wings in a long, long flight to a freer life,
like the little, lateen-rigged fishing smack, run-
ning from the land before the wind — a flight
away from convention, and the eternal need for
repression ; away from all her fears, from the
horror which sometimes came over her, from
the unconfessed longing which fought against it
within her breast ; away, into a solitude as great
as the sea itself, where no other individualities
should besiege her own, giving her a sense of
suffocation — a solitude, where there should be
no knowledge, and no distrust.



JOCELYN 79

Nielsen's gently imperturbable voice recalled
her.

" I am coming, my dear young lady ; just a
little patience, it is very slipperry, don't you see."
He was picking a gingerly way with his bare feet
from one stone to another.

" Go back," she cried almost harshly. " I'm
coming off ! "

What was the use of her wild thoughts ! She
was bound ! bound to that undefined struggle
which, whether she would or no, was always
going on within her. Her face clouded with its
wonted look of defeat, and she sighed. She
waited till Nielsen was returning, and then
waded back herself.

The feelings which the sea had roused in her
made her irritable.

" It's a dull sea — the Mediterranean," she said
from one side of a rock, putting on her shoes
and stockings, " no tides, no ebb and flow ; what
a monotony ! I wonder it finds it worth while
to break on its shores at all ! "

" You would not say that if you saw it in a
storm," came, in plaintive, half-choked paren-
thesis, from the other side of the rock, where



8o JOCELYN

the discreet Swede was also resuming his
boots.

" It manages to break on every shore all
round ; I should like to know where it parts its
hair," continued Jocelyn meditatively.

" My dear young lady, it is like the bald-
headed man, don't you know ; it does not part its
hair at all, it has no hair to part in the middle,
don't you see, only a fringe that falls on all sides."

Nielsen appeared suddenly from round the
rock, his hat in his hand, smoothing his own
well-covered, flaxen head appreciatively.

Jocelyn laughed gently. She had finished
her toilet, and sat looking up at him with her
head a little on one side, and her feet drawn
under her skirts. Nielsen moved a step towards
her, and his brown eyes glowed.

" Do you know you are quite charrming !
May I not — " — he bent his head to her hand.

" Please don't ! " she said impatiently.

She had lately found it difficult to take the
sentimental remarks of the enamoured Swede as
a matter of course.

" Forgive me," said Nielsen humbly, " you
are so beautiful, you see ! "



JOCELYN 8 1

" I would rather you didn't talk like that,
please," said Jocelyn.

She rose and held out her hand to him
frankly ; Nielsen took it in his own, letting it
go with a deep sigh.

Jocelyn restrained an inclination to laugh.

" What is that ship ? " she asked, as they
made their way towards the others. Nielsen
screwed his eyeglass into his eye.

" A * messageries' for China and the Indies ; she
will call at Genoa."

Jocelyn's eyes followed the great, black steamer
racing past. The foam was churning up from
under its bows, and along its sides. She looked
at it wistfully with wide eyes — the longing was
not out of her yet. Nielsen fastened on the
look intuitively.

" If you would marry me, you should do that
or anything else that you liked," he said sud-
denly, pointing to the steamer ; " I am not verry
poor now, you know — the ' system ' has been
verry good to me lately."

There was an earnestness in his voice, that
was in strong contrast to its habitual suave flat-
tery, and his allusion to the " system " — which.



82 JOCELYN

with a gambler's superstition, he never men-
tioned — struck Jocelyn. She stopped and
looked at him.

Yes ! He was evidently in earnest ; the in-
numerable little lines and crow's-feet in his face,
showed cruelly in the blazing sunshine ; he was
paler than usual, and he looked at her with al-
most a dog's look in his weary brown eyes. But
all she said was —

" I think you spend too much time over the
' system ' ! "

She had caught sight of Giles's figure against
the rock, and she felt a sudden, physical repul-
sion to the man standing beside her.

" But understand," said Nielsen, " I love you
— I love you ! You cannot prevent that, you
know." He put out his hands, as if to take her
in his arms, and his face twitched.

" Are you mad ? " she cried, hurrying past
him. She walked swiftly over the hard sand,
and as she went a curious feeling came upon
her, a feeling of delight that was almost pain.
She had forgotten Nielsen, but the words, " I
love you — I love you," kept echoing within her ;
they had lost all sound and form, they had be-



JOCELYN 83

come like the breath of an inspiration. All her
being rose in a trembling answer. A wave of
crimson rushed into her face, and as she has-
tened she plucked nervously at the single yellow
rose fastened in her dress. Nielsen stood still,
looking after her. A minute later, however, he
was beside her again, talking commonplaces with
his usual plaintive, imperturbable drawl, his face
showing no traces of its recent emotion.

When they reached the others, Jocelyn threw
herself down by her aunt, close to a group of
sea-washed rocks, through the broken crevices
of which the little waves were leaping and flash-
ing like white fairies at play ; and when Giles
came up, two minutes later, she seemed to be
listening gaily to a story Nielsen was telling.

Mrs. Travis, fanning herself, insinuated gentle
complaints of the heat. She wished to see the
palm gardens, where it looked shady.

Giles led the way with alacrity ; he longed to
have Jocelyn to himself, with all the concen-
trated longing of many hours of repression.
Mrs. Travis was soon in rapt admiration of the
shrubs and flowers ; and she impressed Nielsen
into her service to make a bargain in French



84 JOCELYN

with the florist proprietor, for a weekly provision
of flowers to be sent to Mentone, standing by to
afford assistance ; she had a great and wholly war-
ranted faith in her powers of cheapening things.

Giles and Jocelyn strolled away from them,
and were soon hidden by the thick palm foliage.
The garden wound up and down in a mass of
flowering plants and scented shrubs.

" It's a kind of paradise," said Giles, " rather
cut and dried in parts."

" Yes," Jocelyn assented — " ' the trail of the
florist is over it all.' But the scents are good ; I
love the dear flowers." She plucked a spray of
roses daringly, and pinned them in the breast of
her dress.

" I was always a thief with flowers, you know ;
I can't help it, I have to steal them."

Presently they followed a little path running
upwards at the top of the garden. It led them
on to a rocky knoll over which, in a ring of
spikey aloes and grotesque prickly pears, a shady
olive spread its shimmering branches like a tent.
Jocelyn seated herself beneath it, looking down
upon the wilderness of the garden foliage. In her
white skirt and pale silver-green blouse, she looked



JOCELYN 85

like the spirit of the tree, as she leant against
the trunk with the yellow sunlight playing fan-
tastically on her through the quivering leaves.

A bare and stony hill sloped behind them,
planted here and there with vines and rose-trees,
which served only to throw into a greater relief
its yellow-grey harshness. In front, the tangled
masses of palms and plants, the plain, unpreten-
tious white houses straggling along the shore,
and the straight line of the railway running
beside the sea, gave the scene the unfinished
look of some sub-tropical settlement. Across
the dipped valley, under the lee of a high,
rounded hill covered with olives and glancing
green fig-trees, a little church spire rose modestly
and incongruously out of a mass of palms.

Giles, who had turned the brim of his Panama
hat down, like a mushroom, over his neck, lay
on his face in the sun, looking up at Jocelyn.
Her beauty, and the impelling, passionate yearn-
ing within him, deprived him helplessly of the
power of speech. She was sitting with her hand
on Shikari's head, smelling at the flowers in her
dress, her figure swaying a little as she hummed
to herself.



86 JOCELYN

Her cheeks were still flushed, and her eyes
bright from that strange emotion.

She began to sing a little Finnish song that
he knew well, with notes that suggested " sob-
bing " for a refrain. She had a tiny voice,
" niedlich," as the Germans say. But in the
middle of a verse she stopped suddenly and
pointed with her ungloved hand at a large,
yellow-fanged drover's dog, which had appeared
on the side of the knoll. Shikari sprang up
with a growl, his teeth showing. The two dogs
approached one another snarling, and before
Giles could rise to prevent them, had each other
by the throat, and were rolling over and over
on the ground. He leaped hastily to his feet,
and gripped Shikari hard by the collar ; getting
a purchase with his foot against the other dog's
shoulder, with a violent, pushing kick, he sent
him sprawling down the slope.

As he turned his head for a second, he saw
Jocelyn holding Shikari with her arms laced
round his neck — the dog was growling and
licking her face at the same time — but in another
minute the drover's dog came up the slope again,
and, with a savage snarl, sprang at his throat.



JOCELYN 87

Throwing out both hands stiffly, he caught
at the brute's neck, but his grip slipped on the
short, wiry hair, and the impetus of the dog's
spring carried him backwards on to the ground.

Jocelyn saw his hands sHp, saw him stagger,
and fall ; it seemed impossible to her that he
could keep those hideous fangs from his throat.
Involuntarily she threw her hands up to her
eyes. She had a mental vision of a torn throat
— a gaping, jagged wound. A cloud of hot,
whirling dust rose from the dry ground, where
the man and beast were struggling. For one
second of sheer horror she stood still, her face
crimson and as suddenly white, then with a little
cry she ran towards them ; but the struggle was
already over. The first movement of her hands
had released the greyhound. The drover's dog
had turned with his teeth on Giles's throat to
attack his old enemy, and Giles scrambling to
his feet, had seized his stick, dealing the brute a
heavy blow, which half stunned him.

Jocelyn saw him leaning over the two dogs,
a hand twisted in the collar of each, his face
very pale, his figure strained with the effort of
holding them apart ; his clothes were covered



88 JOCELYN

with dust, and he bled from a scratch on one
hand. He released the cowed brute, who slunk
away down the hill, and stood up, breathing
hard, keeping a foot on Shikari, who growled
angrily.

Jocelyn went softly up to him. Even now,
seeing him erect, she hardly dared look at his
throat, so vivid was the memory of the wound
that had gleamed, red and angry, before her
covered eyes.

She gave a little choke and put out her hands.

When he felt the touch of her fingers on his
shoulder he faced her suddenly. In the moments
of fierce excitement, when his muscles and his
nerves had been strung and braced, all thought
of Jocelyn had left him, he had felt only the
fighting fever and the consciousness of strength ;
but his blood was coursing wildly through his
veins, and the touch of those fingers was like a
spark to a magazine. All his passion returned
with tenfold strength.

He faced her with blazing eyes, and his lips
quivered.

" Are you hurt, Giles ? " she said.

Her eyes were bent on him with a strained



JOCELYN 89

look, the black pupils expanding ; and her lips
were tremulous and parted.

" My darling ! " he cried, " did you care ? "

She looked at him, frightened at his words,
yet wondering he should ask.

" Care ? Yes."

" I love you, Jocelyn, I love you ! My God !
What am I saying ? "

He bent his head down to the level of her
hands ; one of them stole up and smoothed
his hair with a little shrinking caress. When
he looked again, her eyes were soft and wet,
and he knew somehow that she had been
glad.

He was nearly choked by the joy that leaped
in his heart, but the tears in her eyes helped
him to a mastery of himself.

*' Dear," he said, " I am sorry, I couldn't
help it ! Forget it — forgive me, I couldn't help
it — you are so sweet and lovely — so sweet and
lovely — after all, you knew it long ago."

He spoke in short, broken sentences, catching
his breath with gasps.

She smiled at him softly and sadly, and for
one moment he caught, as in a revelation, the



90 JOCELYN

love-light in her eyes. Her lips still trembled ;
with her hands she brushed the dust mechani-
cally from his clothes.

She looked swiftly up at him.

*' I was so frightened," she said, " I thought — "
and covered her eyes with her hands, shuddering.

He caught them in his, and stood looking
down upon her dark head. He could see the
little fluffy hair on her neck, and her shoulders
heaving softly. He was too happy to speak ;
and he was afraid — afraid .of the passionate
words that rose to his lips. The dry leaves of
the olive tree rustled crisply over their heads,
and from the road below came the tinkle of
cowbells.

Voices broke in upon their silence. They
went down in answer to Mrs. Travis's calling,
and as they went, Giles said softly —

"Whatever comes, dear, this has been the
hour of my life."

They drove home without stopping at the
villa, putting Nielsen down at the Ventimiglia
station. He had been very silent on the return
journey. He said to Jocelyn when he left
them —



JOCELYN 91

" I must get back to Monte Carrlo, you know,
and appease the Fates for my desertion."

As they passed the last hill into Mentone the
evening light was already spreading, mellow and
soft, over the town, and the sun was dying
behind the Esterelles. The tired little horses,
toiling up the steep ascent, nodded their heads
diligently.

Jocelyn and Giles got out to walk. Half-way
up, Jocelyn stopped and stretched out her arms,
saying with a sigh —

" Look ! The evening is coming over every-
thing, like a cool blessing, gentle — gentle — "


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryJohn GalsworthyJocelyn → online text (page 4 of 14)