For a moment I was awed by the aristocratic magnificence of balloons. How superb, how reckless! Very humbly I appealed to her,
“Pouvez-vous, voulez-vous me donner un ballon?”
“Les ballons, ca ne se donne pas apres cinq heures,” she said.
I didn’t press her. How could I? By how many thousands of years of tradition might not the habits of balloons have been fixed? Their lives were evidently strangely and remotely unlike our lives. Wearily I walked downstairs, not snubbed but humbled and a little awed.
* * * * *
Half an hour later I was walking down the Champ Elysees sniffing at the secret violets in the air. I had forgotten Cousin Emily and the world was full of primroses and larks and light-hearted passers-by. Suddenly, at the other side of the street I saw a bursting sunshade of balloons, emerald and ruby, transparent white and thick, solid yellow, a birthday bouquet from a Titan to his lady. Reverently, lovingly, I looked at them, my heart full of joy, but I did not cross the street.
“I do love yachting,” she said, “to see the sea change from aquamarines and diamonds to sapphires and emeralds, with thick unexpected streaks of turquoise. To sail away into the unknown, away from your own life——”
She was looking dreamily in front of her to the blue beyond the mimosa.
“The sea is jolly,” he said.
“To feel that you are leaving land behind you and your friends and your relations and your duties and what are called your pleasures. To be free,” she murmured.
“There’s nothing like horses,” he said. “Their very smell does you good. An hour’s gallop before breakfast in summer, a twenty minutes’ run with the hounds in winter——”
A week later they were engaged to be married. I wondered whether he would take to yachting or she to riding or both to golf.
I didn’t see them for five years. And then, I met her at Melton. She had taken a house for the winter. “So he won,” I reflected to myself.
“Have you done much yachting lately?” I asked her.
“Yachting?” she said, “why it’s my idea of hell. I’m the worst sailor in the world. A sea as calm as a pond finishes me.”
“How is your husband?” I murmured weakly. “Is he coming down here to hunt?”
“Tommy?” she laughed. “Why he’s never known a horse from a cow.”
“DO YOU REMEMBER——?”
[To LESLIE HARTLEY]
There are so many delightful things about being a bride besides actual happiness, little peaks of pleasure that gradually sink into the level of existence, unimportant, all-important things that never come again. To begin with, there is your wedding ring which keeps glistening up at you, unexpectedly making such an absurd difference, not only to the look of your hand but to everything else, as well. And there are your trunks, shiny and untravelled, with glaring new initials almost shouting at you, so very unlike other people’s battered luggage with half obliterated labels sprawling over it.