John Galsworthy.

Jocelyn online

. (page 5 of 14)
Online LibraryJohn GalsworthyJocelyn → online text (page 5 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


" Yes ! " said Giles. Their eyes met for one
moment, and not another word was said.

When they reached the hotel, he took his
leave of them. Jocelyn turned on the steps.

" Biiona Sera ! my friend ! " she said. " Buona
Sera ! " She gave him her hand for a second
time. Her eyes looked unnaturally large in the
uncertain light. Giles stood with his hat off till
she had disappeared — he could not speak.



CHAPTER VIII

The sun sank, leaving a pale glory of silver-
green light over the clear-cut edges of the
mountain range. Masses of heavy, purple
clouds threatened the silver halo, and in the
remote west, a smoky, yellow flare lingered
over the Esterelles. One little star trembled
like a pure spirit above the highest peaks, and
under the Tete du Chien the closely coiled ring
of lights at Monte Carlo twinkled through the
growing darkness.

Far away, up an inland valley, a single splash
of crimson light showed where some chance fire
raged unchecked among the mountain forest-
growth. Through the perfume of orange trees
a floating smoke-wrack of burning wood spent
itself upon the warm air. The air was full too
of early evening sounds — the barking of dogs,
the crack of a whip lash, the hardly-caught
metallic murmur of human voices, the rattle of



JOCELYN 93

a receding train, and over all the croaking of
the frogs, and the sighing of the sea.

Giles swung along the road on his way back
to the villa like a man in a dream.

" Buona Sera ! — bttona Sera ! " — the words
rang in his ears. The blood was coursing through
his veins, and his pulses beat wildly. For the
time he was no longer conscious of that ever
haunting thought, " What the devil was he doing
in that galley ? " He let himself go on the flood
tide of his passion. Jocelyn's image danced
along the road in front of him. He saw her
pale face, under her shady hat, looking at him
with soft, dark eyes, through the dim shadows
of every road-side tree.

He had walked, like a man possessed, up the
long hill to the Pont St. Louis. The gendarmes
whom he passed at the Customs looked after him
curiously.

" Buona Sera ! There is one who marches,
hein ? Diable enrage d'un Anglais. Pesfe ! he
has not stopped for the gambler's leap. Buona
Sera, signore !" In the alternative they decided
that he had broken the bank.

" Buona Sera ! " Over the bridge, with its



94 JOCELYN

sheer descent to the dim caves on the one side,
and the twinkhng cottage hghts on the other,
and up and still up the hill. He could smell the
perfume of her dress in every evening scent, in
the salt whiffs wafted from below, in the fragrance
of the lonely pine trees above the road.

" Buona Sera ! Buona Sera ! " The words
were in the distant croaking of the frogs, on
every murmur of the breaking waves.

As he drew his breath freely again after the
steep ascent, he looked far out over the cliffs, to
the westward, in the still evening light, and his
thoughts flew to the girl as she had stood on the
hotel steps waving her hand to him. How he
loved the delicate, dainty figure, the turn of the
slender neck, the pure line of her profile, the
softly pointed chin ! He pictured her as she had
sat under the olive in the afternoon, looking up
at the sky through the delicate tracery of its leaves
— the creamy white line of the pretty throat bent
back, the long, supple hands lying in her lap.
He felt an intense, unreasoning delight that, for
good or evil, he had told her of his love ; then
an infinite, tender compassion for her tremulous
silence, for the little, swaying, helpless motion of



JOCELYN 95

her head and hands, for the swift, dewy glance
of her dark eyes.

She knew — nothing could take that from him ;
she knew, and she had been glad to know.

Now that the keynote had been struck, all the
deep chords, unstirred for so many years in his
mind, sounded with a full consonance; all the
great, unsatisfied longing hitherto unshadowed
in his deeply affectionate nature had taken to
itself shape, all the vast gambling possibility in
him was fiercely aroused.

The latent force, the unspent passion of the
years that he had idled away, shallow and indif-
ferent, in a long, unbroken compromise with life,
asserted themselves now with a fatal vehemence.
He was not a man who could love without pas-
sion. Passion would play its full part in his love,
neither more nor less ; and he knew it.

In the changes that his mind rang on the situa-
tion, and the bewildered jangHng of his thoughts,
the idea of recoil was the only one that did not
come to him. He would go forward, at what
cost he did not know, he did not stop to count.
He hugged to himself, undiscerning of what it
meant, the defeat of the eternal compromise.



96 JOCELYN

Again he moved homewards, now idhng slowly
along, and her words, ''The evening is coming over
everything, like a cool blessing, gentle — gentle,"
sounded in his ears, and he could see again her
arms outstretched as though to take it to herself.

He came presently through the scented night
to the villa, and let himself in with a sudden,
chill feeling of utter languor. He flung himself
into a long chair in the unlighted drawing-room,
and, worn out, fell fast asleep.

To Irma, as she raised the curtains that divided
the room from her own boudoir, there was the
look of a wrecked man about him as he lay there.
The long figure was thrown carelessly down in
its dusty, white clothes, the neck bent slightly
back, and the head rested on an arm twisted
behind him. A bar of yellow light from the
half-shaded lamp she held in her hand fell across
his lean, sun-tanned face and neck, sharpening
the features, and throwing into relief the lines
which seam a man's face when sleep follows on
the fiercer emotions. She set the lamp upon a
table, and stood, leaning painfully against the
wall, thinking.

Her husband ! those two words were the



JOCELYN 97

epitome of her thoughts. She bent forward,
and gazed at him long and closely, as if she
had never seen him before. How tired he
looked ! After all, it was the face of a stranger !
— ten years of married life, and the face of a
stranger ! She smiled, a very weary smile. A
fine face, with a good brow and chin, now that
it was rid of the mask it had worn to her these
ten years ! She read in its lines things she had
never known were there, and another woman
had brought them into the face ! That was the
mischief of it ! and the pain ! She passed her
thin hand across her eyes with a sudden, swift
gesture. In her own mind, too, she was find-
ing things she had not suspected. She had
thought it impossible she should ever feel that
pain, that sudden jealous spasm.

She stood quite motionless, a bent figure,
thinking. The day of her wedding came back to
her, a day of indifferent obedience to her parents.
All the long vista of days since rose before her
mind — a level, monotonous line of ghosts.

Her lips trembled as if with cold ; she mut-
tered to herself in Polish, " I have no claim
upon him." What was it to her that he should

G



98 JOCELYN

go from her ? what had it ever been ? Go from
her ! when he had never been hers. And yet —
a vision of Jocelyn, as she had stood that morn-
ing, smiHng and graceful, talking to the birds,
rose before her. A blind, wearing pain of jealous
regret was come to torture her. She thought,
" It is hard ! "

She moved, with one hand on her breast, to
the window and stood, looking out into the
soft, hazy night. The shadow of her drooping,
white-robed figure fell across the bar of light
from the flaring lamp.

Yes ! he had been very good to her, very
good and gentle — few men, she thought, would
have been so gentle to a helpless log, such as
she had always been. And what had she given
him in return ? And now — too late ! Well, it
was natural, this which was happening, only she
wished — bitterly, fiercely, vainly wished — that
it had not come. She felt tired, and very far
spent ; he would not have had to wait long !

A faint stir of air ruffled the lace round
her thin throat ; a whisper behind her said,
" Jocelyn ! "

She turned to see Giles sitting up, with one



JOCELYN 99

hand stretched out, and rubbing his eyes with
the other ; as she turned he woke to his full
consciousness, and a low " Ah, you ! " escaped
from his lips.

Again a choking spasm of jealousy came upon
her, again a vision of the girl passed before her
eyes, but she held the quiver out of her voice.

" It does not matter," she said, but her eyes,
black and mournful, looked wild in the dim,
smoky light.

Giles put his hands before his face, and bent
forward in his chair.

" I am sorry," was all he said.

Irma turned from the window, and straight-
ened her drooping figure. She took the lamp
in her hand, and moved to the door.

" Good night, Giles ! It does not matter, there
is nothing to be done, you know — nothing."

The voice sounded staccato, level, monoto-
nous, as if the words were ground out of her ;
only her eyes, in the backward look she gave
him, had meaning.

And from the bent figure, in the darkness of
the room behind her, came a muttered word —
" Nothing."



CHAPTER IX

In her bedroom Jocelyn was thinking. The
inner door stood open, and from the next room
came a stream of murmured comments, broken
now and then by a mumble, denoting pins in
the mouth, or by the trickle of water into a
basin. Mrs. Travis was going to bed ; she loved
to relieve the monotony of the process by dis-
cussion upon the events of the day, which never
assumed such vast proportions as when she was
taking her leave of them.

Jocelyn leant, in her night-dress, against her
open window, smoking a tiny cigarette through
a long amber mouthpiece. She drew at the
cigarette, and, holding it far from her, puffed
vigorously through her parted lips ; the smoke,
caught by the faint outdraught, blew harmlessly
away in little wreaths and clouds.

Her aunt's voice came to her in jerky, com-
placent periods.



JOCELYN loi

" How hot the nights are getting ! We can't
stay here much longer, my dear, nobody stays
till June, it's very late already. If it wasn't for
my new ' system,' I wouldn't stay another day —
I'm sure there's something in it," She appeared
for a moment at the door with her arms raised
rectangularly to her back hair.

" How thin Giles is growing ! " she said in an
injured voice, with a shrewd look at her niece.
" It makes me quite uncomfortable to see him."

It was a canon with her that people should be
plump. She was alive to the state of Giles's
feelings, but she resented its affecting the out-
lines of his person. From much experience
she felt secure of her niece's invulnerability, she
had seen so many darts fall blunted from her
armour, one adorer more or less, even a married
one, did not matter. She always reflected, too,
that Giles was a connection of her own by
marriage. Mrs. Travis possessed that order of
mind which looks upon things belonging to
themselves as beyond suspicion and reproach.
He was a married man, but a connection of her
own, immaculate ! Nevertheless she resented the
dwindling of his bulk ; perhaps she considered it



102 JOCELYN

indecent ; perhaps, in some mysterious way, she
regarded it as the removal of her own property.
In any case a moody leanness was unpardon-
able ; to her, Nielsen, attentive yet well-covered,
was more satisfactory.

" I shall recommend him to take cod-liver
oil ; I don't think it's right for any man to be
so thin," she said.

Jocelyn made an impatient movement, and
the frilled sleeves of her nightdress rustled faintly
against the muslin curtain. Mrs. Travis, disap-
pearing again into her room, continued to talk.

" To-day was quite wasted ; we mustn't gad
about so much ; I ought to have been at the
tables. Yes, I shall stay the month out, but
the first of June we must go ; remind me to take
the roses off my new bonnet." Her voice, over-
powered by pins, ran into a mumble.

Jocelyn braced her slender, curving limbs
against the wall. " Go ! " The word brought her
an unpleasant shock of reminder. She threw
up her head impatiently. Her small, oval face
looked very childish and young in the loose
framework of dark hair, brushed in long, rippling
tresses back over her shoulders. In the darkened



JOCELYN 103

room her slight figure, in its thin white covering,
was dimly outlined, and the bare feet, thrust
forward as she leaned back, gleamed in a little
patch of light that came from the other room.

Mrs. Travis came to the door. She was more
comfortable than ever in her night attire, with a
comfort that threw off all attempt at decorative
disguise, solely excepting curl papers.

" You naughty girl, you're smoking ! " she said.

Jocelyn shrugged her shoulders.

" It's for the mosquitoes, and the nerves."

" Well, I don't like it — my dear mother would
have had convulsions if she'd seen you. I don't
think it's right ! Shut your windows, and keep
the mosquitoes out, as I do." She sniffed.

Jocelyn gave a prolonged puff, and flipped
the cigarette out of its holder.

" There ! " she said. " Run, or the beasts will
eat you, you are so good to them."

Mrs. Travis, with a hasty kiss, retreated rapidly,
closing the door. Jocelyn laughed, then she
moved restlessly up and down the room. Pre-
sently she came back to the window, and leaned
far out into the darkness. It was late ; the town
slept, vaguely stretched below in a rambling con-



I04 JOCELYN

fusion of dark shapes and corners, foliage, and
dimly burning lights. It was very still. . . .

In the girl's heart joy and pain were strangely
blended.

The first of June ! This was the seventh of
May, nearly a month, that was all ! What did
it mean ? Whither was she being carried ? If
it could only be always as it had been that even-
ing ! She had been so happy. In less than a
month she would go away ! It seemed very
strange, very unreal ; there was a desperate
discomfort in the thought, the discomfort of
unfulfilment.

The vague, dreaming sweetness was being
rudely rent away from her thoughts — the
glamour that hung like a veil over the past
day. For a moment she saw plainly all the
naked, unsparing reality. She heard again the
words of the sick woman, " Have a good time,
you are young, you are beautiful — it is fitting."
The devilish, unconscious irony of them ! She
felt a great sense of injustice, of hard usage at
the hands of fate.

That day a wonderful sweetness had come to
her. It was as if, for the first time, life had



JOCELYN 105

whispered some secret of hidden meaning, had
spoken words at which the longing and the
lonely restlessness of her soul had yielded. This
was love ! Love !

She laughed. The mockery and hopelessness
of it were so plain that she felt its strength the
more. Her eyes moved restlessly from side to
side as if seeking a way of escape — she twisted her
hands silently, and pressed them to her cheek.
She loved him, and he was beyond her reach —
why ? why ? She chafed under the thought.

The passionate, penetrating cry of a peacock
broke suddenly through the vibrating air ; it
echoed painfully within her. Why should she
not know love ? What had she done ? She
had not sought — could she help it ? Why put
it away ? It was sweet and good to be with
him, she wanted nothing more. Then there
flashed before her the look in Giles's eyes, as
he gazed at her after his struggle with the
dog ; for one most disquieting moment she saw
into them, behind them ; he knew there was
something further, beyond, something funda-
mental, burning, unknown to her, which passed
by, scorching her like a fiery breath. And



io6 JOCELYN

for that moment she shrank back frightened
ashamed, and thrust the shutters to, to drive
out the long, fiercely wailing regret in the
shrill, bird's cry.

The figure of the Polish woman, lying in its
white drapery, came before her. A woman
with haunting, unhappy eyes, ill — her friend,
his wife — her friend ! She made a little im-
patient movement in the dark room, and grop-
ing, turned to her bed with a shrinking desire
to hide herself. She felt as if in the presence
of something contaminating and poisonous ; she
shuddered, her pride revolted. She drew aside
the curtains, and flung herself upon the bed.
What had she done ? Why should she be
treated like this ? Tears of impotent rage and
self-pity filled her eyes. It was all so new, so
strange, so unreal. She drew the clothes over
her, as a child does to drive away the fear of
bogies. She would not think of these things ;
there seemed a safety and a refuge in the soft
pillows and the familiar cool rustle of the sheets
as she turned from side to side. She lay a
long time rigid, trying not to think, vaguely
uneasy, vaguely unhappy, vaguely frightened ;



JOCELYN 107

she was very tired too. But in spite of herself
all the mingled feelings of the past weeks came
back to her. The rude shock, so long ago now,
of awakening to the knowledge that he loved
her — the horror of it ; that horror, which was
but sharpened by the something in her own
heart which she would not confess. All the
weary struggle and repression for days and
days with no certain knowledge of what she
desired. And this was the end ! He could
never be hers — and she loved him ! She buried
her face in the pillows, and sobbed as if her
heart would break.

After a long time, she fell into a half-con-
scious, restless state. Motionless and unreason-
ing, she passed in succession through all
the events of the day gigantically exaggerated,
blending grotesquely one into the other ; then
through each one of them, startlingly distinct,
having no relation to any other thing that had
ever happened to her — visions of things, which
seemed like vast, shadow-throwing rocks one
might encounter in a desert of sand. Then
again, in sudden change, a great, blurred mist
of vaporous phantoms came before her. One



io8 JOCELYN

by one she strove to attain them — they were with-
out form and void, and one by one they passed
her by, remote and mournful as the flight of
a lapwing. Images, carved in the air, of people
she had known, of faces she had never seen ;
words she had heard, words that had never
been spoken, flitted by, hovering like moths
with restless wings. All that she had ever done,
seen, or heard, was before her in a dancing
maze of coloured shapes, threading singly to
the centre of a blazing wheel, darting outwards
radiant to the misty circle edge, like a flight of
gnats round a fire. The lids fast-closed over
her eyes seemed to enclose the world for her,
to drive down into her brain a mass of wheeling
unreality. With an effort she wrenched herself
free from her pillows, tossing her bare arms
over her head. She fell back again, with one
hand clasped behind her thick, soft hair, look-
ing up with wide eyes at the dim shape of the
curtained bed roof. It was thus that sleep
presently found her. . . .

When she awoke in the morning, a faint
feeling of frightened discomfort, a feeling that
something new and dangerous was before her.



JOCELYN T09

vanished with the slanting, brilHant beams of
sun striking through the shutters. She lay,
quietly twisting a wisp of her tumbled hair,
surprised only that she had forgotten to plait
it the night before. Then, as everything
came back to her with a rush, she wondered
what she had found to so trouble and alarm
her. Giles loved her ! — well, it was very sweet
and good to be loved by him, and she could not
help it. She only wanted to be with him —
to know that he loved her ! What harm was
there ! She sprang from the bed.

The pulse of life beat very strongly this
morning in the green-clothed, quivering valley
behind the town ; the almond trees seemed to
flush a deeper pink ; the tinkle of bells, as goats
shifted dustily along the road to a new pasture,
came with fuller melody to her ears. She
leaned from the window and drew in a deep
breath of the freshened air.

After all, there was nearly a month, and life
was good just now — nearly a month of a sweet
companionship, and after — well — all things
come to a end ! — it was not very good to dwell
upon that thought, it was better to take things



no JOCELYN

as they came. She feU to wondering what time
Giles would be with them.

That morning Mrs. Travis, in pursuance of
her resolve, went early into Monte Carlo. She
knew that Giles would come over, but she
always shut her eyes to the possibility of mis-
chief, knowing that to recognise it would mean
the sacrifice of her daily visit to the gambling-
tables. Taking the greatest care never to dive
below the surface, she was enabled to persuade
herself quite comfortably that her niece ran no
risk, and she consoled herself for leaving her
with her habitual reflection that Giles was a
connection of her own — the elasticity of her
principles enabling her that morning to fix the
relationship at some two degrees nearer than it
really was. He was also a married man, a fact
which she could twist either way as it suited
her convenience, with an equally full and just
feeling of comfort. She departed, getting over
the ground at a great pace with a dignified,
flat-footed gait, her head full of enthusiasm and
artificial flowers. She studied, as she went, a
little book on her " system " — without in the
least understanding it, which was immaterial,



JOCELYN 1 1 1

as she always abandoned it after playing it for
a quarter of an hour. She assured Jocelyn
comfortably, on parting from her, that she
would be back quite early, and Jocelyn looked
after her, smiling, perfectly assured that she
would be free till dinner.

Giles came soon after ; his face, impassively
haggard, lighted up when Jocelyn came towards
him. She had never seemed to him so beauti-
ful and full of life. She gave him both her
hands, with the intuitive feeling that in frank
friendliness alone lay a narrow path of safety
and happiness for the days left to them. She
looked at him softly, and so took from him the
bitterness which might have driven him to pas-
sionate words. In the reaction of a long, sleep-
less night he had schooled himself painfully to
accept this position, but he was relieved beyond
measure not to have to take the initiative. It
hurt him to see those two hands so frankly
stretched to him, but he was grateful to her,
with a dull, despairing sort of gratitude.

He had not seen his wife since the scene of
the night before — the impression left upon him
by it was too strong and painful. For the space



112 JOCELYN

of a short hour, he had proposed to himself not
to see Jocelyn again, to keep away at all costs,
but his resolve had shrivelled, like all his resolves,
before the flame of his passion, and he had come,
with the reservation to let yesterday's words be
as if unspoken.

He spent the whole day with her, and went
home in the evening humble, and almost happy.
He was worn out by the conflicting emotions of
the previous day and his sleepless night. . . .

A fortnight of days went by, and as the sands
of their hour-glass of time ran out, the strain
upon them became almost unbearable. Jocelyn's
continual thought was, " I shall go away, and
there will be the end ! " But she found that
there were moments when she was dumb with
the dull craving to feel his arms round her.
At other times she longed to get away at once,
anywhere away ; to be free for ever, and at all
costs, from this grinding necessity for repres-
sion, from the appealing, haunting look which
Giles could not keep out of his face. With the
constant varying of her moods their meetings
became daily more difficult, the hours spent
together more feverish or more dismal. Once



JOCELYN 113

Giles broke through the intolerable restraint,
but the piteous, frightened look that came into
her face at the first word held him mute.

Never for one moment did Jocelyn doubt
herself. She would go away, and there would
be the end ! But the very impossibility of union
with him, which she kept ever before her as the
one barrier of safety, roused at times in her feel-
ings before which she recoiled ashamed, which
she had never thought that her mind could
harbour — curiosity to probe her lover's nature
to its depths, ardent longing to know, and to
prove the full meaning of the passion she saw
in his eyes, felt in every touch of his fingers.
At other times she had an intense, passionless
pity for the suffering he could not hide from
her. And sometimes the old horror came over
her, and she would turn from him with aver-
sion, only to be smitten with remorse when he


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryJohn GalsworthyJocelyn → online text (page 5 of 14)