It was toward the end of an afternoon in early April; the discoloured snow still lay huddled in the bleaker fence corners. Wide puddles stood along the roadsides, reflecting the twigs and branches of the naked maples; last year’s leaves were thick and wet underfoot, and a soft damp wind was blowing. Advena was on her way home and Finlay overtook her. He passed her at first, with a hurried silent lifting of his hat; then perhaps the deserted street gave a suggestion of unfriendliness to his act, or some freshness in her voice stayed him. At all events, he waited and joined her, with a word or two about their going in the same direction; and they walked along together. He offered her his companionship, but he had nothing to say; the silence in which they pursued their way was no doubt to him just the embarrassing condition he usually had to contend with. To her it seemed pregnant, auspicious; it drew something from the low grey lights of the wet spring afternoon and the unbound heart-lifting wind; she had a passionate prevision that the steps they took together would lead somehow to freedom. They went on in that strange bound way, and the day drew away from them till they turned a sudden corner, when it lay all along the yellow sky across the river, behind a fringe of winter woods, stayed in the moment of its retreat on the edge of unvexed landscape. They stopped involuntarily to look, and she saw a smile come up from some depth in him.
“Ah, well,” he said, as if to himself, “it’s something to be in a country where the sun still goes down with a thought of the primaeval.”
“I think I prefer the sophistication of chimney-pots,” she replied. “I’ve always longed to see a sunset in London, with the fog breaking over Westminster.”
“Then you don’t care about them for themselves, sunsets?” he asked, with the simplest absence of mind.
“I never yet could see the sun go down, But I was angry in my heart,” she said, and this time he looked at her.
“How does it go on?” he said.
“Oh, I don’t know. Only those two lines stay with me. I feel it that way, too. It’s the seal upon an act of violence, isn’t it, a sunset? Something taken from us against our will. It’s a hateful reminder, in the midst of our delightful volitions, of how arbitrary every condition of life is.”
“The conditions of business are always arbitrary. Life is a business—we have to work at ourselves till it is over. So much cut off and ended it is,” he said, glancing at the sky again. “If space is the area of life and time is its opportunity, there goes a measure of opportunity.”
“I wonder,” said Advena, “where it goes?”
“Into the void behind time?” he suggested, smiling straight at her.
“Into the texture of the future,” she answered, smiling back.
“We might bring it to bear very intelligently on the future, at any rate,” he returned. “The world is wrapped in destiny, and but revolves to roll it out”