Looking dispassionately at her life, it seemed to her a slum of human relationships, airless, over-crowded, a dusty arena where psychological acrobats perform by artificial light. And always that dragging of the general down to the particular, that circumscribing of everything by the personal, every rose a token, the moon something to kiss by, flowers prostituted into bouquets. She thought how happy she was this morning, feeling a little tiny speck of the miracle of life instead of trying to catch it like a wasp under the wine glass of some human desire.
This not being a wife, or a mother, or a friend, or a beloved, or even herself, but a tiny part of the universal, this surely was happiness. To be at one with the morning, to belong to this frontierless world of nature, to be coaxed into flower by the sun, to be a strand in some unknown design, how much better than the weary steering of your life between the Scylla of your ardent futile longings and the Charybdis of some senseless malignant providence.
She took her lunch into the wood. The bluebells were still in bud and hadn’t yet swept everything before them in a headlong rush of waves that never broke. She sat in an open space on a patch of velvety moss, surrounded by tree trunks and waving windflowers and peeping primroses and violets, all diffident forerunners of Spring, shyly enjoying the sun before being submerged in that all-conquering flood of blue.
She caressed the ground with her hand and watched little gusts of wind play hide and seek with the sun. “I don’t believe I’ve ever been alone before,” she thought, and she stretched out her arms into the air, initiating them into freedom.
Gradually the sun began to sink, throwing a riotous tangle of crimson and gold streamers to salute the earth. “They are hauling down the flag of my perfect day,” she thought with a stab of poignant sorrow.
The sky became the colour of a primrose stalk and as transparent as green glass. Before touching the horizon it dissolved into violet powder. The colour was being blotted out of everything; one after another the flowers went out like lights; only the white cherry seemed phosphorescent in the gathering darkness. A thick white mist was relentlessly invading everything, climbing higher and higher, enveloping her in its cold, wet clutches.
Bewildered and miserable, she struggled forward through the extinguished beauty of the world. A thin white sickle of a moon painted on the sky looked cynically down at her. Stumbling, shivering, she hurried blindly along.
The big stone hall was flickering in the blaze of an immense fire, peopled with strange, unreal, clustering shadows. In front of it stood a man in a fur coat. He turned towards her with outstretched arms.
“My darling, what have you been doing out without a coat? Look at your hair all white with mist and your sopping dress. I can’t trust you to look after yourself for one day, can I?”