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"And now?"

"Now you're going back to Colin. And we're both going to be good...You
do want to be good - don't you?"

"Yes. But I don't see how we're going to manage it."

"We could manage it if we didn't see each other. If I went away."

"Anne, you wouldn't. You can't mean that. I couldn't stand not seeing
you. You couldn't stand it, either."

"I have stood it. I can stand it again."

"You can't. Not now. It's all different. I swear I'll be decent. I won't
say another word if only you won't go."

"I don't see how I can very well. There's the land... No. Colin must
look after that. I'll go when the ploughing's done. And some day you'll
be glad I went."

"Go. Go. You'll find out then."

Their tenderness was over. Something hard and defiant had come in to
them with the light. He was at the door now.

"And you'll come back," he said. "You'll see you'll come back."



XIII


ANNE AND JERROLD

i

When he was gone she turned on herself in fury. What had she done it
for? Why had she let him go? She didn't want to be good. She wanted
nothing in the world but Jerrold.

She hadn't done it for Maisie. Maisie was nothing to her. A woman she
had never seen and didn't want to see. She knew nothing of her but her
name, and that was sweet and vague like a perfume coming from some place
unknown. She had no sweet image of Maisie in her mind. Maisie might
never have existed for all that Anne thought about her.

What did she do it for, then? Why didn't she take him when he gave
himself? When she knew that in the end it must come to that?

As far as she could see through her darkness it was because she knew
that Jerrold had not meant to give himself when he came to her. She had
driven him to it. She had made him betray his secret when she asked for
the truth. At that moment she was the stronger; she had him at a
disadvantage. She couldn't take him like that, through the sudden
movement of his weakness. Before she surrendered she must know first
whether Jerrold's passion for her was his weakness or his strength.
Jerrold didn't know yet. She must give him time to find out.

But before all she had been afraid that if Jerrold hurt Maisie he would
hurt himself. She must know which was going to hurt him more, her
refusal or her surrender. If he wanted "to be good" she must go away and
give him his chance.

And before the ploughing was all over she had gone.

She went down into Essex, to see how her own farm was getting on. The
tenant who had the house wanted to buy it when his three years' lease
was up. Anne had decided that she would let him. The lease would be up
in June. Her agent advised her to sell what was left of the farm land
for building, which was what Anne had meant to do. She wanted to get rid
of the whole place and be free. All this had to be looked into.

She had not been gone from Jerrold a week before the torture of
separation became unbearable. She had said that she could bear it
because she had borne it before, but, as Jerrold had pointed out to her,
it wasn't the same thing now. There was all the difference in the world
between Jerrold's going away from her because he didn't want her, and
her going away from Jerrold because he did. It was the difference
between putting up with a dull continuous pain you had to bear, and
enduring a sharp agony you could end at any minute. Before, she had only
given up what she couldn't get; now, she was giving up what she could
have to-morrow by simply going back to Wyck.

She loathed the flat Essex country and the streets of little white rough
cast and red-tiled houses on the Ilford side where the clear fields had
once lain beyond the tall elm rows. She was haunted by the steep,
many-coloured pattern of the hills round Wyck, and the grey gables of
the Manor. Love-sickness and home-sickness tore at her together till her
heart felt as if it were stretched out to breaking point.

She had only to go back and she would end this pain. Then on the sixth
day Jerrold's wire came: "Colin ill again. Please come back. Jerrold."


ii

It was not her fault and it was not Jerrold's. The thing had been taken
out of their hands. She had not meant to go and Jerrold had not meant to
send for her. Colin must have made him. They had lost each other through
Colin and now it was Colin who had brought them together.

Colin's terror had come again. Again he had the haunting fear of the
tremendous rushing noise, the crash always about to come that never
came. He slept in brief fits and woke screaming.

Eliot had been down to see him and had gone. And again, as before,
nobody could do anything with him but Anne.

"I couldn't," Jerrold said, "and Eliot couldn't. Eliot made me send for
you."

They had left Colin upstairs and were together in the drawing-room. He
stood in the full wash of the sunlight that flooded in through the west
window. It showed his face drawn and haggard, and discoloured, as though
he had come through a long illness. His mouth was hard with pain. He
stared away from her with heavy, wounded eyes. She looked at him and was
frightened.

"Jerrold, have you been ill?"

"No. What makes you think so?"

"You look ill. You look as if you hadn't slept for ages."

"I haven't. I've been frightfully worried about Colin."

"Have you any idea what set him off again?"

"I believe it was those infernal tractors. He would go out with them
after you'd left. He said he'd have to, as long as you weren't there.
And he couldn't stand the row. Eliot said it would be that. And the
responsibility, the feeling that everything depended on him."

"I see. I oughtn't to have left him."

"It looks like it."

"What else did Eliot say?"

"Oh, he thinks perhaps he might be better at the Farm than up here. He
thinks it's bad for him sleeping in that room where he was frightened
when he was a kid. He says it all hooks on to that. What's more, he says
he may go on having these relapses for years. Any noise or strain or
excitement'll bring them on. Do you mind his being at the Farm again?"

"Mind? Of course I don't. If I'm to look after him _and_ the land it'll
be very much easier there than here."

For every night at Colin's bedtime Anne came up to the Manor. She slept
in the room that was to be Maisie's. When Colin screamed she went to him
and sat with him till he slept again. In the morning she went back to
the Farm.

She had been doing this for a week now, and Colin was better.

But he didn't want to go back. If, he said, Jerrold didn't mind having
him.

Jerrold wanted to know why he didn't want to go back and Colin told him.

"Hasn't it occurred to you that I've hurt Anne enough without beginning
all over again? All these damned people here think I'm her lover."

"You can't help that. You're not the only one that's hurt her. We must
try and make it up to her, that's all."

"How are we going to do it?"

"My God! I don't know. I shall begin by cutting the swine who've cut
her."

"That's no good. She doesn't care if they do cut her. She only cares
about us. She's done everything for us, and among us all we've done
nothing for her. Absolutely nothing. We can't give her anything. We
haven't got anything to give her that she wants."

Jerrold was silent.

Presently he said, "She wants Sutton's farm. Sutton's dying. I shall
give it to her when he's dead."

"You think that'll make up?"

"No, Colin, I don't. Supposing we don't talk about it any more."

"All right. I say, when's Maisie coming home?"

"God only knows. I don't."

He wondered how much Colin knew.


iii

February had gone. They were in the middle of March, and still Maisie
had not come back.

She wrote sweet little letters to him saying she was sorry to be so long
away, but her mother wanted her to stay on another week. When Jerrold
wrote asking her to come back (he did this so that he might feel that he
had really played the game) she answered that they wouldn't let her go
till she was rested, and she wasn't quite rested yet. Jerrold mustn't
imagine she was the least bit ill, only rather tired after the winter's
racketing. It would be heavenly to see him again.

Then when she was rested her mother got ill and she had to go with her
to Torquay. And at Torquay Maisie stayed on and on.

And Jerrold didn't imagine she had been the least bit ill, or even very
tired, or that Lady Durham was ill. He preferred to think that Maisie
stayed away because she wanted to, because she cared about her people
more than she cared about him. The longer she stayed the more
obstinately he thought it. Here was he, trying to play the game, trying
to be decent and keep straight, and there was Maisie leaving him alone
with Anne and making it impossible for him.

Anne had been back at the Farm a week and he had not been to see her.
But Maisie's last letter made him wonder whether, really, he need try
any more. He was ill and miserable. Why should he make himself ill and
miserable for a woman who didn't care whether he was ill and miserable
or not? Why shouldn't he go and see Anne? Maisie had left him to her.

And on Sunday morning, suddenly, he went.

There had been a sharp frost overnight. Every branch and twig, every
blade of grass, every crinkle in the road was edged with a white fur of
rime. It crackled under his feet. He drank down the cold, clean air like
water. His whole body felt cold and clean. He was aware of its strength
in the hard tension of his muscles as he walked. His own movement
exhilarated and excited him. He was going to see Anne.

Anne was not in the house. He went through the yards looking for her. In
the stockyard he met her coming up from the sheepfold, carrying a young
lamb in her arms. She smiled at him as she came.

She wore her farm dress, knee breeches and a thing like an old trench
coat, and looked superb. She went bareheaded. Her black hair was brushed
up from her forehead and down over her ears, the length of it rolled in
on itself in a curving mass at the back. Over it the frost had raised a
crisp web of hair that covered its solid smoothness like a net. Anne's
head was the head of a hunting Diana; it might have fitted into the
sickle moon.

The lamb's queer knotted body was like a grey ligament between its hind
and fore quarters. It rested on Anne's arms, the long black legs
dangling. The black-faced, hammer-shaped head hung in the hollow of her
elbow.

"This is Colin's job," she said.

"What are you doing with it?"

"Taking it indoors to nurse it. It's been frozen stiff, poor darling. Do
you mind looking in the barn and seeing if you can find some old sacks
there?"

He looked, found the sacks and carried them, following her into the
kitchen. Anne fetched a piece of old blanket and wrapped the lamb up.
They made a bed of the sacks before the fire and laid it on it. She
warmed some milk, dipped her fingers in it and put them into the lamb's
mouth to see if it would suck.

"I didn't know they'd do that," he said.

"Oh, they'll suck anything. When you've had them a little time they'll
climb into your lap like puppies and suck the buttons on your coat. Its
mother's dead and we shall have to bring it up by hand."

"I doubt if you will."

"Oh yes, I shall save it. It can suck all right. You might tell Colin
about it. He looks after the sick lambs."

She got up and stood looking down at the lamb tucked in its blanket,
while Jerrold looked at her. When she looked down Anne's face was
divinely tender, as if all the love in the world was in her heart. He
loved to agony that tender, downward-looking face.

She raised her eyes and saw his fixed on her, heavy and wounded, and his
face strained and drawn with pain. And again she was frightened.

"Jerrold, you _are_ ill. What is it?"

"Don't. They'll hear us." He glanced at the open door.

"They can't. He's in church and she's upstairs in the bedrooms."

"Can't you leave that animal and come somewhere where we can talk?"

"Come, then."

He followed her out through the hall and into the small, oak-panelled
dining-room. They sat down there in chairs that faced each other on
either side of the fireplace.

"What is it?" she repeated. "Have you got a pain?"

"A beastly pain."

"How long have you had it?"

"Ever since you went away. I lied when I told you it was Colin. It
isn't."

"What is it, then? Tell me. Tell me."

"It's not seeing you. It's this insane life we're leading. It's making
me ill. You don't know what it's been like. And I can't keep my promise.
I - I love you too damnably."

"Oh, Jerrold - does it hurt as much as that?"

"You know how it hurts."

"I don't want you to be hurt - - But - darling - if you care for me like
that how could you marry Maisie?"

"Because I cared for you. Because I was so mad about you that nothing
mattered. I thought I might as well marry her as not."

"But if you didn't care for her?"

"I did. I do, in a way. Maisie's awfully sweet. Besides, it wasn't that.
You see, I was going out to France, and I thought I was bound to be
killed. Nobody could go on having the luck I'd had. I wanted to be
killed."

"So you were sure it would happen. You always thought things would
happen if you wanted them."

"I was absolutely sure. I was never more sold in my life than when it
didn't. Even then I thought it would be all right till Eliot told me.
Then I knew that if I hadn't been in such a damned hurry I might have
married you."

"Poor Maisie."

"Poor Maisie. But she doesn't know. And if she did I don't think she'd
mind much. I married her because I thought she cared about me - and
because I thought I'd be killed before I could come back to her - But she
doesn't care a damn. So you needn't bother about Maisie. And you won't
go away again?"

"I won't go away as long as you want me."

"That's all right then."

He looked at his watch.

"I must be off. They'll be coming out of church. I don't want them to
see me here now because I'm coming back in the evening. We shall have to
be awfully careful how we see each other. I say - I _may_ come this
evening, mayn't I?"

"Yes."

"Same time as last Sunday? You'll be alone then?"

"Yes." Her voice sounded as if it didn't belong to her. As if some other
person stronger than she, were answering for her.

When he had gone she called after him.

"Don't forget to tell Colin about the lamb."

She went upstairs and slipped off her farm clothes and put on the
brown-silk frock she had worn when he last came to her. She looked in
the glass and was glad that she was beautiful.


iv

She began to count the minutes and the hours till Jerrold came. Dinner
time passed.

All afternoon she was restless and excited. She wandered from room to
room, as if she were looking for something she couldn't find. She went
to and fro between the dining-room and kitchen to see how the lamb was
getting on. Wrapped in its blanket, it lay asleep after its meal of
milk. Its body was warm to the touch and under its soft ribs she could
feel the beating of its heart. It would live.

Two o'clock. She took up the novel she had been reading before Jerrold
had come and tried to get back into it. Ten minutes passed. She had read
through three pages without taking in a word. Her mind went back and
back to Jerrold, to the morning of today, to the evening of last Sunday,
going over and over the things they had said to each other; seeing
Jerrold again, with every movement, every gesture, the sudden shining
and darkening of his eyes, and his tense drawn look of pain. How she
must have hurt him!

It was his looking at her like that, as if she had hurt him - Anne never
could hold out against other people's unhappiness.

Half past two.

She kicked off her shoes, put on her thick boots and her coat, and
walked two miles up the road towards Medlicote, for no reason but that
she couldn't sit still. It was not four o'clock when she got back. She
went into the kitchen and looked at the lamb again.

She thought: Supposing Colin comes down to see it when Jerrold's here?
But he wouldn't come. Jerrold would take care of that. Or supposing the
Kimbers stayed in? They wouldn't. They never did. And if they did, why
not? Why shouldn't Jerrold come to see her?

Four o'clock struck. She had the fire lit in the big upstairs
sitting-room. Tea was brought to her there. Mrs. Kimber glanced at her
where she lay back on the couch, her hands hanging loose in her lap.

"You're tired after all your week's work, miss?"

"A little."

"And I dare say you miss Mr. Colin?"

"Yes, I miss him very much."

"No doubt he'll be coming down to see the lamb."

"Oh yes; he'll want to see the lamb."

"And you're sure you don't mind me and Kimber going out, miss?"

"Not a bit. I like you to go."

"It's a wonder to me," said Mrs. Kimber, "as you're not afraid to be
left alone in this 'ere house. But Kimber says, Miss Anne, she isn't
afraid of nothing. And I don't suppose you are, what with going out to
the war and all."

"There's not much to be afraid of here."

"That there isn't. Not unless 'tis people's nasty tongues."

"_They_ don't frighten me, Mrs. Kimber."

"No, miss. I should think not indeed. And no reason why they should."

And Mrs. Kimber left her.

A sound of pails clanking came from the yard. That was Minchin, the cow
man, going from the dairy to the cow sheds. Milking time, then. It must
be half past four.

Five o'clock, the slamming of the front door, the click of the gate, and
the Kimbers' voices in the road below as they went towards Wyck.

Anne was alone.

Only half an hour and Jerrold would be with her. The beating of her
heart was her measure of time now. What would have happened before he
had gone again? She didn't know. She didn't try to know. It was enough
that she knew herself, and Jerrold; that she hadn't humbugged herself or
him, pretending that their passion was anything but what it was. She saw
it clearly in its reality. They couldn't go on as they were. In the end
something must happen. They were being drawn to each other,
irresistibly, inevitably, nearer and nearer, and Anne knew that a moment
would come when she would give herself to him. But that it would come
today or to-morrow or at any fore-appointed time she did not know. It
would come, if it came at all, when she was not looking for it. She had
no purpose in her, no will to make it come.

She couldn't think. It was no use trying to. The thumping of her heart
beat down her thoughts. Her brain swam in a warm darkness. Every now and
then names drifted to her out of the darkness: Colin - Eliot - Maisie.

Maisie. Only a name, a sound that haunted her always, like a vague,
sweet perfume from an unknown place. But it forced her to think.

What about Maisie? It would have been awful to take Jerrold away from
Maisie, if she cared for him. But she wasn't taking him away. She
couldn't take away what Maisie had never had. And Maisie didn't care for
Jerrold; and if she didn't care she had no right to keep him. She had
nothing but her legal claim.

Besides, what was done was done. The sin against Maisie had been
committed already in Jerrold's heart when it turned from her. Whatever
happened, or didn't happen, afterwards, nothing could undo that. And
Maisie wouldn't suffer. She wouldn't know. Her thoughts went out again
on the dark flood. She couldn't think any more.

Half past five.

She started up at the click of the gate. That was Jerrold.


v

He came to her quickly and took her in his arms. And her brain was
swamped again with the warm, heavy darkness. She could feel nothing but
her pulses beating, beating against his, and the quick droning of the
blood in her ears. Her head was bent to his breast; he stooped and
kissed the nape of her neck, lightly, brushing the smooth, sweet,
roseleaf skin. They stood together, pressed close, closer, to each
other. He clasped his hands at the back of her head and drew it to him.
She leaned it hard against the clasping hands, tilting it so that she
saw his face, before it stooped again, closing down on hers.

Their arms slackened; they came apart, drawing their hands slowly,
reluctantly, down from each other's shoulders.

They sat down, she on her couch and he in Colin's chair.

"Is Colin coming?" she said.

"No, he isn't."

"Well - the lamb's better."

"I never told him about the lamb. I didn't want him to come."

"Is he all right?"

"I left him playing."

The darkness had gone from her brain and the tumult from her senses. She
felt nothing but her heart straining towards him in an immense
tenderness that was half pity.

"Are you thinking about Colin?" he said.

"No. I'm not thinking about anything but you... _Now_ you know why I was
happy looking after Colin. Why I was happy working on the land. Because
he was your brother. Because it was your land. Because there wasn't
anything else I could do for you."

"And I've done nothing for you. I've only hurt you horribly. I've
brought you nothing but trouble and danger."

"I don't care."

"No, but think. Anne darling, this is going to be a very risky business.
Are you sure you can go through with it? Are you sure you're not
afraid?"

"I've never been much afraid of anything."

"I ought to be afraid for you."

"Don't. Don't be afraid. The more dangerous it is the better I shall
like it."

"I don't know. It was bad enough in all conscience for you and Colin.
It'll be worse for us if we're found out. Of course we shan't be found
out, but there's always a risk. And it would be worse for you than for
me, Anne."

"I don't care. I want it to be. Besides, it won't. It'll be far worse
for you because of Maisie. That's the only thing that makes it wrong."

"Don't think about that, darling."

"I don't. If it's wrong, it's wrong. I don't care how wrong it is if it
makes you happy. And if God's going to punish either of us I hope it'll
be me."

"God? The God doesn't exist who could punish _you_."

"I don't care if he does punish me so long as you're let off."

She came over to him and slid to the floor and crouched beside him and
laid her head against his knees. She clasped his knees tight with her
arms.

"I don't want you to be hurt," she said. "I can't bear you to be hurt.
But what can I do?"

"Stay like that. Close. Don't go."

She stayed, pressing her face down tighter, rubbing her cheek against
his rough tweed. He put his arm round her shoulder, holding her there;
his fingers stroked, stroked the back of her neck, pushed up through the
fine roots of her hair, giving her the caress she loved. Her nerves
thrilled with a sudden secret bliss.

"Jerrold, it's heaven when you touch me."

"I know. It's hell for me when I don't."

"I didn't know. I didn't know. If only I'd known."

"We know now."

There was a long silence. Now and again she felt him stirring uneasily.
Once he sighed and her heart tightened. At last he bent over her and
lifted her up and set her on his knee. She lay back gathered in his
arms, with her head on his breast, satisfied, like a child.

"Jerrold, do you remember how you used to hold me to keep me from
falling in the goldfish pond?"

"Yes."

"I've loved you ever since then."

"Do you remember how I kissed you when I went to school?"

"Yes."

"And the night that Nicky died?"

"Yes."

"I've been sleeping in that room, because it was yours."

"Have you? Did you love me _then_, that night?"

"Yes. But I didn't know I did. And then Father's death came and stopped
it."

"I know. I know."

"Anne, what a brute I was to you. Can you ever forgive me?"

"I forgave you long ago."

"Talk of punishments - "

"Don't talk of punishments."

Presently they left off talking, and he kissed her. He kissed her again
and again, with light kisses brushing her face for its sweetness, with
quick, hard kisses that hurt, with slow, deep kisses that stayed where
they fell; kisses remembered and unremembered, longed for, imagined and
unimaginable.

The church bell began ringing for service, short notes first, tinkling
and tinkling; then a hurrying and scattering of sounds, sounds falling
together, running into each other, covering each other; one long
throbbing and clanging sound; and then hard, slow strokes, measuring out
the seconds like a clock. They waited till the bell ceased.

The dusk gathered. It spread from the corners to the middle of the room.
The tall white arch of the chimney-piece jutted out through the dusk.

Anne stirred slightly.

"I say, how dark it's getting."

"Yes. I like it. Don't get the lamp."

They sat clinging together, waiting for the dark.

The window panes were a black glimmer in the grey. He got up and drew


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Online LibraryMay SinclairAnne Severn and the Fieldings → online text (page 11 of 18)