And while her brother lay face to the sky under the tamarisks, she kept trying to think of how to console him, conscious that she did not in the least understand the way he thought about things. Over the fields behind, the larks were hymning the promise of the unripe corn; the foreshore was painted all colours, from vivid green to mushroom pink; by the edge of the blue sea little black figures stooped, gathering sapphire. The air smelled sweet in the shade of the tamarisk; there was ineffable peace. And Barbara, covered by the network of sunlight, could not help impatience with a suffering which seemed to her so corrigible by action. At last she ventured:
“Life is short, Eusty!”
Miltoun’s answer, given without movement, startled her:
“Persuade me that it is, Babs, and I’ll bless you. If the singing of these larks means nothing, if that blue up there is a morass of our invention, if we are pettily, creeping on furthering nothing, if there’s no purpose in our lives, persuade me of it, for God’s sake!”
Carried suddenly beyond her depth, Barbara could only put out her hand, and say: “Oh! don’t take things so hard!”
“Since you say that life is short,” Miltoun muttered, with his smile, “you shouldn’t spoil it by feeling pity! In old days we went to the Tower for our convictions. We can stand a little private roasting, I hope; or has the sand run out of us altogether?”
Stung by his tone, Barbara answered in rather a hard voice:
“What we must bear, we must, I suppose. But why should we make trouble? That’s what I can’t stand!”
“O profound wisdom!”
“I love Life!” she said.
The galleons of the westering sun were already sailing in a broad gold fleet straight for that foreshore where the little black stooping figures had not yet finished their toil, the larks still sang over the unripe corn—when Harbinger, galloping along the sands from Whitewater to Sea House, came on that silent couple walking home to dinner.