John Galsworthy.

Jocelyn online

. (page 6 of 14)
Online LibraryJohn GalsworthyJocelyn → online text (page 6 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


had left her.

She had no one to help her in her trouble ;

the thought of confiding in her aunt never even

occurred to her, so completely was that lady

associated with the conventional crust of life.

In these days Giles lived only in the minutes

H



114 JOCELYN

that he was with her ; the knowledge that she
loved him served but to fan the flame of his
passion. Often after he had left her, he would
come back when it was dark, and, standing in
the shadow of the thick bushes along the terrace
wall, watch her bedroom window till the light
within it failed.

One night he had watched long ; the light
behind the closed shutters still sent a faint glow
into the soft darkness. Leaning against the wall
he waited for it to die. A bat flitted past ; great
moths fluttered out of the night towards the lamps
at the gates ; dull murmurs came from the street,
and always the frogs croaked. The scented laurel
behind which he stood gave forth a sweet, hot
odour. Suddenly the shutters of the window
swung back, and in the arch of light he saw
Jocelyn. She stood motionless, with her hands
clasped behind her head ; the sleeves of the loose,
white garment wrapped around her fell back from
her bare arms.

His heart stopped beating ; the breath of the
laurel was heavy in the air, and ever afterwards
its scent brought back with it the sweetness and
emotion of that memory.



JOCELYN 115

As she stood, with her face lifted to the purple
heaven where the pale stars gleamed fitfully, he
could see the masses of her dark hair hanging
loose upon her shoulders. He felt, as though
with the yearning of his gaze through the im-
passive darkness, his whole being clung to her
in a mute caress, as though her heart were
beating against him, her lips quivering upon
his own ; and, as if in answer, her hands fell
to her sides, and she leant forward on the
balcony, looking downwards. Breathless he
watched. With a swift movement she clasped
her hands together into the darkness, and then
pressed them to her forehead. Through the
sudden hush of the night he could hear her
weeping ; his passion swelled in one long, dumb
cry, and ebbed in a sob of pity. With her face
still buried in her hands, she turned inwards
with a swaying movement. The shutters swung
slowly to, and the light died. . . .

A cockchafer droned by him, its hum fading
into the night. With a groan he beat his fists
against the wall.



CHAPTER X

Two figures came slowly down the hill from the
heights of Belinda to the Pont St, Louis. Dark-
ness was closing in upon them. In front,
vanishing in the dusk along the white road,
their donkeys, relieved of burden, jingled home-
wards at an irregular gait. The girl driver,
her wide, conical Mentonese hat hanging over
her arm, and a flower in her mouth, flicked
their lean haunches with her whip. She walked,
fast and erect, with a swaying of her hips, ex-
changing rough jests with the Gendarmes at the
Customs. The basket she carried in her hand
swung gently with a subdued rattle of empty
bottles and plates.

Giles stopped on the bridge. He put his
hand on Jocelyn's arm, and the touch of his
fingers was hot upon her flesh through her light
muslin sleeve.

" There is no hurry," he said in constrained

ii6



JOCELYN 117

tones which seemed to pass through rigid Hps,
" it will be over soon enough ; let the beasts get
on, they make too much noise."

Jocelyn stopped too, looking anxiously into
his face ; it was set and hard. He leant against
the parapet of the bridge, and his profile showed
clear-cut through the dusk. One hand gripped
the stone coping ; she put her own gently upon
it. His tall figure quivered from head to foot
at the touch, but he kept his eyes away from
her face. Presently he began to speak in a
measured, expressionless voice.

" Nice place for the end of things, isn't it ? "
he said, pointing down the precipitous drop
to the dim rocks below. " I've known three
fellows who ended there — very good chaps ;
one wouldn't choose it oneself, it can't be
pretty ; " and he laughed shortly.

" DotUt, dear ! " said Jocelyn, and her hand
tightened on his.

His face worked, and he turned to her.

" Please take your hand away ! "

She drew it away quickly, trembling.

" My God ! " he said. " Are you made of
ice, Jocelyn ? Don't you know what I endure



ii8 JOCELYN

by day and night ? Don't you know what a
man's love is — Great Heaven ! how should you ?
You canH know how it tears and tortures me — "
he broke off.

Each word seemed torn from him, and each
had a separate, intense value in the still air.
He looked down again at the shadowy rocks,
then he said —

" I am sorry — there — has — been — a big —
mistake — I'm not man enough ; come, dear, let's
go on."

They moved silently down the deserted road
a long way. The growing darkness hid their
features from each other. Now they passed
through a thick grove of olives that stretched
below the road, in banks, to the top of the
cliff.

Giles stopped.

" Look ! " he said. On the far horizon of the
dark sea there was a crimson flare, as of a ship
on fire.

"The moon is rising. Sit down a minute,
child, and rest, you must be tired."

She seated herself on a lower bank. The
moon rose slowly, the crimson changing to



JOCELYN T19

yellow, the yellow to white. Giles stood beside
the girl, looking down on her. The wonderful
southern night throbbed around them, the still
air was warm and full of scent ; through the
olive branches the stars gleamed, there was no
sound save the faint, far-off murmur of the
town, and the sough of the sea below.

The moon rose to the level of the olive bank ;
and Giles saw that she was crying, crying
silently, pitifully.

He flung himself down at her feet, and kissed
them, crying —

" Don't, my darling, don't ! it hurts me — it
hurts me."

He clasped his hands on her knees, and she
bent her head down upon them. A great
trembling passed through his frame ; it seemed
to him an eternity that passed, while the hot
moisture of her tears burned his hands. His
face was close to her hair ; with every noise-
less sob it was the nearer to his lips. He kissed
the dark head softly.

Presently she raised her eyes to his, dark and
wet with tears. Her lips were trembling. The
moonbeams fell upon his face, white, tense, and



I20 JOCELYN

passionate ; on hers, tender, pitiful, and tear-
stained.

" I want to be good to you, dearest. What
does anything matter while you are so wretched ?
What can I do ? What can I do ? "

He sprang to his feet, and reeled backwards.

" Don't torture me, my darling ! You don't
know what you're saying," he said in a hoarse
whisper, then very deliberately and aloud, '' You
must go home — go on alone for a minute, I'll
come." The words sounded hollow in his own
ears, he had a feeling that some one else, not
himself at all, had said them. He put his hands
over his eyes and muttered indistinctly, " God
help me ! " with a short choking gasp.

The perfume of her dress and hair was wafted
to him, mingled with the night scents, in the
intoxicating stillness under those dark branches ;
he reeled a little, then he saw that Jocelyn too
was on her feet. She stood before him quite
close, her figure swaying, her breast heaving.
In her eyes was an infinite pity ; they fastened
on his, intent and searching, they seemed trying
to read his soul. She put out her hands. He
moved with a writhing, helpless gesture, and



JOCELYN 121

seized them in his own. With the touch of
those burning hands, with the fastening of his
eyes on hers, there came a change in the girl's
face, the strained look went out of her eyes,
they seemed to swim and burn ; no longer
questioning, they gave him back look for look.
Her lips parted slightly in a sigh.

" Sweetheart ! " She leaned towards him.

In that second, with his lips almost touching
hers, knowing that if they touched there could
be no holding back and no recall, everything
passed before him. He saw himself. He saw
what he was doing. Like a drowning man he
saw all that had gone before, all that was coming,
stretched grimly into a dim future. He saw her
mind — the pity in it, the reflection of his own
passion. He saw his wife. He saw all things
— love, pity, and honour. He weighed them in
the scales, they were all as nothing.

A short, sobbing breath of wind sighed
through the olives.

Their lips met.



PAR T II

CHAPTER XI

Nielsen sat at one of many little marble-
topped tables outside a cafe. It was dark, and
the lights of the street avenue shone dubiously
on either side through the foliage of the lime
trees. From the interior of the cafe, at his back,
the dull clack of dominoes and the flap of waiters'
slippered feet against the boarded floor came
gently to his ears, with the occasional sharper
sounds of men's voices. Through the widely-
opened doors and windows stray whiffs of rough,
black tobacco, and of garlic, made their way to
his nose. The thin strains of harp and mandolin
quavered drawlingly into the warm air from a
cantina lower down the street, and frogs croaked
hoarsely in chorus from the bed of the dried
watercourse under the bridge.

Nielsen sipped his coffee, smoking quietly.



JOCELYN 123

He leant slightly forward, with his shoulders
squared, his knees apart, and the rim of his hat
pulled forward on his high forehead.

The cafe was nearly opposite the Hotel Milano,
which stood back from the road in its own garden.
Nielsen watched the windows of the hotel, and
the vague silhouettes of people's figures against
the lighted verandah. The lines of his pale,
squarely-moulded face expressed a gently weary
resignation, and he remained undisturbed by the
wheeling of mosquitoes and the perpetual futile
appearances of the unkempt Italian waiters.

That afternoon he had seen Jocelyn for the
first time since the day at Bordighera. On that
occasion he had been in earnest, with an earnest-
ness that, upon reflection, had caused him sur-
prise. He was aware that he would repeat his
conduct under similar circumstances, but the
idea of marriage had become so foreign to him
in the course of his broken existence, that he
was compelled to look upon himself as having
deviated from the path of sanity. He had,
moreover, been making love to women, more
or less harmlessly, for so long, that an acquired
cynicism informed him that these things were



124 JOCELYN

all a matter of degree, the end of the affair
requiring a greater or less absence of the object
of attraction. Man of the world, he acutely
recognised that without a sustained and zealous
siege he had no chance with Jocelyn ; he salved
his vanity by thinking that, with it, success was
possible — even probable. In this way rebuff lost
its sting, painful exertion became unnecessary.

The girl had a great attraction for him. She
was always " in the picture," her graceful per-
sonality was never marred by her surroundings.
She had no taint of " insularity." Without self-
sufficiency, she seemed sufficient unto herself.
All this appealed to the cosmopolitan in him.
It was not too much to say, that she more
nearly approached the persona grata of his fas-
tidious imagination than any woman he had
ever met. She was therefore dangerous, he re-
flected in her absence — in her presence he did
not reflect at all, want of reflection in the pre-
sence of women having become habitual to him.
At this particular moment he was profoundly
puzzled.

He had found Jocelyn singularly absorbed,
silent and unresponsive. She pleaded headache.



JOCELYN 125

Certainly she looked ill, but he had a disquieting
feeling that there was something on her mind.
She had sat dumb while he talked with her aunt,
detailing gossip of the inner life of Monte Carlo,
which the soul of that lady loved. When he
spoke to her, she was distraite, and returned
monosyllabic answers. He was not vain enough
to attribute her manifest discomfort to his own
presence, and, for the first time since he had
known her, he came away without feeling the
power of her attraction, experiencing instead a
sensation of uneasiness and of curiosity, that
was purely benevolent, and very characteristic.

He had dined at the cafe, and sat in the dusk
waiting till the time for his return train.

A man walking hurriedly on the other side of
the street went up through the gates of the hotel
garden. Nielsen followed the figure negligently
with his eyes, and saw it pass and repass the end
of the verandah, and then stand motionless for
a long time in the shadow of a tree. The faint
inquisitiveness he felt in his movements died
away presently in the countless, inconsequent
reflections of one not compelled by circumstances
to think steadily of any given thing. He yawned,



126 JOCELYN

looked at his watch, and throwing away his
cigarette stepped out of the circle of light into
the road leading to the railway station. As he
did so, the man came suddenly down the garden
path at a great pace, gesticulating with his
clenched hands, passed close without seeing
him, and hurried away in the direction of the
town, muttering to himself. Nielsen stopped
abruptly in recognition. He called after him —

" Hallo ! Legard ! " The man turned.

" Ah ! " he said, " Good-night ! "

His face was momentarily in the full glare of
the cafe lights ; the hat was slouched over it,
but the line of his moustache was visible, black
against the lower part. The movement of turn-
ing had seemed mechanical, the words sounded
leaden. In another moment he was gone, walk-
ing faster than before, his shoulders hunched up
to his ears in a way that suggested pain, and his
hands thrust suddenly deep into his pockets as if
to keep them still.

Nielsen stood looking after him.

" When a man talks to himself aloud, it is
bad ! " he said to himself. " When he talks,
and clenches his hands comme ^a, ah ! that is very



JOCELYN 127

bad ! That man is suffering !" He shrugged his
shoulders, pointing mechanically with his stick
after the figure.

" Yes, yes — I know. I do not like him, but I
am sorry for him — he suffers verry grreatly."
He shook his head gravely, as he turned into
the station.

That supreme point, when for a time human
nature recoils before suffering in a great lassi-
tude, had not been reached by Giles Legard.
Four days of torture had left him still capable
of feeling.

Into his bedroom in the little grey villa the
moon struck keenly and coldly ; there was no
other light. He had thrown off coat and waist-
coat, and sat motionless, with his head bent on
his arms folded across the back of his chair.
Upon the table in front of him was a torn enve-
lope and a half sheet of paper, folded and re-
folded with innumerable creases. The room was
empty of all other furniture except the bed, beside
which, on a great rug of deerskin stretched over
the bare panelling of the floor, Shikari lay, his
head between his paws. In the bright moon-



128 JOCELYN

light all colours in the room gave way in a harsh
contrasting of black and white, and outside the
sea gleamed through the tops of the ghostly
olives in silver ridges. Every now and then a
loosened tendril of creeper swayed with the
breath of a newly-born sea wind across the
widely-opened casement. From his wife's bed-
room underneath came an occasional sound of
hollow coughing.

Legard sat with his back turned to the win-
dow. The moonlight over the sea brought to
him an agonising spasm of memory. ... In
return for an hour of mad, intoxicating passion,
he had bartered everything ! He took up the
sheet of paper, looking at it dully as he twisted
it in his hands. He had bartered everything !
The thought was old, it seemed to him centuries
since he had first realised it. Everything ! There
was not a shred left to him of his honour, or
his self-respect ; that did not seem to matter, he
was beyond feeling it. But in that single hour
of madness he had taken the happiness of the
woman he loved — and with it his own — taken it,
as it were, in his two hands, and flung it into the
dust. Taken her well-being, her reserve, and



JOCELYN 129

her pride, and flung them brutally into the
dust.

He read the letter mechanically again and
again.

" I have tried, but I cannot see you. When
you came near everything seemed to cry out at
me. It is better that you should keep away
— for you and for me. I cannot answer for
myself." That was all. No hope ! No single
stroke of the pen brought relief to his aching
spirit.

He held the sheet of paper to catch the full
of the moonlight ; and her face rose above it, as
he had seen it the one time since that night —
a delicate, oval face, cold as the moonlight itself ;
averted and unseizable eyes, profound and dark,
with the lids drooping over them and circles of
black beneath ; lips drawn together, cruelly set ;
cheeks colourless ; between the brows a slight
furrow ; and over all the waving dark hair
gathered back from the low forehead.

As nearly as a man may read the soul of a
woman, he had read hers, with a vision super-
naturally sharpened by pain. He had seen in
her face the shame, the agony of violated reserve,



130 JOCELYN

the bitter wounding of her pride — the pride,
which for no single moment had foreseen that
ending. He had known that she was thinking,
" I am a thing apart, but for the accident of
concealment, a thing of shame." He had recog-
nised that in the reaction of her feelings there
was a physical repulsion to himself, a desire
to hurt because she had been hurt. He had
understood what it was costing her to go about
as usual, and keep her vizor down to the world.
He had known in her a courage he did not
possess himself, an untameable pride. All this
he had seen in that face. That which he had not
seen was the mysterious weakness of woman, the
greatest and the most pitiful of all qualities.

He rose from his seat, went into his dressing-
room, and poured some brandy from a shooting
flask. When he had drunk it he came back
again to his bedroom. He walked up and down
once or twice softly, clenching his hands, and
mechanically taking care that his footsteps made
no noise on the bare, slippery floor. Then he
put his hand into the breastpocket of his coat,
took out a revolver, and dropped it into the
table-drawer. As he did so he gave a queer



JOCELYN 131

little laugh. He had carried it about with him
for three days, and it was like parting with an
old friend. It had been comforting to feel the
weight of it in his pocket, with the thought that
there was always that escape from the grinding
torture of the slowly moving hours.

He shut the drawer with a bang of finality.
The brandy had cleared his brain, and he saw
that for several reasons the end was not that
way. He must see it out. He began to per-
ceive also that it was a grimmer and a harder
thing than he had imagined for a human being
to abandon hope ; and yet, as the bang of the
shut drawer echoed in the silent room, he felt
that it was even more grim and hard to go on
living. He knew all the time that, of those two
thoughts, he would never find out which was
the truer, because of a deeply-rooted instinct,
cowardly-heroic, which would drive him to live
while he was sane.

He threw himself at full length upon the floor,
pressing his face into the soft rug, and Shikari
woke up to lick his outstretched hands. The
moonlight passed on over the house and left
him there.



132 JOCELYN

Some time in the dense darkness he crawled
to his knees, and bowed himself against the bed
in a prayer, unconvinced, faithless, and voice-
less, a mere straining after rest in the hard
pressure of his face against the cool covering
of the bed, after peace in the touch of his knees
upon the floor.

He fell asleep so. When he woke it was with
a vague contempt of himself that had no sting
in it, and, half-dressed as he was, he fell asleep
again upon the bed in sheer exhaustion.



CHAPTER XII

The sun staring into his room awoke him. As
he stretched himself, the sight of his own half-
dressed figure brought him with a cruel jerk to
a sense of reality.

Yet, in spite of the agony of returning con-
sciousness, there was a glow of resolution in his
mind, another dawning of hope. He shrank
before the acknowledgment of it. To his indo-
lent, pleasure-loving nature, a resigned accept-
ance of the worst meant relief. He resented
the renewed vitality which brought suspense,
and a fresh struggle against the abandonment
of hope. With every movement of his muscles
in the morning air came another balancing of
the possibilities. Effort of any sort, other than
the purely physical, was painful to him ; he
shrank from beginning again a mental contest
against overpowering odds, and all the time the
struggle was renewing itself within him. It was



134 JOCELYN

his nature to shrink from obstacles, and to hate
the rough of Hfe, yet when he encountered it,
something in him always forced him forward
against his will. He began to calculate the
earliest minute at which he might see Jocelyn.

He dressed hastily, swallowed some coffee
and a roll, and ordered his pony. While wait-
ing for it he paced restlessly up and down the
little garden. Once, when he passed her window,
he saw his wife's figure moving feebly from her
bedroom to her sitting-room. He had heard
her talking, had heard her cough, had even
heard her laughing, but it was all he had seen
of her for three days. He turned away hastily,
and walked down into the road to wait. . . .

Four hours later the bay pony, very tired,
stopped with a jerk before the villa door. The
afternoon sun struck hotly on to the white
road, and the palm trees by the Saracen tower
were waiting dejectedly for the wind, that
hung in the black clouds over the sea, to free
them from their dusty covering. Giles got
off, he staggered slightly, and wiped his forehead
as he gave the reins to the slim, dark Italian boy,
who appeared like a mournful shadow from an



JOCELYN 135

unexpected corner to take them — then throwing
his head back he walked into the house.

Shortly, this was what had happened to him
in the four hours.

He had ridden at a pace alternately very fast
and very slow to the Hotel Milano. At the gate
of the hotel garden the German proprietor was
standing, a large, grave man, with a military
back. The ladies, he said, had gone to Monte
Carlo, would Monsieur not come in and rest
himself from the heat, and wait, for the ladies
would surely be back very presently. Monsieur
would not ! The ladies would certainly return
for the luncheon at half-one. Yes ! there was
a train from Monte Carlo at twelve o'clock ; it
was now eleven. Would not Monsieur, perhaps,
drink something — there was some very good
hock newly arrived. Monsieur would not ! It
was very hot ! Aufwiedersehn !

As Giles dug his heels into the pony's sides and
clattered up the street towards the Cornice Road,
the German proprietor, bowing his long, bearded
face towards his gaunt chest, looked gravely
after him.

" Mein Herr Legard is no longer the same



136 JOCELYN

man, I think," he said slowly to his little French
wife, in an interval of her flower gathering.
" He used to be so calm, so nonchalant ; now
he does everything augenblicklich, with his mouth
shut and his brows down. He is ill, I think, or
he has lost money."

" Que fes bete, nion cher ! " said Madame
compassionately, a rose in her mouth, and her
small, fat, French hands full of carnations.

Legard rode into Monte Carlo, he could not
wait for the chance of their returning for lunch.
He came upon them walking down from Smith's
bank to the station. He had the privilege of shak-
ing hands with them. Mrs. Travis was slightly in
front — she had always a conviction that trains
wished to elude her. After a glance at his face,
she discreetly increased her pace and disappeared
into the station, perceiving from its expression
that she would be more comfortable away from
him.

Giles was alone with Jocelyn for two seconds.
He had her hand in his, a perfectly cold, motion-
less hand. He looked at her eyes, they were
half closed and averted ; a furrow was between
her brows, and her lips were pressed together.



JOCELYN 137

He could hardly prevent himself from crying
out. Jocelyn turned her eyes to his face for one
second, the face of a man in purgatory, with
the corners of the mouth drawn back from the
clenched teeth, the chin square, the jaw quiver-
ing, the eyes deep-sunk and staring. The expres-
sion of her own face did not change, it was at
once shrinking and repellant. He dropped her


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryJohn GalsworthyJocelyn → online text (page 6 of 14)