PublicBookshelf Book Club
Weekly tips on great novels to read.
Man is a hunter--a hunter always. He may be a poor thing and hunt only a
few puny aims, or he may be a strong man and choose big game. But he is
And primitive life seems like the spectrum of light--composed of three
primary colors, and white and black at the beginning and ending of it.
And the three colors of blue, red, and yellow have their counterparts in
the three great passions in man--to hunt his food, to continue his
species, and to kill his enemy.
And white and black seem like birth and death--and there is the sun,
which is the soul and makes the colors, and allows of all combinations
and graduations of beautiful other shades from them for parallels to all
other qualities and instincts, only the original are those great primary
forces--to hunt his food, to continue his species, and to kill his
And if this is so to the end of time, man will be the same, I suppose,
until civilization has emasculated the whole of nature and so ends the
world! Or until this wonderful new scientist has perfected his
researches to the point of creating human life by chemical process, as
well as his present discovery of animating jellyfish!
Who knows? But by that time it will not matter to any of us!
Meanwhile, man is at the stage that when he loves a woman he wishes to
possess her, and, in a modified form, he wishes to steal her, if
necessary, from another, or kill the enemy who steals her from him.
But the Sun of the Soul is there, too, so the poor old world is not in
such a very bad case after all.
And how the bon Dieu must smile sadly to Himself when He looks down on
priests and nuns and hermits and fanatics, and sees how they have
distorted His beautiful scheme of things with their narrow ideas. Trying
to eliminate the red out of His spectrum, instead of ennobling and
glorifying it all with the Sun of the Soul.
And all of you who are great reasoners and arguers will laugh at this
ridiculous little simile of life drawn by a woman; but I do not care. I
have had my outburst, and said what I wanted to. So now we can get back
to the two--who were not yet lovers--under their green tree in the
Forest of Marly.
"But you must be able to guess the end," Theodora was saying; "and oh, I
want to know, if all the roads were barred by love--how did they get out
of the wood?"
"They took him with them," said Lord Bracondale, and he touched the edge
of her dress gently with a wild flower he had picked in the grass, while
into his eyes crept all the passion he felt and into his voice all the
Now if Theodora had ever read La Faute de L'Abbé Mouret she would have
known just what proximity and the spring-time was doing for them both.
But she had not read, and did not know. All she was conscious of was a
wild thrilling of her pulses, an extraordinary magnetic force that
seemed to draw her--draw her nearer--nearer to what? Even that she did
not know or ask herself. Beyond that it was danger, and she must fly
"I do not want to talk of any of those things to-day," she said,
suddenly dropping her parasol between them. "I only want to laugh and be
amused, and as you were to devise schemes for my happiness, you must
He looked up at her again and he noticed, for all this brave speech,
that her hands were trembling as she clutched the handle of her blue
Triumph and joy ran through him. He could afford to wait a little longer
now, since he knew that he must mean something, even perhaps a great
deal, to her.
And so for the next half-hour he played with her, he skimmed over the
surface of danger, he enthralled her fancy, and with every sentence he
threw the glamour of his love around her, and fascinated her soul. All
his powers of attraction--and they were many--were employed for her
And Theodora sat as one in a dream.
At last she felt she must wake--must realize that she was not a happy
princess, but Theodora, who must live her dull life--and this--and
this--where was it leading her to?
So she clasped her hands together suddenly, and she said: "But do you know we have grown serious, and I asked you to amuse me,
"I cannot amuse you," he said, lazily, "but shall I tell you about my
home, which I should like to show you some day?" And again he began to
caress the farthest edge of her dress with his wild flower. Just the
smallest movement of smoothing it up and down that no one could resent,
but which was disturbing to Theodora. She did not wish him to stop, on
the contrary--and yet-"Yes, I would like to hear of that," she said. "Is it an old, old
"Oh, moderately so, and it has nooks and corners and views that might
appeal to you. I believe I should find them all endowed with fresh charm
myself, if I could see them with you"--and he made the turning-point of
his flower a few inches nearer her hand.
Theodora said nothing; but she took courage and peeped at him again. And
she thought how powerful he looked, and how beautifully shaped; and she
liked the fineness of the silk of his socks and his shirt, and the cut
of his clothes, and the wave of his hair--and last of all, his brown,
strong, well-shaped hands.
And then she fell to wondering what the general scheme of things could
be that made husbands possess none of these charms; when, if they did,
it could all be so good and so delicious, instead of a terribly irksome
duty to live with them and be their wives.
"You are not listening to a word I am saying!" said Hector. "Where were
your thoughts, cruel lady?"
She was confused a little, and laughed gently. "They were away in a land
where you can never come," she said.
He raised himself on his elbow, and supported his head on his hand,
while he answered, eagerly: "But I must come! I want to know them, all your thoughts. Do you know
that since we met on Monday you have never been for one instant out of
my consciousness. And you would not listen then to what I told you of
friendship when it is born of instantaneous sympathy--it is because in
some other life two souls have been very near and dear. And that is our
case, and I want to make you feel it so, as I do. Tell me that you
"I do not know what I do feel," said Theodora. "But perhaps--could it be
true that we met when we lived before; and when was that? and who were
"It matters not a jot," said he. "So long as you feel it too--that we
are not only of yesterday, you and I. There is some stronger link
For one second they looked into each other's eyes, and each read the
other's thoughts mirrored there; and if his said, in conscious,
passionate words, "I love you," hers were troubled and misty with
possibilities. Then she jumped up from her seat suddenly, and her voice
trembled a little as she said: "And now I want to go out of the wood."
He rose too and stood beside her, while he pointed to the glade to the
left of the centre they were facing.
"We must penetrate into the future then," he said, "because I told my
chauffeur to meet us on the road where I think that will lead to. We
cannot go back by the way we have come."
And she did not answer; she was afraid, because she remembered all those
avenues were barred by--love.
As he walked beside her, Hector Bracondale knew that now he must be
very, very careful in what he said. He must lull her fears to sleep
again, or she would be off like a lark towards high heaven, and he would
be left upon earth.
So he exerted himself to interest and amuse her in less agitating ways.
He talked of his home and his mother and his sister. He wanted Theodora
to meet them. She would like Anne, he said, and his mother would love
her, he knew. And again the impossible vision same to him, and he felt
he hated the face of Morella Winmarleigh.
Usually when he had been greatly attracted by a married woman before, he
had unconsciously thought of her as having the qualities which would
make her an adorable mistress, a delicious friend, or a holiday
amusement. There had never been any reverence mixed up with the affair,
which usually had the zest of forbidden fruit, and was hurried along by
passion. It had always only depended upon the woman how far he had got
beyond these stages; but, as he thought of Theodora, unconsciously a
picture always came to him of what she would be were she his wife. And
it astonished him when he analyzed it; he, the scoffer at bonds, now to
find this picture the fairest in the world!
And as yet he was hardly even dimly growing to realize that fate would
turn the anguish of this desire into a chastisement of scorpions for
Things had always been so within his grasp.
"We shall go to England on Tuesday," Theodora said, as they sauntered
along down the green glade. "It is so strange, you know, but I have
never been there."
"Never been to England!" Hector exclaimed, incredulously.
"No!" and she smiled up at him. All was at peace now in her mind, and
she dared to look as much as she pleased.
"No. Papa used to go sometimes, but it was too expensive to take the
whole family; so we were left at Bruges generally, or at Dieppe, or
where we chanced to be. If it was the summer, often we have spent it in
a Normandy farm-house."
"Then how have you learned all the things you know?" he asked.
"That was not difficult. I do not know much," she said, gently, "and
Sarah taught me in the beginning, and then I went to convents whenever
we were in towns, and dear papa was so kind and generous always; no
matter how hard up he was he always got the best masters available for
me--and for Clementine. Sarah is much older, and even Clementine five
"I wonder what on earth you will think of it--England, I mean?" He was
"I am sure I shall love it. We have always spoken of it as home, you
know. And papa has often described my grandfather's houses. Both my
grandfathers had beautiful houses, it seems, and he says, now that I am
rich and cannot ever be a trouble to them, the family might be pleased
to see me."
She spoke quite simply. There never was room for bitterness or irony in
her tender heart. And Hector looked down upon her, a sort of worship in
"Papa's father is dead long ago; it is his brother who owns Beechleigh
now," she continued--"Sir Patrick Fitzgerald. They are Irish, of course,
but the place is in Cambridgeshire, because it came from his
"Yes, I know the old boy," said Hector. "I see him at the turf--a fiery,
vile-tempered, thin, old bird, about sixty."
"That sounds like him," said Theodora.
"And so you are going to make all these relations' acquaintance. What an
experience it will be, won't it?" His voice was full of sympathy. "But
you will stay in London. They are all there now, I suppose?"
"My Grandfather Borringdon, my mother's father, never goes there, I
believe; he is very old and delicate, we have heard. But I have written
to him--papa wished me to do so; for myself I do not care, because I
think he was unkind to my mother, and I shall not like him. It was cruel
never to speak to her again--wasn't it?--just because she married papa,
whom she loved very much--papa, who is so handsome that he could never
have really been a husband, could he?"
Then she blushed deeply, realizing what she had said.
And the quaintness of it caused Hector to smile while he felt its
How could they all have sacrificed this beautiful young life between
them! And he slashed off a tall green weed with his stick when he
thought of Josiah Brown--his short, stumpy, plebeian figure and bald,
shiny head, his common voice, and his pompousness--Josiah Brown, who had
now the ordering of her comings and goings, who paid for her clothes and
gave her those great pearls--who might touch her and kiss her--might
clasp and caress her--might hold her in his arms, his very own, any
moment of the day--or night! Ah, God! that last thought was
And for one second Hector's eyes looked murderous as they glared into
the distance--and Theodora glanced up timidly, and asked, in a
sympathetic voice: What was it? What ailed him?
"Some day I will tell you," he said. "But not yet."
Then he asked her more about her family and her plans.
They would stay in London at Claridge's for a week or so, and go down to
Bessington Hall for Whitsuntide. It would be ready for them then. Josiah
had had it all furnished magnificently by one of those people who had
taste and ordered well for those who could afford to pay for it. She was
rather longing to see it, she said--her future home--and she could have
wished she might have chosen the things herself. Not that it mattered
much either way.
"I am very ignorant about houses," she explained, "because we never
really had one, you see, but I think, perhaps, I would know what was
pretty from museums and pictures--and I love all colors and forms."
He felt sure she would know what was pretty. How delightful it would be
to watch her playing with his old home! The touches of her gentle
fingers would make everything sacred afterwards.
At last they came to the end of the green glade--and temptation again
assailed him. He must ruffle the peace of her soft eyes once more.
"And here is the barrier," he said, pointing to a board with "Terrain
réservé" upon it--Réserveé pour la chasse de Monsieur le Président,
"The barrier which Love keeps--and I want to take him with us as the
prince and princess did in the fairy tale."
"Then you must carry him all by yourself," laughed Theodora. "And he
will be heavy and tire you, long before we get to Versailles."
This time she was on her guard--and besides they were walking--and he
was no longer caressing the edge of her dress with his wild flower; it
was almost easy to fence now.
But when they reached the automobile and he bent over to tuck the rug
in--and she felt the touch of his hands and perceived the scent of
him--the subtle scent, not a perfume hardly, of his coat, or his hair, a
wild rush of that passionate disturbance came over her again, making her
heart beat and her eyes dilate.
And Hector saw and understood, and bit his lips, and clinched his hands
together under the rug, because so great was his own emotion that he
feared what he should say or do. He dared not, dared not chance a
dismissal from the joy of her presence forever, after this one day.
"I will wait until I know she loves me enough to certainly forgive
me--and then, and then--" he said to himself.
But Fate, who was looking on, laughed while she chanted, "The hour is
now at hand when these steeds of passion whose reins you have left loose
so long will not ask your leave, noble friend, but will carry you
whither they will."