AN ANCIENT THEORY OF HEAVEN
“When are you going to read me my poem?” said Angelica, one day.
“When are you going to tell me what I asked?” replied Henry.
“Whenever you read me my poem,” retorted Angelica.
“All right. When would you like to hear it?”
“But I haven’t got it with me to-day.”
“Can’t you remember it?”
“No, not to-day.”
“When will you bring it?”
“I’ll tell you what. Come with me to Woodside Meadows on Saturday afternoon. Your father won’t mind?”
“Oh, no; father likes you.”
“I’m glad, because I’m very fond of him.”
“Yes, he’s a dear; and he’s got far more in him than perhaps you think, under his country ways. If you could see him in the country, it would make you cry. He loves it so.”
“Yes, I could tell that by the way he talked of Derbyshire the first day we met. But you’ll come on Saturday?”
“Yes, I’ll come.”
* * * * *
Angel! Yes, it was the face of an angel; but, bright as it had seemed on that dark background, it seemed almost brighter still as it moved by Henry’s side among the green lanes. He had never known Angel till then, never known what primal ecstasy her nature was capable of. In the town, her soul was like a flame in a lamp of pearl; here in the country, it was like a star in a vase of dew. To be near trees, to touch their rough barks, to fill one’s hands with green leaves, to hear birds, to listen to running water, to look up into the sky,—oh, this was to come home!—and Angel’s joy in these things was that of some wood-spirit who you might expect any moment, like Undine, to slip out of your hands in some laughing brook, or change to a shower of blossom over your head.
“Oh, how good the country is! I wish father were here. I could eat the grass. And I just want to take the sky in my arms.” As she swept across meadow and through woodland, with the eagerness of a child, greedily hastening from room to room of some inexhaustible palace, her little tense body seemed like a transparent garment fluttering round the flying feet of her soul.
At length she flung herself down, almost breathless, at the grassy foot of a great tree.
“I suppose you think I’m mad,” she said. “And really I think I must be; for why should mere green grass and blue sky and a few birds make one so happy?”
“Why should anything make us happy?”
“But now you’re going to read my poem,” she said, presently.
“Yes; but something has to happen before I can read it,” said Henry, growing unaccountably serious; “for it is in the nature of a prophecy, or at all events of an anticipation. You have to fulfil that prophecy first.”
“It seems to me a very mysterious poem. But what have I to do?”