Cover of book Herself
Categories: Fiction » Poetry

HERSELF - 1912 - PART I VERSAI1, LES - A FAST-DARKENING December day, and a little Englishwoman the solitary figure on a vast and , melancholy stage, the royal gardens of Versailles. The note of the s


cene was faded splendour above, where the winter sunset died strangled among level clouds, with barely an effort for life, still less for beauty below, where long-accumulated damp dripped from the trees on ranks of statue and fountain,-frivolous, beautiful, profane and all of wasteful marble. They looked piteous enough, those fair, half-clad shapes of nymph and goddess, seeming to shrink for mere comfort into the shelter of the serried woods. They needed encouragement in these dull democratic times to flaunt . as they had of old, and encouragement they had none. Their customary admirers passed them by, lifting the furs about their chins or turning up the collars of their coats, as they hurried homeward from-their afternoons occupation, an inspection of the halffrozen lake. The splendours of Louis Quatorzes waterworks were good for naught, in these worthy , folks opinion, if not to give them skating and in the late contention of cold and rain, rain had still too evidently the upper hand. Tant pis, muttered the mondaines of Versailles and turned their practical minds to cakes and tea, and the streets gaily lighted for Christmas week which twinkled to them from afar. Meanwhile the little Englishwoman, abandoned by all, stood breathless in a glade, and addressed the mistletoe above her head, which for twenty minutes past she had been manceuvring to reach. Very well, she soliloquised. You think you have got the better of me, being the last thing I tried for this day, and left me wanting all. But, think as you will, Ill not spend a penny to buy you in the street. Youre no use at all, youre nothing but green-and-white sentiment, and bought in a market youre not even that. If I had tom you with my hands, I might have liked it, but it would not have changed the facts. Whats Christmas, when your face is aching and your heart as well Whats Christmas, anyway, out of the countries that invented it I defy you, plant yes, and Ill spite you too. For see --She made a dart into the bushes, and extended triumphant, as though calling her ad versary to witness, a mossy lump of wood. Thats a log, she said gravely. Its my log, whats more, gathered here while you outfaced me. And facts may stare as they will, Ill have a real fire to burn my log, all for myself alone, to-morrow being Christmas Eve. Ladies who soliloquise are rare, and pure English ladies rarer and to the attentive listener the voice of this person-a tired little timbre it had, even when she was at her liveliest-might have been perceived to bear an accent a lilt or song of a corner of that island which is least English of the three. A native of Kerry would have claimed the voice, yet stood in doubt for the manner of other lands had overlaid it, and it was more a reminiscence than an actuality. Some of the expressive gesture of France went with it, and withal a faint American blurr upon the rk But the whole speech had a humorous decision which blent all into a character, quite at war with the fatigued indifference that hung on voice and utterance. Or so it seemed to a bearded Englishman of middle age who overheard... --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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