In the salon Charlotte was plotting with Susan over the possible marriage of Phoebe, and Madam snatched her goldheaded stick and went away from them through the open French window and into the garden. All this mating … how necessary, but, mon Dieu, how distasteful now one was old! Such things should be come at through the medium of youth only, when each female and male had a glamour. No glamour could Madam find now even in her own man, with his snorts in the night, his descending red cheeks like wattles. James Sorley was no longer one at whom to makes eyes over a fan. How had he ever been, the old cabbage? Mab with that great beard like a bushman, those eyes that had grown tired in straining after lawless joys … who had once thought him beautiful? Richard, the spoiled child of the house, selling his birthright for a mess of pottage prepared by Mr. Jones … what was he for all his looks but a beer barrel? Noll, with his melodious voice singing:
"I did but see her passing by
And yet I love her till I die. …"
whom had he ever loved but himself? So there they all went, these wonderful men, driven like sheep along the ways. Baaing for something to fill their stomachs, like sheep, thought Madam, looking down over the old stone balustrade to the home paddock where a flock was being driven in from the hills for the dipping.
Mab came up the garden from the stables. Mab … ah, how Madam remembered him with his flushed boy face and his frilled shirt and Young Lochinvar manner, leading a delicately immature Julia out to see the harvest moon on the river! But now he came speaking of Jenny! "I am going over to Lovely Corners to page 367see Jenny," he said. Madam would not speak now of Jenny, who also had made her a sport of the gods. What ghosts, then, companied the child, that she should choose them instead of a living man?
She wanted to ask Mab that; but he seemed so far off, standing there with the twilight welling up about him, absorbing him along with the spikes of lavender, the blue pea, the roses. Only the daisies looked up clearly still. Little marguerite daisies, innocent-eyed like children yet unborn.
"I am tired of Jenny, Mabille," she said. Oh, Jenny with the visions! One saw them in her eyes. But for the old there were no visions. "She has made of her life nothing, and you have helped her there."
Mab answered her out of the twilight. He had gone with the lavender into the twilight. She would never find him any more. "None of you understands Jenny. She has a great soul," said Mab and went away (or the twilight took him entirely), and Madam limped painfully down the steps to meet the Captain, returned from a meeting in Trienna.
"Well, my darling. We had a splendid meeting," he cried, kissing her. And suddenly Madam clung to him. Here was life and love yet. These good things of youth do not pass when we are old. She turned her head toward the splash of water where Mab was unmooring the boat under the weeping willows. "Give my love to la petite" she cried in her sweet old broken voice, and went gaily into the house on the Captain's arm.