And he would take Selina in his arms, which was like embracing grass, was like a field of buttercups, was newly turned earth. Her young flesh had the sweet clean smell of freshly cut grass.
Through her that April morning lived again. Those sharp eager facets of his soul which time had ground down and experience dulled, shone from her with the poignant gleam of innocence. The best in him, it seemed, though dead was not to die. Nor must it die in her. Let Frances expend her dusting brush and shining taps and inlaid Sheraton heart on her son. His dreams were strange dreams; his schemes had an odd and bitter flavour. For instance, courage. Of all things in life for her, he asked courage. He wanted her courageous; he wanted her brave, even foolhardy. He wanted her generous. He wanted her to give whole-heartedly of herself, her thoughts, her days. He wanted her to love; to love completely and irrationally. And give herself; when the urge came to her she must give herself, without thought, without regret. And be betrayed. And return to him (for to whom else should she turn?) bearing within her the burden of her love: wiser now and hurt, but with no regrets. And he would take her away, away from the outraged Queen Anne (three parts) and the flowery Sheraton bedrooms and the latest carpet-sweeper. South to lazy days under endless sun and watch the child bud and ripen and the life return to her face. For she must be brave and the life within her must not die but glow the more proudly.
It had never seemed quite real to him that when the end came he was not with her. But the telephone bell does not indicate by an altered ring whether its news be good or ill. Nor can one wing with one's desires, nor can one's body precede the lightning of one's thought. Only Frances doing her best to be brave: we must be glad, dear, there was no pain. The end was immediate. As, earlier, the driver of the lorry had stood stammering: It all comes so sudden-like.
He was left alone with her, with nothing but his thoughts of how impotent a thing this love that cannot bridge the bondage of distance, however short. How defenceless love, how inadequate, that not the width of the world can separate more surely than a street, a wall, another room. How powerless love that unless before one's eyes the beloved object does not exist; may call and one does not hear; dies, and a mile away one will be laughing.
How frail this thing on which his life had hung! His Dormouse dead. Gone the threat of putting her in the tea-pot! And to-morrow being Sunday they were to have gone to the Zoo together to see the hippopotamus, her "sweet solid beast" which she preferred to them all; for she no longer searched as on the first day he had taken her, and back again, back again through every house, past each enclosure, until at last despairing, she had had to whisper: Father, no unicorn?
One is, it seems, but the impression one conveys. Nothing more. Only the impression one gives or receives. All that she was was her impress; and that impress of her all that now remained. A solemn listening face, a field of buttercups, a sudden cry, a ringing of bells. All things that fade, are not renewed; grow dim, are not replaced; and life once good to live has lost its savour.
And then by accident he learned that on a last sudden sign of life she had opened her eyes and called to him. One of those things one is the better, perhaps, for not knowing. But it was not for that that Frances had kept it from him; and knowing this, she was never again quite real to him. So cold and secret his anger that she never guessed. Sensed a difference but never knew; never knew that in the hour of her treachery she, too, had died; but so completely as to leave no memory.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
From Olive Moore's novel, Fugue (1932):