Evening Primroses

by Anne Douglas Sedgwick

IT had been a hot day and there seemed to be thunder in the air, but she was afraid there would be no rain that night. The abandoned garden needed it sadly; though, as she reflected, rain would encourage weeds rather than the few remaining flowers. Poppies had sown themselves everywhere, degenerates of the Shirleys which, three years ago, had spread their silken cups in the large bed at the foot of the lawn. Their withered stalks cracked beneath her steps in the paths and glimmered under the unpruned branches of the cordon apple trees. There were thistles, too, sorrel, and tall nettles, a matted carpet of bindweed and groundsel in the little kitchen-garden, once so neat, and, of course, as poor Charlie had predicted, the Michaelmas daisies had eaten up nearly everything in the herbaceous border. That was one of the last questions he had written to her: “How are my pink phloxes? Have the Michaelmas daisies smothered them?” They had. It was the season at which the phloxes should be in fullest flower, but not one was to be seen; the dense, fine foliage of the daisies had advanced in a wall of green nearly to the border’s edge.

It was still oppressively warm. A toad hopped indolently away and paused at the box edging, lying up against it, his front feet extended, as if so wearied by the heat that he took his chances of discovery. She stopped to look at the clumsy creature, in which so little of nature’s accurate grace was expressed; and as she stood there, a sudden rustle in the box betrayed another inhabitant—this time a baby hedgehog which, too young for fear, moved busily about among the flat dandelion plants that rosetted the path, and even, encountering the tips of her shoes, stopped to examine them carefully before moving on again. The baby hedgehog would have amused Charlie. He had always been delightful about animals; he and the boys had always had that great interest in common.

Yes, the bird-boxes were still there. She could see one in the big apple tree and one fixed to the porch of the house, under the rose. How well she remembered the frantic delight that hailed the hatching of the first brood of tits. And the day when Charlie had deemed it prudent to withdraw the door for a peep at the beautifully fitted mosaic of bright little heads and bodies within, lifting up Giles in his holland pinafore for a long, blissful gaze. Six years ago that must have been.

The light was altering now, and when she turned at the end of the path, a great moon had risen across the lane and seemed to hang in the branches of the walnut tree that grew in the field beyond. A great, shining, heavy moon, and mournful, it seemed to her; her desolate thoughts, she was aware, lending their colour to everything. Heavy, mournful, desolate; that was the rhythm of her own steps passing along in the twilight, pursued by the unformulated consciousness that lay behind all these pictures of the past; pausing at last, as if to let the dogging sorrow overtake her, as she came to where, near the summer-house, against the wall, the evening primroses grew.

It was years since Charlie had first planted them there, and she had said to herself at the time that they would never be rid of them, tenacious, recurrent things, sowing themselves patiently, and coming up loyally even when there was no one to wish them well. She felt touched by their presence; for though she had always found them untidy and uninteresting, she saw, really now for the first time, that they could be beautiful. Homely, loyal flowers; yet—was it the invading sense of sorrow colouring them, too?—a little uncanny, showing at this neutral hour of mingled dusk and moonlight their pale, evident gold; becoming conscious, as it were, becoming personal at the time when other flowers became invisible. Not that it was a sinister uncanniness; not that of ghosts; of fairies, rather; the very strangeness, sadness, sweetness of the moon, to which, from them, she lifted her eyes. And they reminded her of something, but what, she could not say. Not of Charlie. There had never been anything strange or sad about Charlie, except the fact, pursuing her now in his deserted garden, that he was dead and would never see it again.

It was a year to-day since he had been killed, and she had come down to the country with the sense of commemoration. She wanted, alone in the little place so full of thoughts of him, to find him, to recall him; and she had been doing that at every turn. Yet the evening primroses shining there brought a pang deeper than any vision of him. They, though so homely, seemed to personify loneliness; they seemed to be missing something; and although she was desolate because Charlie was dead, because he would never again delight in his garden, it was, in a sense, for him rather than for herself that she sorrowed, and, in a sense, she did not miss him at all.

She stood still in the path, her hands clasped behind her, her head bent, a personification of widowhood in her thin black draperies, her intent, memorial poise. And she could have said of herself with truth that, during all this year, she had known only a widow’s sad preoccupations. There had been the settling of business matters; lawyers and bankers to interview; planning for the boys, with school-masters to visit; and the tending of bereaved relations—Charlie’s dear old parents clung to her. But now, on the day of his death, it was as if for the first time she had had leisure, at last, to realize that, with it all, she had never had the widow’s heart. She had grieved over him; she had longed to do all for him that could be done—there was nothing new in that; but it was far worse than not being heartbroken: it was the sorry fact that she did not even miss him. He had left, as it were, no emptiness behind him.

She had lifted her head and looked round the garden, trying, in the physical fact of absence, to summon the spiritual void. How he had planned, dug, planted it; pruned his fruit trees; placed his anemones in leaf-mould, his bulbs on sand. She saw his kindly, handsome figure everywhere; his brown cheek, good grey eye, and close-cropped, tawny hair. A manly, simple creature; the salt of the earth, as honest as the day—oh, she saw it all; she had said it to herself a hundred times; and there had, indeed, been nothing one could say against Charlie. But then, as a wife, there had been nothing to say against her, either; he had been perfectly happy with her—the happiest creature, even in the manner of his death. He had been killed instantaneously, while walking, on a sunny day, beside his men along a road in France. Every letter she had had from his brother officers over there spoke of his gaiety and good spirits. The war itself had, on the whole, meant happiness to him, for all his gravity over certain of its tragedies. But he had been almost as grave over mischances with his Boy Scouts, and it had all remained for him an immense, magnificent form of boy-scouting.

Dear, good Charlie! Yet—was it possible that something of the old long-conquered exasperation could still, at this hour, thrust itself into her memories? He had not been quite boyish enough to justify his lightness and make it loveable. That had been the final fundamental trouble in their mistaken marriage; she had not been able to mother him. He had not been appealing, beguiling, endearing, like a child. Not like a child; not boyish, fatherly, rather; even, playfully didactic, and assuming always that theirs was a completely reciprocal marital intimacy. It had not been his fault, of course. She had been too clever ever to let him guess how stupid she found him. She felt the possessive arm laid about her shoulders for an evening stroll; saw the wag of his premonitory finger as he raised himself from a border to call out a jocose reprimand; heard the chaff with which, before friends, he counted her mistaken opinions.

And it had been when they were alone, especially at dinner,—Charlie across the table from her in his faultless black and white,—that the pressure of their distance had been most difficult to protect him from. He talked then, and she had to answer adequately. He was fond of talk, and, while the most uncritical of Conservatives, was full of solutions for old ills. He took Trade-Unionists, Home-Rulers, and Dissenters playfully and held them up to kindly ridicule. “You can laugh most people out of their nonsense,” was one of Charlie’s maxims; and if they didn’t respond to the treatment,—he had tried it unsuccessfully on the village cobbler who preached in the tin chapel on Sunday,—he suspected them of being rather wicked.

In the first year of their marriage she had paid him the compliment of disagreement, or, at least, discrimination. She had, until her marriage, thought of herself as a Conservative; to be counted one by Charlie disturbed her sense of rectitude. But Charlie opposed, became puzzled, and finally aggrieved. He bothered and bothered and argued and argued, with the air of trying to bring an erring child to reason. “Now look at it in this light,” he would say. Or, “Try to see the thing squarely, Rosamund”; and would turn upon her irrelevant batteries from the Spectator. She had at last the sensation of flying, battered and breathless, from his platitudes, and found, soon, her only refuge in duplicity. After that, through all the years of their married life, Charlie, she knew, thought of their evening hours alone together as exceedingly pleasant and successful. He wasn’t one of your fellows who doze over the Field with a cigar after dinner. He had a clever wife and he appreciated her and was proud—in spite of feminine aberrations affectionately recognized and checked—of what he called her “intellects.” He called his father and mother his “respected progenitors” and his stomach was never other than “Little Mary.” And while he talked and expounded and made his unexacting jests, Rosamund knew that her silences had no provocation, her smile no irony.

So it had gone on—so it might have gone on for the normal span of life. The only insecurity that had threatened her careful edifice was the question of the boys. The boys were like herself, or, rather, like her adored and brilliant father—proud, sensitive, ardent little creatures, tender-hearted and frightfully intelligent. Physically, too, they were of a different race from Charlie, with thick brown locks, passionate yet gentle eyes, and full, small, closely closing mouths. As boys, Charlie had fairly well understood them,—he got on well with the average boy,—as persons, never; and though as boys, at least as little boys, they got on beautifully with him, they had, as persons, almost at once understood him, even when they were too young to evade or hide from him. If they had not been so young, they would, already, then, have hurt him often.

And for her the boys at once complicated everything. It had been easy, in one way, to yield in non-essentials, though she was woman enough to cry her eyes out when Charlie had taken Philip and Giles, at the earliest age, to have their dear Jeanne-d’Arc heads close-cropped in pursuit of the ideal of manliness; easy, comparatively, to steel her heart when timid little Philip, blanched with terror, was made to ride at six. Charlie had been right about that,—how glad she had been to own it!—for Philip had, in a week’s time, forgotten his fears. But she and Charlie had come near quarrelling over Giles’s rag-doll Bessie. Giles was only three and adored Bessie, and Charlie had tossed her in the air, mocked her, and held her up by the toe while Giles sobbed convulsively.

“Do you really want our boys to be milksops, Rosamund?” he had asked, as, refusing to argue, she took the doll from him, placed her in Giles’s arms, and kept them both on her lap, pressed within her arms, her head bent down over them so that she need not look at her husband. He had gone away vanquished, and Giles had kept his Bessie, until, in the course of nature, she had dropped away from him.

Worse than this came one day when Charlie had found Philip in a corner writing poetry. He had not been altogether pleased by the children’s literary tastes. To grind dutifully at Latin and Greek was one thing, and he was fond of a tag from Tennyson. But he had never cared to read Keats and Shelley when he was a kid. He took the copy-book out of Philip’s reluctant hands and, turning from page to page, read out, in mock-dramatic tones, the derivative, boyish efforts, which yet, to her ear, had every now and then their innocent, bird-like note of reality.

“And now this—'To a Skylark,'” said Charlie, laying a restraining, affectionate hand on Philip’s shoulder, wishing him to rise superior to vanity and join in the fun, once it was pointed out to him.

“‘Glad creature from the dew upspringing
And through the sky your path upwinging!’

Up, up, pretty creature!”

Philip, twisting round under his father’s arm, burst into tears of rage, tore the book from his hand and struck him.

It had been a terrible moment, and Rosamund, reduced as she almost was to Philip’s condition, had never more admired her husband, who, turning only rather pale, had walked away, saying, “I think you’ll be sorry for that when you think it over, old fellow.” That he had been astonished, cut to the quick, she had seen, feeling it all for him at the moment of her deepest feeling for Philip.

“I’m not sorry! I’m not sorry!” Philip had sobbed, rushing to her arms and burying his head on her breast. “I’m not sorry! He’s stupid! stupid! stupid!”

“Hush, hush,” she had said—what a horrid moment it had been! “That is wrong and conceited of you, Philip. You must learn to take a little chaffing. You know how your father loves you.”

“It’s not conceited! It’s not conceited to care about what one tries to do. You know it’s not. You’re not stupid!” the boy had sobbed.

Alas, it had been only four years ago; only a year before the war! Even then, at nine, Philip had been old enough, when he recovered from his weeping, to know that he had hurt her most, had made things difficult for her; and he had been sorry about his father, too, going to him bravely with a tremulous, “Please forgive me, father.” “That’s all right, old boy,” Charlie had said. It was all right, too, in a sense. It left not a trace in the sweetness of Charlie’s nature. It was Philip who had been shaken, frightened to the very core, by what his own outburst had revealed to himself and to her. The boy would always have felt affection for his father; but he, too, would soon have protected him; he, too, would hardly miss him.

The moon had now risen far up out of the walnut branches, and flooded the garden with sorrowful brightness. Poor, poor Charlie! was that all it came to, then, for him? this deserted garden and a wife and children who hardly missed him? Why, was it not the very heart of his tragedy for her to see that they would be happier without him? “And he was a dear,” she said to herself, remembering with an almost passionate determination kind, trustful looks and the happy love of fifteen years ago.

She had been standing still all this while, near the evening primroses; but now, with the great sigh that lifted her breast, she moved forward again, and a bird, disturbed in its rest, flew out from the thick tangle of honeysuckle at the entrance to the summer-house, startling her. As she stopped, her eyes drawn to the spot, she saw, suddenly, that a pale figure was sitting in the summer-house, closely shrunken to one side; hoping in its stillness,—that was apparent,—to remain undiscovered. Ever since she had entered the garden it must have been sitting there; and ever since she had entered the garden it must have been watching her. But why? How strange!

Dispelling a momentary qualm, she stooped her head under the honeysuckle and entered; and then, clearly visible, with her pale hair and face,—as pale, as evident as an evening’s primrose,—the girl sitting there, wide-eyed, revealed, with her identity, that haunting analogy of a little while ago. Of course, it came in a flash now, that was what they reminded her of. Long ago she had thought—conceding them their most lovable association—that Pamela Braithwaite looked like an evening primrose.

“My dear Pamela,” she said, almost as gently as she would have said it to a somnambulist; for, like the flowers, again, she was sad, even uncanny; although Pamela’s uncanniness too,—sweet, homely creature,—could never be sinister. She put a hand upon her arm, for the girl had started to her feet.

“Oh—do forgive me, Mrs. Hayward!” Pamela gasped. Sad? It was more than that. She was broken, spent with weeping. “I didn’t know you were coming. I sit here sometimes in the evenings. I thought you wouldn’t mind.”

“My dear child, why should I mind? I’m thankful to you for coming to the sad little place. It’s much less lonely to think about, for you have always been so much of our life here.”

This, she knew, was an exaggeration; but she must be more than kind to such grief as this: she must find some comfort, if that were possible.

And to feel herself accepted, welcomed, did give comfort; for, sinking again on the seat, bending her face on her hands, Pamela sobbed, “Oh, how kind you are!”

“Poor child, poor, poor child!” said Rosamund. She was only five years older, but she felt as a mother might feel towards the stricken girl. She put an arm around her, murmuring, “Can you tell me what it is? Don’t cry so, dear Pamela.”

Pamela Braithwaite had been a girl of eighteen when they had come, in the first year of their marriage, to Crossfields. The Braithwaites lived a mile away, near the river, a large, affectionate, desultory family, in a large, dilapidated house. Already Pamela mothered the younger brood, and mothered the widowed father as well—a retired tea-planter, who had brought from Ceylon some undefined but convenient complaint that enabled him to pass the rest of his days wrapped in a number of coats, eating very heartily, and, as he expressed it, “sitting about.” A peaceful, idle man, legs outstretched in sun or firelight, hat-brim turned down over his eyes (he had a curious way, even in the house, of almost always wearing his hat), pipe between his teeth; good-looking, too, tall and fair, like his daughters, and with a touch in his appearance, though not in his character, of amicable distinction.

Pamela, except for a brother already married and in Ceylon, was the eldest, with a long gap between her and the group of younger brothers, of whom Rosamund thought mainly as a reservoir of Boy Scouts until they had had to be thought of as a reservoir of volunteers. There were three or four younger sisters, too, some of whom had married and some of whom had gone forth into the world—always with an extreme light-heartedness and confidence—as companions or secretaries. These again were hardly individualized in Rosamund’s recollection, except for the fact that, since Pamela was always making blouses or trimming hats for them, she had become aware that it was Phyllis who wore pink and Marjory blue.

But whoever went, Pamela always stayed; and even when the war broke upon the world, with Frank, the Braithwaite baby, just old enough to enlist, and Phyllis and Marjory at once enrolling themselves as V.A.D.'s, Pamela remained rooted. Who, indeed, had she gone, would have taken care of Mr. Braithwaite, and of the brothers and sisters home on leave, and of the garden earnestly dedicated to potatoes, or the small family of Ceylon nephews and nieces deposited continually in her charge by their parents?

Poor little Pamela! She had had a burdened life; the assiduities of maternity and none of its initial romance. With her large, clear eyes, very far apart, she had always a wistful look; but it was that of a child watching a game and waiting for its turn to come in, and no creature could have given less the impression of weariness or routine. For she had remained, even at thirty-three, the merely bigger sister; an atmosphere of schoolroom tea and the nurture of rabbits and guinea-pigs still hanging about her; her resource and cheerfulness seeming concerned always with the organizing of games, the care of pets, and the soothing of unimportant distresses. Tall, in her scant tweed skirts, her much-repaired white blouse, her slender feet laced into heavy boots, gardening gloves on her hands, so Rosamund had last seen her, a year ago, just before Charlie had been killed, when she had straightened herself from moulding potatoes in the lawn borders and had come forward with her pretty smile to greet her visitor and take her in to tea. Frank had been killed since then, as well as Charlie, but at that time, for both households, the war was splendid adventure rather than sorrow.

Mr. Braithwaite, in the sunny, shabby drawing-room, had stumbled up among his wrappings, to point out to her his accurate flags, advancing or retreating on the many maps that were pinned upon the walls. Frank’s last letter had been read to her, and Dick’s and Eustace’s; and Pamela had come in and out, helping the maid with the tea (the Braithwaite maids were always as cheerful and desultory as the family, and Rosamund never remembered seeing one of them who had not her cap askew or her cuffs untied), standing to butter the bread herself, the side of the loaf before cutting the slice, after her old schoolroom fashion; her discreet yet generous use of the butter—the crust covered to a nicety and no lumps on the crumb—seeming to express her, as did the pouring out of the excellent tea, drawn to a point and never over, and the pleasant, capacious cups with their gilt rims and the immersed rose which, as one drank, discovered itself at the bottom.

A sweet, old-fashioned, homely creature; like the evening primroses; like them, obliterated, unnoticed in daylight; and like them now, becoming visible, becoming personal, even becoming tragic at this nocturnal hour; for was this really Pamela, sweet, prosaic Pamela, sobbing so broken-heartedly beside her? How meagre, intellectual, and unsubstantial her own grief seemed to Rosamund as she listened, almost aghast, her arm about Pamela’s shoulders; and her instinct told her: “It is a man. It is some one she loves—not Frank, but some one she loves far more—who is dead. It is something final and fatal that has broken her down like this.” And aloud she repeated: “Can you tell me, Pamela dear? Please try to tell me. It may help you to tell.” Her own heart was shaken and tears were in her own eyes.

Between her sobs Pamela answered, “I love him—I love him so much. He is dead. And sometimes I can’t bear it.”

Rosamund had never heard of a love-affair. But these years of war had done many things, had found out even the hidden Pamelas.

“I didn’t know.—My poor child!—I never heard. Were you engaged?”

She had Pamela’s ringless hand in hers.

“No! No! It wasn’t that. No—I’ve never had any one like that. No one ever knew. He never knew.” Pamela lifted her head. Her face seemed now only a message emerging from the darkness; shadowed light upon the shadow, it was expression rather than form. “May I tell you?” she said. “Can you forgive my telling you—here and now,—and to-night, when you’ve come to be with him? It was Mr. Hayward I loved. I’ve always loved him. He has been all my life. Ever since you first came here to live.”

Rosamund gazed at her, and through all her astonishment there ran an undertone of accomplished presage. Yes, that was it, of course. Had she not been feeling it, seeking it all the evening?—or had it not been seeking her? Here it was, then, the lacking emptiness. Desolate voids seemed to open upon her in Pamela’s shadowy eyes. She tightly held the ringless hand and felt, presently, that she pressed it against her heart where something pierced her. Was it pity for Pamela? or for Charlie? This was his; had always been his. And Pamela, who had had nothing, had lost everything. “My dear!” she murmured.

“Oh, how kind you are!” said Pamela. She sat quiet, looking down at their two hands held against Rosamund’s heart. And with all the austerity of her grief she had never been more childlike in Rosamund’s eyes. Like a child, once the barriers of shyness were down and trust established, she would confide everything.

Rosamund knew how it must help her to confide. “Tell me if you will,” she said. “I am glad you loved him, if it has not hurt you too much. You understand, don’t you, that I must be glad—for him?”

“Yes, oh, yes; I understand. How beautiful of you to see it all!—Even though it’s so little, it is his; something he did; and so you must care. But I don’t think there’s much to tell; nothing about him that you don’t know.”

“About you, then. About what he was to you.”

“That would simply be my whole life,” said Pamela. “It’s so wonderful of you to understand and not to blame me. So many people would have thought it wrong; but it came before I knew what it was going to be, and I never can feel that it was wrong. He never knew. And even if he had, it couldn’t have made any difference. It must be because of that that I can tell you. If you hadn’t been so happy, if it hadn’t been so perfect—for you and him—I don’t think that I could have told. I should just have rushed away when you came in and hidden from you.”

“Why?” asked Rosamund after a moment. She heard something in her own voice that Pamela would not hear.

“I don’t quite know why,” said Pamela; “but don’t you feel it too? Perhaps if it hadn’t been so perfect, even my little outside love might have hurt you—or troubled you—to hear about. But I see now that you are the only person in the world who could care to hear. It is a comfort to tell you. I am so glad you came.” Pamela turned her eyes upon her and it was almost with her smile. “When I see you like this I can believe that he is here, listening with you, and sorry for me, too.”

How like an evening primrose she was! Rosamund could see her clearly now: the candid oval of the face, the eyes, the innocent, child forehead with thick, fair hair falling across it.

“Yes. Go on,” she said, smiling back.

She was not worthy of Pamela, and poor Charlie was not worthy of her; but no human being is worthy of a flower. And though so innocent, she was not stupid; subtlety like a fragrance was about her as she said, “You can comfort me because you have so much to comfort with.”

“So much grief, or so much remembered happiness?”

“They go together, don’t they?” said Pamela. “Every sort of fulness. But I needn’t try to get it clear. You understand. I always thought that perhaps people who had fulness couldn’t; now I see that I was mistaken.”

“Have you been very unhappy, dear child?”

"Until now? While he was here? Oh, no, I have been lonely. Even before he came, even though my life was so crowded, it was rather lonely. I never had any one of my own, for myself. But afterwards, even if I felt lonely, I was happy. At least, after just at first. Because, just at first, it was miserable, for I couldn’t help longing to see him more and to have him like me more, and that made me understand that I was in love with him, and I was frightened. I can’t explain clearly about it, even to myself. But I was very, very unhappy. Perhaps you remember the time when I was twenty, and got so run down, and they sent me to Germany to my old governess—the only time I ever went away from home, out of England. It was a miserable time. I tried not to think of him and not to care. But I had to come back, and he was there, and I knew I couldn’t stop caring, and that all I could do about it was to try to be better because of him,—you know,—and make people happier, and not think of myself, but of him and them. And everything changed after that. I was never frightened any more, and though perhaps it wasn’t exactly happiness, it was, sometimes, I believe, almost better. I can’t explain it, but what I mean is in some poetry. I never cared much about poetry till he came. Then I seemed to understand things I’d never understood before, and to feel everything that was beautiful. “You remember how dear he was to us all—to the boys and me. I always shared in everything they did. Every bit of this country is full of him; I could never bear to go away and leave it. I want always to stay here till I die.—Flowers and birds—wasn’t he wonderful about them? And our walks in the woods! He saw everything, and made us see it. I never woke in the morning without thinking, Will he come to-day? What will he say and do? I was never tired of watching him and listening to him. All his little ways—you know. When I pleased him,—sometimes I saw the bird we were watching for first, or caught my trout well,—it was a red-letter day. And in big things—to feel I should have pleased him if he’d known. It was he who helped me in every way, without knowing it. And I took more and more joy in you. At first I had felt dreadfully shy with you—and afraid of you. You were so clever, with all your books and music and friends, and you didn’t seem to need anything. But afterwards you were so kind, that, though I was always shy, I was not frightened any longer. I used to think about you so much, and imagine what he felt about you—and you about him.—You won’t mind my saying it, I know. Perhaps you remember the way I used so often, in the evenings, to walk past with the children, and say good-night over the wall. That was to see you and him walking together. You were so beautiful! You are far and far away the most beautiful person I’ve ever known. I always noticed everything you wore, and how your hair was done. I was glad when you took it down from the knot and had it all at the back, as you do now. And the lovely pale blue dress, with the little flounces—do you remember?—a summer dress of lawn. I did love that. And the white linen coats and skirts, and the big white hat with the lemon-coloured bow. Your very shoes—those grey ones you always had, with the low heels and little silver buckles. No one had such lovely clothes. And the way you poured out tea and looked across the table at one. Always like a beautiful muse—you don’t mind my saying it?—a little above everything, and apart, and quietly looking on.—How I understood what he felt for you! I felt it, too, I think, with him.”

Yes, dear flower and child, she had: offering to Charlie that last tribute of a woman’s worship, the imaginative love of the woman he loves; cherishing the cruelly sweet closeness of that piercing community. How she had idealized them both. How she had idealized Charlie’s love. Charlie had never seen her like this. Charlie had never dreamed of her as a muse, above, apart, and quietly watching. Why, with Pamela’s Charlie she herself could almost have been in love!

“What did you talk about, you and he,” she asked, “when you were together?” Their sylvan life, Pamela’s and Charlie’s, was almost as unknown to her as that of the birds they watched. She had almost a soft small hope that perhaps Pamela could show her something she had missed. “Did you ever talk about poetry, for instance?”

“No; never about things like that,” Pamela answered. “He talked more to the boys than to me; he talked to us all together—about what we were doing. But I used to love listening to him when he came and talked to father. Politics, you know; and the way things ought to be done. He was a great deal discouraged, you remember, by the way they were being done. All those unjust taxes, you know. He wanted, he used always to say, to give to the poor himself; he loved taking care of them. But he hated that his money should be taken from him like that, against his will. And he always, always foresaw the war; always knew that Germany was plotting, and how England swarmed with spies. He thought we ought to have declared war upon her long ago and struck first.—I’m rather glad we didn’t, aren’t you? because then, in a way, we should have been in the wrong rather than they; but of course he felt it as a statesman, not like an ignorant woman.—You think Germany plotted, too?”

“Yes, oh, yes.” How glad Rosamund was to be able to think it, to be able, here, with a clear conscience, to remember that, on the theme of Germany’s craft and crime, she and Charlie had thought quite sufficiently alike. “But I am with you about not striking first.”

“Are you really?” There was surprise in Pamela’s voice. She did not dwell on the slight perplexity. “Of course, he always worsted father if he disagreed. It was rather wicked of me, but I couldn’t help enjoying seeing father worsted. He’d never thought things out, as Mr. Hayward had. But that’s what he talked about—things like that—and you.”

“Me?” Rosamund’s voice was gentle, meditative—her old voice of the encounters with Charlie. How she could hear him through all Pamela’s candid recitative!

"He was always thinking about you. ‘My wife says so and so. My wife agrees with me about it. I brought my wife last night to see it as I do.’ Oh, you were with him in everything! It was so beautiful to see and hear! I used to imagine that the Brownings were like that—after I read their lives. He was a sort of poet, wasn’t he? Any one so loving and so happy is a sort of poet—even if they don’t write poetry. Down in the meadows one day, when we were watching lapwings, he and I and the boys,—he wanted to show us a nest; you know how difficult they are to find,—you passed up on the hillside, with Philip and Giles. We could see you against the larchwood, they in their holland smocks and you in white, with the white-and-yellow hat. I shall never forget the way he stood up and smiled, his eyes following you. 'There’s Rosamund and the progeny,' he said.—You know the dear, funny way he had of saying things."

Yes—she knew it. Yet tears had risen to Rosamund’s eyes. Dear old Charlie; dear, old, tiresome Charlie! The tears had come as she saw him standing to look after her and his boys; but there was nothing more, nothing that she could give to Pamela, not one crumb of enrichment from what Pamela believed to be her great store. Pamela had seen all—and more than all—that there was to see.

In her own silence now she was aware of a growing oppression. She was too silent, even for one mute from the depth and sacredness of memory. Might not such silence seem to reprove Pamela’s flooding confidence? She struggled with her thoughts. “The lapwings?” she heard herself murmuring. “I remember his showing me a nest. How he loved birds and how much he knew about them! Weren’t you with us on the day we put up all the nesting-boxes here? Do you remember how he planned for the placing of each one, each bird to have its own appropriate domain? It was a lovely day, in very early spring.”

“Oh—do you remember that?” How Pamela craved the crumb was shown by her lightened face; it was almost happy, as it turned to Rosamund, with its sense of recovered treasures. "Very early spring—March. Snowdrops were up over there,—and there,—and there were daffodils at the foot of the wall. You were in blue: a frieze coat and skirt of Japanese blue, with a grey silk scarf and a little soft grey hat with a blue wing in it; and you said,—you were standing just over there, near the pond,—‘We can always count on tits.’—But you did get robins, too, and thrushes in the big boxes; and then the splendid year when the nut-hatches came to the box down in the orchard. And you were tying up one box, but it was too high and he came and did it for you. I can see you both so plainly, your hands stretching up against the sky. Tall as you are he was taller; his head seemed to tower up into the branches. Such a blue sky it was! And afterwards we had tea in the drawing-room, and the tea wasn’t strong enough for him, and you liked China and he Indian tea. And you teased him and said that you had always to make him the little brown pot all for himself. He said, ‘Tea never tastes so right as out of a brown pot.’ There were white tulips growing in a bowl on the tea-table. And then you played to us. And you sang—‘I need no star in heaven to guide me.’—He was so fond of that. Oh, do you remember it all, too?"

All—all. Rosamund, though her tears fell, felt her cheek flushing in the darkness. How often he had asked for "I need no star in heaven to guide me"! How often she had sung it to him, rejoicing so soon, while she threw the proper tumultuous fervour that Charlie loved into the foolish air, in the atoning thought that already Philip’s favourite was “Der Nussbaum” and that even little Giles asked for “the sheep song,” the bleak, beautiful old Scottish strain: “Ca' the yowes to the knowes,” with its sweetest drop to “my bonnie dearie.” “Oh—give us something cheerful!” Charlie would exclaim after it.

“I remember it all, dear,” she answered; and there was silence for a while.

“How do you bear it?” Pamela whispered suddenly.

The hour, the stillness, the hands that held her, drew her past the last barrier. Her broken heart yearned for the comfort that the greater loss alone could give. What was the strength that enabled his wife to sit there so quietly, so gently, so full of peace and pity?

Rosamund felt herself faltering, stumbling, as she heard the inevitable question, and knew, as it came, that even Pamela’s heavenly blindness might not protect her, unless she could be very careful, from horrid loss or suspicion. To touch with a breath of her daylight reality that silver world of recollection would be to desecrate. Could she hold her breath and tread softly while she answered? Yes, surely. Surely she, who had hidden through all the years from Charlie, could hide from Pamela, although Pamela already was nearer than Charlie and knew her better than he had ever done. All the old strength and resource welled up in her, protecting this lovely thing, as, after the long moment, not looking at Pamela, but into Charlie’s garden, she found the right answer.

“You see, dear, it is so different with me. You have only your memories. I have the boys—his boys—to live for.”

It was right. It was the only answer. She heard Pamela’s long, soft breaths, full of a gentle awe, and felt her hand more tightly clasped. Once the right step was taken, it was easier to go on:

"I want to tell you why I am so glad to have found you here, Pamela dear. You’ll understand, I think, when I say that motherhood lives in the present and future, and is almost cruel, cruel to everything not itself, for it forgets the past in the present. Do you see,"—she found the beautiful untruth,—“he is so much in them for me, that I might almost forget him in them—forget to mourn him, as one would if they were not there. So do you see why it comforts me to know that, while I must go on into the future with them, you will be keeping him here and remembering?”

She could look at Pamela now, in safety, and she turned to her, finding rapt eyes upon her.

“Come here often, won’t you, when I’m away as well as when I’m here. We must make it all look again as it did when he was with us—flowers and trees and bird-boxes. You will help me in it all and you will think of him here and love him. I know what happiness you meant to him—more than he was aware of. You were a beautiful part of his life. You say you were always, for him, only together, with the boys. That is only partly true. He used often to speak of you to me, the little passing things people say of any one they are very fond of and take for granted. He appreciated you and counted upon you. I came here so sad, Pamela, so burdened. I’ve never been sadder in my life than I was to-night as I walked here. And you have lifted it all. It makes all the difference to know that you are here, in his garden, remembering him. More difference than I can say.”

It was an unutterable gratitude that, with her tears, with love and pity and reverence, welled up in her, seeing what Pamela had done. The garden was no longer empty, and Charlie not forgotten. In the night of his death and disappearance this flower had become visible. Always, when she thought of him, she would think of evening primroses and of Pamela, so that it would be with tenderness, with the understanding, homely, unexacting, consecrating, that Pamela gave; Pamela herself becoming a gift from Charlie; emerging from the darkness, evident and beautiful,—almost another child whose future she must carry in her heart; though the only gift she could give her now, in return for all that she had given, was the full and free possession of the past, where, outside the garden wall, she had been a wistful onlooker. She felt that she opened the gate, drew Pamela in, and put into her keeping all the keys that had weighed so heavily in her unfitted hands.