then the thought had come: Why not? Life
was to be lived—not torpidly dozed through
in this queer cultured place, where age was in the
blood! Life was for love—to be enjoyed!
And she would be thirty-six next month! It seemed
to her already an enormous age. Thirty-six!
Soon she would be old, actually old—and
never have known passion! The worship, which
had made a hero of the distinguished-looking Englishman,
twelve years older than herself, who could lead up
the Cimone della Pala, had not been passion.
It might, perhaps, have become passion if he had
so willed. But he was all form, ice, books.
Had he a heart at all, had he blood in his veins?
Was there any joy of life in this too beautiful city
and these people who lived in it—this place
where even enthusiasms seemed to be formal and have
no wings, where everything was settled and sophisticated
as the very chapels and cloisters? And yet, to
have this feeling for a boy—for one almost
young enough to be her son! It was so—shameless!
That thought haunted her, made her flush in the dark,
lying awake at night. And desperately she would
pray— for she was devout—pray
to be made pure, to be given the holy feelings of
a mother, to be filled simply with the sweet sense
that she could do everything, suffer anything for
him, for his good. After these long prayers she
would feel calmed, drowsy, as though she had taken
a drug. For hours, perhaps, she would stay like
that. And then it would all come over her again.
She never thought of his loving her; that would be—unnatural.
Why should he love her? She was very humble
about it. Ever since that Sunday, when she avoided
the confessional, she had brooded over how to make
an end—how to get away from a longing that
was too strong for her. And she had hit on this
plan—to beg for the mountains, to go back
to where her husband had come into her life, and try
if this feeling would not die. If it did not,
she would ask to be left out there with her own people,
away from this danger. And now the fool—the
blind fool—the superior fool—with
his satiric smile, his everlasting patronage, had
driven her to overturn her own plan. Well, let
him take the consequences; she had done her best!
She would have this one fling of joy, even if it
meant that she must stay out there, and never see
the boy again!
Standing in her dusky hall, where a faint scent of
woodrot crept out into the air, whenever windows and
doors were closed, she was all tremulous with secret
happiness. To be with him among her mountains,
to show him all those wonderful, glittering or tawny
crags, to go with him to the top of them and see the
kingdoms of the world spread out below; to wander
with him in the pine woods, on the Alps in all the
scent of the trees and the flowers, where the sun
was hot! The first of July; and it was only the
tenth of June! Would she ever live so long?
They would not go to San Martino this time, rather
to Cortina—some new place that had no memories!