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- The Translation of a Savage, Volume 2. - 1/7 -
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]
THE TRANSLATION OF A SAVAGE
By Gilbert Parker
VI. THE PASSING OF THE YEARS VII. A COURT-MARTIAL VIII. TO EVERY MAN HIS HOUR IX. THE FAITH OF COMRADES
THE PASSING OF THE YEARS
Lali's recovery was not rapid. A change had come upon her. With that strange ride had gone the last strong flicker of the desire for savage life in her. She knew now the position she held towards her husband: that he had never loved her; that she was only an instrument for unworthy retaliation. So soon as she could speak after her accident, she told them that they must not write to him and tell him of it. She also made them promise that they would give him no news of her at all, save that she was well. They could not refuse to promise; they felt she had the right to demand much more than that. They had begun to care for her for herself, and when the months went by, and one day there was a hush about her room, and anxiety, and then relief, in the faces of all, they came to care for her still more for the sake of her child.
As the weeks passed, the fair-haired child grew more and more like his father; but if Lali thought of her husband they never knew it by anything she said, for she would not speak of him. She also made them promise that they would not write to him of the child's birth. Richard, with his sense of justice, and knowing how much the woman had been wronged, said that in all this she had done quite right; that Frank, if he had done his duty after marrying her, should have come with her. And because they all felt that Richard had been her best friend as well as their own, they called the child after him. This also was Lali's wish. Coincident with her motherhood there came to Lali a new purpose. She had not lived with the Armours without absorbing some of their fine social sense and dignity. This, added to the native instinct of pride in her, gave her a new ambition. As hour by hour her child grew dear to her, so hour by hour her husband grew away from her. She schooled herself against him. --At times she thought she hated him. She felt she could never forgive him, but she would prove to him that it was she who had made the mistake of her life in marrying him; that she had been wronged, not he; and that his sin would face him with reproach and punishment one day. Richard's prophecy was likely to come true: she would defeat very perfectly indeed Frank's intentions. After the child was born, so soon as she was able, she renewed her studies with Richard and Mrs. Armour. She read every morning for hours; she rode; she practised all those graceful arts of the toilet which belong to the social convention; she showed an unexpected faculty for singing, and practised it faithfully; and she begged Mrs. Armour and Marion to correct her at every point where correction seemed necessary. When the child was two years old, they all went to London, something against Lali's personal feelings, but quite in accord with what she felt her duty.
Richard was left behind at Greyhope. For the first time in eighteen months he was alone with his old quiet duties and recreations. During that time he had not neglected his pensioners,--his poor, sick, halt, and blind, but a deeper, larger interest had come into his life in the person of Lali. During all that time she had seldom been out of his sight, never out of his influence and tutelage. His days had been full, his every hour had been given a keen, responsible interest. As if by tacit consent, every incident or development of Lali's life was influenced by his judgment and decision. He had been more to her than General Armour, Mrs. Armour, or Marion. Schooled as he was in all the ways of the world, he had at the same time a mind as sensitive as a woman's, an indescribable gentleness, a persuasive temperament. Since, years before, he had withdrawn from the social world and become a recluse, many of his finer qualities had gone into an indulgent seclusion. He had once loved the world and the gay life of London, but some untoward event, coupled with a radical love of retirement, had sent him into years of isolation at Greyhope.
His tutelar relations with Lali had reopened many an old spring of sensation and experience. Her shy dependency, her innocent inquisitiveness, had searched out his remotest sympathies. In teaching her he had himself been re-taught. Before she came he had been satisfied with the quiet usefulness and studious ease of his life. But in her presence something of his old youthfulness came back, some reflection of the ardent hopes of his young manhood. He did not notice the change in himself. He only knew that his life was very full. He read later at nights, he rose earlier in the morning. But unconsciously to himself, he was undergoing a change. The more a man's sympathies and emotions are active, the less is he the philosopher. It is only when one has withdrawn from the more personal influence of the emotions that one's philosophy may be trusted. One may be interested in mankind and still be philosophical--may be, as it were, the priest and confessor to all comers. But let one be touched in some vital corner in one's nature, and the high, faultless impartiality is gone. In proportion as Richard's interest in Lali had grown, the universal quality of his sympathy had declined. Man is only man. Not that his benefactions as lord-bountiful in the parish had grown perfunctory, but the calm detail of his interest was not so definite. He was the same, yet not the same.
He was not aware of any difference in himself. He did not know that he looked younger by ten years. Such is the effect of mere personal sympathy upon a man's look and bearing. When, therefore, one bright May morning, the family at Greyhope, himself excluded, was ready to start for London, he had no thought but that he would drop back into his old silent life, as it was before Lali came, and his brother's child was born. He was not conscious that he was very restless that morning; he scarcely was aware that he had got up two hours earlier than usual. At the breakfast- table he was cheerful and alert. After breakfast he amused himself in playing with the child till the carriage was brought round. It was such a morning as does not come a dozen times a year in England. The sweet, moist air blew from the meadows and up through the lime trees with a warm, insinuating gladness. The lawn sloped delightfully away to the flowered embrasures of the park, and a fragrant abundance of flowers met the eye and cheered the senses. While Richard loitered on the steps with the child and its nurse, more excited than he knew, Lali came out and stood beside him. At the moment Richard was looking into the distance. He did not hear her when she came. She stood near him for a moment, and did not speak. Her eyes followed the direction of his look, and idled tenderly with the prospect before her. She did not even notice the child. The same thought was in the mind of both--with a difference. Richard was wondering how any one could choose to change the sweet dignity of that rural life for the flaring, hurried delights of London and the season. He had thought this a thousand times, and yet, though he would have been little willing to acknowledge it, his conviction was not so impregnable as it had been.
Mrs. Francis Armour was stepping from the known to the unknown. She was leaving the precincts of a life in which, socially, she had been born again. Its sweetness and benign quietness had all worked upon her nature and origin to change her. In that it was an out-door life, full of freshness and open-air vigour, it was not antagonistic to her past. Upon this sympathetic basis had been imposed the conditions of a fine social decorum. The conditions must still exist. But how would it be when she was withdrawn from this peaceful activity of nature and set down among "those garish lights" in Cavendish Square and Piccadilly? She hardly knew to what she was going as yet. There had been a few social functions at Greyhope since she had come, but that could give her, after all, but little idea of the swing and pressure of London life.
At this moment she was lingering over the scene before her. She was wondering with the naive wonder of an awakened mind. She had intended many times of late saying to Richard all the native gratitude she felt; yet somehow she had never been able to say it. The moment of parting had come.
"What are you thinking of, Richard?" she said now. He started and turned towards her.
"I hardly know," he answered. "My thoughts were drifting."
"Richard," she said abruptly," I want to thank you."
"Thank me for what, Lali?" he questioned.
"To thank you, Richard, for everything--since I came, over three years ago."
He broke out into a soft little laugh, then, with his old good-natured manner, caught her hand as he did the first night she came to Greyhope, patted it in a fatherly fashion, and said:
"It is the wrong way about, Lali; I ought to be thanking you, not you me. Why, look what a stupid old fogy I was then, toddling about the place with too much time on my hands, reading a lot and forgetting everything; and here you came in, gave me something to do, made the little I know of any use, and ran a pretty gold wire down the rusty fiddle of life. If there are any speeches of gratitude to be made, they are mine, they are mine."
"Richard," she said very quietly and gravely, "I owe you more than I can ever say--in English. You have taught me to speak in your tongue enough for all the usual things of life, but one can only speak from the depths of one's heart in one's native tongue. And see," she added, with a painful little smile, "how strange it would sound if I were to tell you all I thought in the language of my people--of my people, whom I shall never see again. Richard, can you understand what it must be to have a father whom one is never likely to see again--whom, if one did see again, something painful would happen? We grow away from people against our will; we feel the same towards them, but they cannot feel the same towards us; for their world is in another hemisphere. We want to love them, and we love, remember, and are glad to meet them again, but they feel that we are unfamiliar, and, because we have grown different outwardly, they seem to miss some chord that used to ring. Richard, I-- I--" She paused.
"Yes, Lali," he assented--"yes, I understand you so far; but speak out."
"I am not happy," she said. "I never shall be happy. I have my child, and that is all I have. I cannot go back to the life in which I was born; I must go on as I am, a stranger among a strange people, pitied, suffered, cared for a little--and that is all."
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