This page will take you into pieces of literature that are carefully selected for their great content at the literary, scientific, or philosophical level. A short selection will be presented in full. A long one will be divided into sections that will be refreshed regularly. Emphasis and highlights are mostly ours, not made by the original author.
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Anna the Adventuress (1904) by E. Phillips Oppenheim
Chapter 32. Six Months After
Up the moss-grown path, where the rose bushes run wild, almost met, came Anna in a spotless white gown, with the flush of her early morning walk in her cheeks, and something of the brightness of it in her eyes. In one hand she carried a long-stalked red rose, dripping with dew, in the other the post-bag.
She reached a tiny yellow-fronted cottage covered with flowering creepers, and entered the front room by the wide-open window. Breakfast was laid for one, a dish of fruit and a shining coffee equipage. By the side of her plate was a small key. With trembling fingers she opened the post-bag. There was one letter. One only.
She opened and read it at once. It was dated from the House of Commons on the previous day.
My Dear Miss Pellissier,--
Tomorrow the six months will be up. For days I have been undecided as to whether I would come to you or no. I would like you to believe that the decision I have arrived at--to stay away--is wholly and entirely to save you pain. It should be the happiest day of your life, and I would not detract from its happiness by letting you remember for a moment that there are others to whom your inevitable decision must bring some pain.
For I know that you love Ennison. You tried bravely enough to hide your preference, to look at us all with the same eyes, to speak to us in the same tone. It was not your fault you failed. If by any chance I have made a mistake a word will bring me to you. But I know very well that that word will never be spoken.
Your great success has been my joy, our joy as well as yours. You have made for yourself a unique place upon the stage. We have so many actresses who aspire to great things in the drama, not one who can interpret as you have interpreted it, the delicate finesse, the finer lights and shades of true comedy. Ennison will make a thousand enemies if he takes you from the stage. Yet I think that he will do it.
For my own part I have come fully now into my inheritance. I am bound to admit that I greatly enjoy my altered life. Every minute I spend here is an education to me. Before very long I hope to have definite work. Some of my schemes are already in hand. People shrug their shoulders and call me a crazy socialist. Yet I fancy that we who have been poor ourselves must be the best judges of the needs of the people.
You will write to me, I am sure--and from the date of your letter I trust most earnestly that I may come back to my old place as
Your devoted friend,
She set the letter down, and drew from her pocket another with a foreign post mark which had come the day before. This one too she read.
Hassell's Camp, Near Colorado.
On or about the day you receive this letter, Anna, the six months will be up. Do you expect me, I wonder. I think not. At any rate, here I am, and here I shall be, twenty thousand feet above all your poison-reeking cities, up where God's wind comes fresh from heaven, very near indeed to the untrodden snows. Sometimes I tremble, Anna, to think how near I came to passing through life without a single glimpse, a moment's revelation of this greatest and most awful of mysteries, the mystery of primaeval nature. It is a true saying that in the mountains there is peace. One's sense of proportion, battered out of all shape in the daily life of cities, reasserts itself. I love you still, Anna, but life holds other things than the love of man for woman. Some day I shall come back, and I will show you on canvas the things which have come to me up here amongst the eternal silence.
Many nights I have thought of you, Anna. Your face has flitted out of my watch-fire, and then I have been a haunted man. But with the morning, the glorious unstained morning the passion of living would stir even the blood of a clod. It comes over the mountains, Anna, pink darkening into orange red, everywhere a wonderful cloud sea, scintillating with colour. It is enough to make a man throw away canvas and brushes into the bottomless precipices, enough to make one weep with despair at his utter and absolute impotence. Nature is God, Anna, and the greatest artist of us all a pigmy. When I think of those ateliers of ours, the art jargon, the decadents with their flamboyant talk I long for a two-edged sword and a minute of Divinity. To perdition with them all.
I shall come back, if at all, a new man. I have a new cult to teach, a new enthusiasm. I feel years younger, a man again. My first visit will be to you. I must tell you all about God's land, this marvellous virgin country, with its silent forests and dazzling peaks. I make no apology for not being with you now. You love Ennison. Believe me, the bitterness of it has almost departed, crushed out of me together with much of the weariness and sorrow I brought with me here by the nameless glory of these lonely months. Yet I shall think of you today. I pray, Anna, that you may find your happiness.
P.S.--I do not congratulate you on your success. I was certain of it. I am glad or sorry according as it has brought you happiness.
Anna's eyes were a little dim as she poured out her coffee, and the laugh she attempted was not altogether a success.
"This is all very well," she said, "but two out of the three are rank deserters--and if the papers tell the truth the third is as bad. I believe I am doomed to be an old maid."
She finished her breakfast and strolled out across the garden with the letters still in her hand. Beyond was a field sloping steeply upwards, and at the top a small pine plantation. She climbed slowly towards it, keeping close to the hedge side, fragrant with wild roses, and holding her skirts high above the dew-laden
grass. Arrived in the plantation she sat down with her back against a tree trunk.
Already the warm sun was drawing from the pines their delicious odour. Below her stretched a valley of rich meadowland, of yellow cornfields, and beyond moorland hillside glorious with purple heather and golden gorse. She tried to compose her thoughts, to think of the last six months, to steep herself in the calm beauty of the surroundings. And she found herself able to do nothing of the sort. A new restlessness seemed to have stolen in upon her. She started at the falling of a leaf, at the lumbering of a cow through the hedge. Her heart was beating with quite unaccustomed vigour, her hands were hot, she was conscious of a warmth in her blood which the summer sunshine was scarcely responsible for. She struggled against it quite uselessly. She knew very well that a new thing was stirring in her. The period of repression was over. It is foolish, she murmured to herself, foolish. He will not come. He cannot.
And then all her restlessness was turned to joy. She sprang to her feet and stood listening with parted lips and eager eyes. So he found her when he came round the corner of the spinney.
"Anna," he cried eagerly.
She held out her arms to him and smiled.
"And where," he asked, "are my rivals?"
"Deserters," she answered, laughing. "It is you alone, Nigel, who have saved me from being an old maid. Here are their letters."
He took them from her and read them. When he came to a certain sentence in Brendon's letter he stopped short and looked up at her.
"So Brendon and I," he said, "have been troubled with the same fears. I too, Anna, have watched and read of your success with--I must confess it--some misgiving."
"Please tell me why?" she asked.
"Do you need me to tell you? You have tasted the luxury of power. You have made your public, you are already a personage. And I want you for myself--for my wife."
She took his hand and smiled upon him.
"Don't you understand, Nigel," she said softly, "that it was precisely for this I have worked so hard. It is just the aim I have had in view all the time. I wanted to have something to give up. I did not care--no woman really cares--to play the beggar maid to your King Cophetua."
"Then you will really give it all up!" he exclaimed.
"When we go indoors I will show you the offers I have refused," she answered. "They have all been trying to turn my head. I think that nearly every manager in London has made me an offer. My reply to all of them has been the same. My engagement at the ‘Garrick' terminates Saturday week, and then I am free."
"You will make me horribly conceited," he answered. "I think that I shall be the most unpopular man in London. You are not playing tonight, are you?"
"Not tonight," she answered. "I am giving my understudy a chance. I am going up to dine with my sister."
"Annabel is a prophetess," he declared. "I too am asked."
"It is a conspiracy," she exclaimed. "Come, we must go home and have some luncheon. My little maidservant will think that I am lost."
They clambered down the hill together. The air was sweet with the perfume of flowers, and the melody of murmuring insects, the blue sky was cloudless, the heat of the sun was tempered by the heather-scented west wind. Ennison paused by the little gate.
"I think," he said, "that you have found the real home of the lotus-eaters. Here one might live the life of golden days."
She shook her head gently.
"Neither you nor I, Nigel, are made of such stuff," she answered. "These are the playgrounds of life. The great heart of the world beats only where men and women are gathered together. You have your work before you, and I----"
He kissed her on the lips.
"I believe," he said, "that you mean me to be Prime Minister."