Chapter 15: The Disaster Within
The Sunday after Miss Bartlett's arrival was a glorious day, like
most of the days of that year. In the Weald, autumn approached,
breaking up the green monotony of summer, touching the parks with
the grey bloom of mist, the beech-trees with russet, the
oak-trees with gold. Up on the heights, battalions of black pines
witnessed the change, themselves unchangeable. Either country was
spanned by a cloudless sky, and in either arose the tinkle of
The garden of Windy Corners was deserted except for a red book,
which lay sunning itself upon the gravel path. From the house
came incoherent sounds, as of females preparing for worship. "The
men say they won't go"-- "Well, I don't blame them"-- Minnie
says, need she go?"-- "Tell her, no nonsense"-- "Anne! Mary!
Hook me behind!"-- "Dearest Lucia, may I trespass upon you for a
pin?" For Miss Bartlett had announced that she at all events was
one for church.
The sun rose higher on its journey, guided, not by Phaethon, but
by Apollo, competent, unswerving, divine. Its rays fell on the
ladies whenever they advanced towards the bedroom windows; on
Mr. Beebe down at Summer Street as he smiled over a letter from
Miss Catharine Alan; on George Emerson cleaning his father's
boots; and lastly, to complete the catalogue of memorable
things, on the red book mentioned previously. The ladies move,
Mr. Beebe moves, George moves, and movement may engender shadow.
But this book lies motionless, to be caressed all the morning by
the sun and to raise its covers slightly, as though acknowledging
Presently Lucy steps out of the drawing-room window. Her new
cerise dress has been a failure, and makes her look tawdry and
wan. At her throat is a garnet brooch, on her finger a ring set
with rubies--an engagement ring. Her eyes are bent to the Weald.
She frowns a little--not in anger, but as a brave child frowns
when he is trying not to cry. In all that expanse no human eye is
looking at her, and she may frown unrebuked and measure the
spaces that yet survive between Apollo and the western hills.
"Lucy! Lucy! What's that book? Who's been taking a book out of
the shelf and leaving it about to spoil?"