Brevis slept that night without dreaming. And yet the old house with its throbbing life was full of dreams. In the big page 330nursery bed Mary dreamed thirstily of algebra, maps, and history, while the loosed spirit in Phoebe smelt dust, sheep, and tar as a Peri smells Paradise. Clutching Mary, she rejoicingly thought she was drafting hoggets through a gate. Susan, stickily hot by William behind the heavy moreen curtains, made little troubled murmurs about Richard, now brewery clerk for Jones, Jacobs & Jones. She saw him dancing at Government House with Lavinia Jones, who kept dropping her aitches and picking up gold. They both sat down on the floor to play with gold …
Next Madam's room slept Celeste, an obese brown mountain dreaming of Paris. Splendidly she was returning with such valuables of Madam's as she had been able to annex. Between her and Madam there was an affection … it would much pleasure her to wear the crystal earrings of Madame. She turned, bumping the wall, and in the next room the Captain choked and muttered: "Damme! that was a near shave! Give her her head at the gorse, Mab. She's not so young as she was."
Madam slept smiling, with cheek upon her hand. She was back in her youth, where she had been with dear Louisa Sorley all the afternoon. Louisa had said, "Let us talk of when we were young, Genevieve," and just now this old Madam was young. She stood in a hut door watching two who walked by a log fence with raised voices. Then James Sorley saw her and swept off his tall hat with a bow and a look…. Eh-h-h …
L'premier prit sa main blanche,
L's 'cond lui prit le menton.
Ce qui prit le troisième …
N'est pas dans la chanson …
Here was her bonhomme forbidding her to sing any more of that, and Sir John Franklin in his blue coat and tight white breeches clapping her, and those natives they had put into livery and white cotton gloves staring with round black eyes. And away went she and Sir John, leading Sir Roger down this despicable floor of Government House through a maze of shining shoulders and floating ringlets and rosy skirts and streamers of white and of silver-blue. Ah, Marion Boyd, you were lovely in silverblue …page 331
"Drink to me only with thine eyes.
And I will pledge with mine.
Or leave a kiss but in the cup
And I'll not look for wine."
Noll was singing that. Dear Heaven, what a voice he had! No, Brevis was singing it to Jenny. (Here Madam began to sigh and toss. Even in her dreams Jenny troubled her.) What will you, ma mie? Why do you never trust me? Carry the torch … but it has never been lit. Are you waiting for him to light it? Eh, these dark shadows between, petit oiseau! These dark shadows … Madam felt for comfort with panic hands, found the fat shoulder of her vieux, and cuddled contented against it.
Fanny to-night could not sleep. Pretty as a doll in blue dressing-gown and white nightcap tied under a dimpled chin she had come, all full of pink-and-white blushes, to kneel beside Jenny's bed. Fanny, Charlotte said, was more than a trifle silly, always posing before mirrors, singing sentimental songs. But she was very earnest to-night, pretty pink Fanny.
"He says he has loved me for years, Jenny. Isn't it wonderful? He's to speak to Papa as soon as I've come out at the Duke's Ball, and danced with other gentlemen and found that I don't like any of them. Isn't it wonderful?"
Jenny thought it indeed wonderful. Sigurd with his fierce ideals, his thirty years, his Bohemianism, tumbling down before little pink Fanny. But that was how the world went: pouring out life; snatching one and another—any one and another, it seemed—to fulfil by them the endless relentless will. Pouring them all out, and mopping them all up again in the end.
"Darling Jenny," said Fanny, going away at last. "I know I shall be deliriously happy."
Of course she would be. Nothing against fair-haired Sigurd whose fair life you could put your finger on anywhere. Not like dark Brevis, burning away in his darkness.
Jenny turned in her bed, gripping the pillow with her arms, This life, this pageant, this masquerade … You ask me if I am going to the masquerade. I am at it.