A Spinner in the Sun (Chapter 3, page 2 of 6)

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Chapter 3

Since the night of full realisation which had turned her brown hair to a dull white she had thought of death in but one way--escape. Set free from the insufferable bondage of earthly existence. Miss Evelina dreamed of peace as a prisoner in a dungeon may dream of green fields. To sleep and wake no more, never to feel again the cold hand upon her heart that tore persistently at the inmost fibres of it, to forget---Miss Evelina took the vial from her bag and uncorked it. The incense of the poppies crept subtly through the room, mingling inextricably with the mustiness and the dust. The grey cobwebs swayed at the windows, sunset touching them to iridescence. Conscious that she was the most desolate and lonely thing in all the desolate house, Miss Evelina buried her face in her hands.

The poppies breathed from the vial. In her distorted fancy, she saw vast plains of them, shimmering in the sun--scarlet like the lips of a girl, pink as the flush of dawn upon the eastern sky, blood-red as the passionate heart that never dreamed of betrayal.

The sun was shining on the field of poppies and Miss Evelina walked among them, her face unveiled. Golden masses of bloom were spread at her feet, starred here and there by stately blossoms as white as the blown snow. Her ragged garments touched the silken petals, her worn shoes crushed them, bud and blossom alike. Always, the numbing, sleepy odour came from the field. Dew was on the petals of the flowers; their deep cups gathered it and held it, never to be surrendered, since the dew of the poppies was tears.

Like some evil genius rising from the bottle, the Spirit of the Poppies seemed to incarnate itself in the vapour. A woman with a face of deadly white arose to meet Miss Evelina, with outspread arms. In her eyes was Lethe, in her hands was the gift of forgetfulness. She brought pardon for all that was past and to come, eternal healing, unfathomable oblivion. "Come," the drowsy voice seemed to say. "I have waited long and yet you do not come. The peace that passeth all understanding is mine to give and yours to take. Come--only come! Come! Come!"

Miss Evelina laughed bitterly. Never in all the years gone by had the Spirit of the Poppies pleaded with her thus. Now, at the hour when surrender meant the complete triumph of her enemy, the ghostly figure came to offer her the last and supreme gift.

The afterglow yet lingered in the west. The grey of a March twilight was in the valley, but it was still late afternoon on the summit of the hill. Miss Evelina drew her veil about her and went out into the garden, the vial in her hand.

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