How the Great Wind
from Beacon House
Mary was walking between Diana and Rosamund slowly up and down the garden; they were silent, and the sun had set. Such spaces of daylight as remained open in the west were of a warm-tinted white, which can be compared to nothing but a cream cheese; and the lines of plumy cloud that ran across them had a soft but vivid violet bloom, like a violet smoke. All the rest of the scene swept and faded away into a dove-like gray, and seemed to melt and mount into Mary’s dark-gray figure until she seemed clothed with the garden and the skies. There was something in these last quiet colours that gave her a setting and a supremacy; and the twilight, which concealed Diana’s statelier figure and Rosamund’s braver array, exhibited and emphasized her, leaving her the lady of the garden, and alone.
When they spoke at last it was evident that a conversation long fallen silent was being revived.
“But where is your husband taking you?” asked Diana in her practical voice.
“To an aunt,” said Mary; “that’s just the joke. There really is an aunt, and we left the children with her when I arranged to be turned out of the other boarding-house down the road. We never take more than a week of this kind of holiday, but sometimes we take two of them together.”
“Does the aunt mind much?” asked Rosamund innocently. “Of course, I dare say it’s very narrow-minded and—what’s that other word?— you know, what Goliath was—but I’ve known many aunts who would think it—well, silly.”
“Silly?” cried Mary with great heartiness. “Oh, my Sunday hat! I should think it was silly! But what do you expect? He really is a good man, and it might have been snakes or something.”
“Snakes?” inquired Rosamund, with a slightly puzzled interest.
“Uncle Harry kept snakes, and said they loved him,” replied Mary with perfect simplicity. “Auntie let him have them in his pockets, but not in the bedroom.”
“And you—” began Diana, knitting her dark brows a little.
“Oh, I do as auntie did,” said Mary; “as long as we’re not away from the children more than a fortnight together I play the game. He calls me `Manalive;’ and you must write it all one word, or he’s quite flustered.”
“But if men want things like that,” began Diana.
“Oh, what’s the good of talking about men?” cried Mary impatiently; “why, one might as well be a lady novelist or some horrid thing. There aren’t any men. There are no such people. There’s a man; and whoever he is he’s quite different.”
“So there is no safety,” said Diana in a low voice.
“Oh, I don’t know,” answered Mary, lightly enough; “there’s only two things generally true of them. At certain curious times they’re just fit to take care of us, and they’re never fit to take care of themselves.”