I wanted bloom and mystery, a woman shifting like the light with evening and night and dawn, and sudden fire. Janet was bald to the heart inhabiting me then, as if quite shaven. She could speak her affectionate mind as plain as print, and it was dull print facing me, not the arches of the sunset. Julia had only to lisp, ‘my husband,’ to startle and agitate me beyond expression. She said simple things—’I slept well last night,’ or ’ I dreamed,’ or ’ I shivered,’ and plunged me headlong down impenetrable forests. The mould of her mouth to a reluctant ‘No,’ and her almost invariable drawing in of her breath with a ‘Yes,’ surcharged the everyday monosyllables with meanings of life and death. At last I was reduced to tell her, seeing that she reproached my coldness for Janet, how much I wished Janet resembled her. Her Irish eyes lightened: ‘Me! Harry’; then they shadowed: ‘She is worth ten of me.’ Such pathetic humility tempted me to exalt her supremely.
I talked like a boy, feeling like a man: she behaved like a woman, blushing like a girl.
‘Julia! I can never call you Mrs. Bulsted.’
‘You have an affection for my husband, have you not, Harry?’
Of a season when this was adorable language to me, the indication is sufficient. Riding out perfectly crazed by it, I met Kiomi, and transferred my emotions. The squire had paid her people an annual sum to keep away from our neighbourhood, while there was a chance of my taking to gipsy life. They had come back to their old camping-ground, rather dissatisfied with the squire.
‘Speak to him yourself, Kiomi,’ said I; ’whatever you ask for, he can’t refuse anything to such eyes as yours.’
‘You!’ she rallied me; ‘why can’t you talk sensible stuff!’
She had grown a superb savage, proof against weather and compliments. Her face was like an Egyptian sky fronting night. The strong old Eastern blood put ruddy flame for the red colour; tawny olive edged from the red; rare vivid yellow, all but amber. The light that first looks down upon the fallen sun was her complexion above the brows, and round the cheeks, the neck’s nape, the throat, and the firm bosom prompt to lift and sink with her vigour of speech, as her eyes were to flash and darken. Meeting her you swore she was the personification of wandering Asia. There was no question of beauty and grace, for these have laws. The curve of her brows broke like a beaten wave; the lips and nostrils were wide, tragic in repose. But when she laughed she illuminated you; where she stepped she made the earth hers. She was as fresh of her East as the morning when her ancient people struck tents in the track of their shadows. I write of her in the style consonant to my ideas of her at the time. I would have carried her off on the impulse and lived her life, merely to have had such a picture moving in my sight, and call it mine.
‘You’re not married?’ I said, ludicrously faintly.