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Guy and Pauline Part 55

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In Rome Guy picked up Michael Fane who was on the point of starting for the Benedictine monastery at Cava. Having a few days to spare before he went on to Brindisi, he agreed to spend the time with Michael tramping in the sun along the Parthenopean sh.o.r.e.

"I can't understand what consolation you expect to find by shutting yourself up with a lot of frowsty monks," said Guy fretfully.

"Nor can I understand when just at the moment you have been dealt the blow that should at last determine if you are to be an artist," retorted Michael, "I can't understand why you choose that exact moment to go and be futile in Macedonia."

"Do you think I would be an artist now, even if I could?" asked Guy fiercely. "How I hate such a point of view. No, no, I have made myself miserable and I have made someone else miserable because I thought I wanted to be an artist. But never, never, shall that old jejune ambition be gratified now."

"You'll never try to write anything more?"

"Nothing," said Guy.

"Then what has all this been for?"

"Perhaps to come back in a year, and ... listen:

_O ragged robins, you will bloom each year,_ _But we shall never pluck you after rain:_ _For aye, O ragged hearts, you beat alone,_ _And never more shall you be joined again._

Do you think I want to come back in a year and still be able to versify my grief like that? I look forward to something better than minor poetry."

"You mean you still hope...." his friend began.

"I daren't even hope yet ... but all my life I'll do penance for having said that an artist must be free."

They had reached the inn at Amalfi, where letters might be waiting for them.

Guy read aloud one which had arrived from Maurice Avery.

422 GROSVENOR ROAD,

WESTMINSTER.

_My dear Guy,

_I settled up everything for you at Plashers Mead. Rather a jolly place. I nearly took it on myself. I'm getting quite used to settling up other people's affairs since you and Michael have made me your executor. Good luck to you in Macedonia._

_Last night I went to the Orient Ballet and met a perfectly delightful girl. If there is such a thing as love at first sight, I am in love. Jenny Pearl she is called. Forgive this apparently casual enthusiasm, but you two cynics will be able to tear me to pieces to your satisfaction. I offer my heart for your bitter mirth to embalm._

_Yours ever

M. A._

_Your dog is at G.o.dalming with my people. My sisters talk of nothing else._

"Maurice rises like a phoenix from our ashes," said Guy grimly.

"He was always irrepressible," Michael agreed.

"And still you haven't answered my question about your monkery," Guy persisted.

"You want action. I want contemplation. But don't think that I'm going to take final vows to-morrow."

"And do you really believe in the Christian religion?" Guy asked incredulously.

"Yes, I really do."

"What an extraordinary thing!"

Next day they parted, Michael going to the Benedictine house at Cava, Guy pressing on toward Salerno. With every breath of the rosemary, with every sough of the Aleppo pines, with every murmur of the blue Tyrrhenian winking far below, more and more sharply did he realize that what he had thought at the time was wonderful relief had been more truly despair. Yet in a happier September might he not hope to come back this way, setting his face toward England?

_One more turn of the head in the gathering gloom_ _To watch her figure in the lighted door:_ _One more wish that I never should turn again,_ _But watch her standing there for evermore._

_Pauline_

Pauline went away with Monica to spend the rest of August and the beginning of September in the depths of the country, where however for all the stillness of the ripe season she did not find very great peace.

In every lane, in every wood, below the brow of every hill she was always half-expecting to meet Guy. It was not until Monica was going to her sisterhood and that she came back to see TO LET staring from the windows of Plashers Mead that Pauline was able at last to realize what she had irrevocably done.

On the day after her return Pauline went to see Miss Verney. To her she explained that the engagement was at an end.

"I heard something about it," said Miss Verney. "And feeling sure that it was doubtless on account of money, I must very impertinently beg you to accept this."

Pauline looked at the packet the old maid had thrust into her hand.

"Those are deeds," said Miss Verney importantly. "I have felt for some time past that I do not really need all my money. My income, you know, is very nearly 250 a year. 100 would be ample, and therefore I hope _you_ will accept the surplus."

"My darling Miss Verney," said Pauline, "it could not be."

But the old maid was with very great difficulty persuaded of the impossibility.

"And you mean to say," she gasped, "that you are never going to see each other again?"

"Oh, sometimes," Pauline whispered, "sometimes I wonder if it could really happen that Guy and I should never meet again. Please don't let's talk about it. I shall come and see you often, but you mustn't ever talk about Guy and me, will you?"

"I shall put this money aside," Miss Verney announced, "because I am _most_ anxious to prove that 100 a year is ample for me. Extravagance has always been my temptation!"

Later in the afternoon Pauline left her friend and went down Wychford High Street toward home. There were great wine-dark dahlias in the gardens, and the bell was sounding for Evensong. She knelt behind a pillar, all of the congregation. How through this winter that was coming she would love her father and mother. And if Guy ever came back ... if Guy ever came back....

She heard her father's voice dying away with the close of the Office; and presently they walked about the golden churchyard, arm-in-arm.

"I shouldn't be surprized to see Sternbergia Lutea this year," he observed. "We have had a lot of sun."

"Have we?" Pauline sighed.

"Oh, yes, a great deal of sun."

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Guy and Pauline Part 55 summary

You're reading Guy and Pauline. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Compton MacKenzie. Already has 328 views.

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