Monday, February 01, 2016
The final parts of Mad Puppetstown
Uncle Vivian had a low opinion of Ireland—a savage and distant land. Never would he provide the money for Basil to set up a stud farm there—whatever he might do for him in England. And it was now that Basil wanted to be back in Ireland. Now—now—not when he was old and had given up longing. The wishing of the very young is a hard and a bitter matter.
But now long, long meadows brazen with butter-cups and strident with advertisements of pills, warned Easter that Oxford was near. She prepared feverishly to make the best of her appearance, excoriating her nose with a new and untamed powder puff and wrenching furiously at her clothes and hat. The train did not wait to allow her to complete the work by a smear of lip-stick. It slowed mercilessly down to where a multitude of hatless young men in flannel trousers and pale tweed coats swarmed on the platform, each saying : " Hallo ! Here you are ! Splendid ! " to some peerless and only girl as she stepped out of her carriage.
Girls with tense, unaffected effort stared at them-selves in the wide looking-glasses, dead and unseeing of anything but the reflection that stared back, solemn, grave-eyed. Each one of them was strung to the uttermost point of concentration on herself. It is in cloak rooms that a strange streak of the savage comes uppermost in the female. Here is revealed her deepest buried, most primitive resolve —the resolve towards beauty. A woman's beloved friend may sink dying and ignored in the queue for a cloak-room mirror, while in any other place she would be mourned with every fantastic circumstance of grief. To-night the cloak room was a crowd of colours, pale and burning ; of pale backs and arms, and neat heads ; of vacant, solemn faces set apart to themselves alone ; they came in groups and singly and all unsmiling, and passed out again down the dim aisle, as Easter and Sarah, and Lady Anna were doing now. And there they were in the ballroom, the boys waiting on the edge of the floor, and all the night before them. Canvas overhead and the dancing floor laid across the quad—sofas and chair round the edges where chaperones and dowagers sat stoically, brocade cloaks slipping from their solid powdered shoulders. Girded in jewels and pomp and fortified by proper pride in their young, they prepared to sit out the horrid night. The remote savage girls of the cloak room were warm living things again, and lovelier far than flowers. Their blank eyes fainted with meaning and laughter, they carried their heads like wild fauns, so proud and shy. They danced with their friends and their half known loves, and their brothers, with equal careless ecstasy and competence, for the band is good and the floor is good, and the whole show is marvellous.
They climbed the slow flights of steps up to the tennis court ; geraniums blazed back at the sun ; a peppery fragrance of purple catmint breathed up from the hot flagstones. Easter rolled the pricking sweet of a verbena leaf in her fingers and threw it away. Its scent was of stinging tears. And she passed quickly by the bed of red roses darkly sleeping, for theirs is a very anguish of sweetness. There are no kind flowers—all flowers are un-merciful. Now they were under the house again, its blue shadows had already begun to lick down towards the bright garden.