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The Doves' Nest and Other Stories



It was her habit to sit on the bottom stair and watch his final preparations. Strange it should be so fascinating to see someone brush his hat, choose a pair of gloves, and give a last quick look in the round mirror. But it was the same when he was shaving. Then she loved to curl up on the hard little couch in his dressing room ; she was as absorbed, as intent as he. How fantastic he looked, like a pierrot, like a mask, with those dark eyebrows, liquid eyes and the brush of fresh colour on his cheek- page 143 bones above the lather ! But that was not her chief feeling. No, it was what she felt on the stairs, too. It was, " So this is my husband, so this is the man I've married, this is the stranger who walked across the lawn that afternoon swinging his tennis racket and bowed, rolling up his shirt-sleeves. This is not only my lover and my husband but my brother, my dearest friend, my playmate, even at times a kind of very perfect father too. And here is where we live. Here is his room—and here is our hall." She seemed to be showing their house and him to her other self, the self she had been before she had met him. Deeply admiring, almost awed by so much happiness, that other self looked on . . .

" Will I do ? " He stood there smiling, stroking on his gloves. But although he wouldn't like her to say the things she often longed to say about his appearance, she did think she detected that morning just the very faintest boyish showing off. Children who know they are admired look like that at their mother.

" Yes, you'll do..." Perhaps at that moment she was proud of him as a mother is proud; she could have blessed him before he went his way. Instead she stood in the porch thinking, " There he goes. The man I've married. The stranger who came across the lawn." The fact was never less wonderful. ..

page 144

It was never less wonderful, never. It was even more wonderful if anything and the reason was—Mona ran back into the house, into the drawing-room and sat down to the piano. Oh, why bother about reasons— She began to sing,

See, love, I bring thee flowers
To charm thy pain !

But joy—joy breathless and exulting thrilled in her voice, on the word ' pain ' her lips parted in such a happy—dreadfully unsympathetic smile that she felt quite ashamed. She stopped playing, she turned round on the piano stool facing the room. How different it looked in the morning, how severe and remote. The grey chairs with the fuchsia-coloured cushions, the black and gold carpet, the bright green silk curtains might have belonged to anybody. It was like a stage setting with the curtain still down. She had no right to be there, and as she thought that a queer little chill caught her ; it seemed so extraordinary that anything, even a chair, should turn away from, should not respond to her happiness.

" I don't like this room in the morning, I don't like it at all," she decided, and she ran upstairs to finish dressing. Ran into their big shadowy bedroom . . . and leaned over the starry petunias....