Return to Paradise

Lisa gazed out over the Caribbean Sea, feeling the faint breeze against her face - eyes shut, the white sand warm between her bare toes. The place was beautiful beyond belief, but it was still unable to ease the grief she felt as she remembered the last time she had been here. She had married James right here on this spot three years ago to the day. Dressed in a simple white shift dress, miniature white roses attempting to tame her long dark curls, Lisa had been happier than she had ever thought possible. James was even less formal but utterly irresistible in creased summer trousers and a loose white cotton shirt. His dark hair slightly ruffled and his eyes full of adoration as his looked at his bride to be. The justice of the peace had read their vows as they held hands and laughed at the sheer joy of being young, in love and staying in a five star resort on the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic. They had seen the years blissfully stretching ahead of them, together forever. They planned their children, two she said, he said four so they compromised on three (two girls and a boy of course); where they would live, the travelling they would do together - it was all certain, so they had thought then. But that seemed such a long time ago now. A lot can change in just a few years - a lot of heartache can change a person and drive a wedge through the strongest ties, break even the deepest love. Three years to the day and they had returned, though this time not for the beachside marriages the island was famous for but for one of its equally popular quickie divorces. Lisa let out a sigh that was filled with pain and regret. What could she do but move on, find a new life and new dreams? - the old one was beyond repair. How could this beautiful place, with its lush green coastline, eternity of azure blue sea and endless sands be a place for the agony she felt now? The man stood watching from the edge of the palm trees. He couldn't take his eyes of the dark-haired woman he saw standing at the water's edge, gazing out to sea as though she was waiting for something - or someone. She was beautiful, with her slim figure dressed in a loose flowing cotton dress, her crazy hair and bright blue eyes not far off the colour of the sea itself. It wasn't her looks that attracted him though; he came across many beautiful women in his work as a freelance photographer. It was her loneliness and intensity that lured him. Even at some distance he was aware that she was different from any other woman he could meet. Lisa sensed the man approaching even before she turned around. She had been aware of him standing there staring at her and had felt strangely calm about being observed. She looked at him and felt the instant spark of connection she had only experienced once before. He walked slowly towards her and they held each other's gaze. It felt like meeting a long lost friend - not a stranger on a strange beach. Later, sitting at one of the many bars on the resort, sipping the local cocktails they began to talk. First pleasantries, their hotels, the quality of the food and friendliness of the locals. Their conversation was strangely hesitant considering the naturalness and confidence of their earlier meeting. Onlookers, however, would have detected the subtle flirtation as they mirrored each other's actions and spoke directly into each other's eyes. Only later, after the alcohol had had its loosening effect, did the conversation deepen. They talked of why they were here and finally, against her judgement, Lisa opened up about her heartache of the past year and how events had led her back to the place where she had married the only man she believed she could ever love. She told him of things that had been locked deep inside her, able to tell no one. She told him how she had felt after she had lost her baby. She was six months pregnant and the happiest she had ever been when the pains had started. She was staying with her mother as James was working out of town. He hadn't made it back in time. The doctor had said it was just one of those things, that they could try again. But how could she when she couldn't even look James in the eye. She hated him then, for not being there, for not hurting as much as her but most of all for looking so much like the tiny baby boy that she held for just three hours before the took him away. All through the following months she had withdrawn from her husband, family, friends. Not wanting to recover form the pain she felt - that would have been a betrayal of her son. At the funeral she had refused to stand next to her husband and the next day she had left him.

Although still afternoon the journey had been spent peering at slowly moving red lights through clouds of condensing exhaust and the intermittent slip-slip of wipers. confused by the vast number of assorted cup. wet with their shared tears. Now as she turned off the ignition darkness gathered silently around her. THREE LETTERS It was autumn. The terrace before her hugged the curve of the road tumbling erratically down the hill and into the gloom. Lisa could see her pain reflected in the man's eyes. The cat padded in. tripwires perhaps) lay waiting beyond? As if summoned by her thoughts Rahel. Along one side a scruffy fence lent drunkenly one way then the other. tonight they would work on renewing their promises. her hand brushing the light switch as she closed the door behind her. satellite dishes. a simple compartment in this huge connected structure. The softly lit warmth of the interior walls were a welcome contrast to the dark slimy surfaces of the outside. Steam began to rise vertically to the ceiling where it changed direction aware of the presence of some subtle draft (or draft of some subtle presence). They had come here to dissolve their marriage but maybe there was hope. while a brutally straight line of six-foot high boards marked the other side of the territory. feeling plastic handles moulding themselves around her fingers. Through the window she could see the outline of the narrow garden. appeared on the window ledge. colour . Standing in the centre of the room. She kept her mind occupied by these happy details of returning home as she walked along the hall and into the kitchen. tilting it to the particular angle that would allow it to catch. she listened to the sound of the water boil and felt the house adjust itself to her presence. were all passing moments etched into the physical world. beads of perspiration appeared on its sides and it shook violently unable to contain the bubbling pressure inside. broken roof tiles.light blue. Abruptly it finished. she unlocked the door. the carrier bag spinning one way then the next as it clipped against her leg. preserving pockets of time in dusty corners. mugs and beakers that stared blankly back at her. She stepped inside. She let her feet slip out of her shoes and raised them onto the fitted bench across the other side of the table. design . the whole higgledy-piggledy collection of guttering and skylights. Bending around the edges of her vision she was conscious of curtains being swished closed. She rattled the key into the lock. a water-colour sun and stick man hiding behind a fitted wardrobe. Smiling. She walked head down.Looking up. stone faces bathed by the grey light of televisions. bay windows. She took off her coat and laid it over the back of the oak kitchen chair and sat down. the fuzzy grey shapes of a rusting climbing frame and overflowing compost heap. a dent in a table. Now she returned at all times of the day she sometimes sensed she had caught it unawares. not yet teatime and the city was being put to sleep. with his kind hazel eyes. like voices pressed into vinyl. Cars slipped slowly by on a film of dirty water. What further anti-cat measures (minefields. The blue-tak tears on bedroom walls.three letters emblazoned in gold. only a bit but it was a start. She lifted the carrier bag onto the worktop and reached for the kettle. The pavement was thick with the slippery brown mulch of fallen leaves and the smell of bonfires wafted across the common. her silent meows making small circles of condensation. The kettle worked itself towards a crescendo. Lisa stood up and took James by the hand and led him away from the bar towards the beech where they had made their vows to each other three years ago. Tomorrow she would cancel the divorce. For the first time in months she didn't feel alone. Why did she have so many? Where had they come from? She sighed as she straightened pulling out a standard shaped mug with handle. What ghosts that had been running through rooms were now slipping reluctantly back into walls? While its inhabitants had moved the house stayed still. For a moment her home was a stranger. she felt the unbearable burden begin to lift from her. Above the bench were shelves supporting decorative plates in . Two elderly neighbours warmed the house from the sides and soon she would hear the comforting noises of the boiler rousing itself into life. Sounds were muffled and movements lethargic. a crack in a mirror. She began to believe that maybe she had a future after all and maybe it could be with this man. S U E. green eyes and a flicking tail. still in her anorak. Here she paused. At her gate she delayed. figures of eight around her feet represented by muddy paw prints on the kitchen floor. hood up. unwilling to break the stillness with squeaking hinges. She reached up to the top cupboards for the coffee jar and bent down for those that contained the mugs. A thin mist clung around the streetlights producing a shifting yellow gas. sat back on the filament and turned itself off.

Eventually it yielded and raised to reveal a dark. but then it suddenly struck me that maybe you had moved and I didn't know and anyway the post round here isn't exactly reliable. Slipped away again into nothing time (that time that flowed into the gaps between the things you did). of course. She put away the milk. I am afraid I've done nothing very exciting to tell you about. an ideal place to store tablecloths and tea towels. As she looked the image of a growing family seemed to slowly recede to reveal the image of a shrinking woman. and. and a collection of photographs showing either madly grinning or defiantly sulky children (both on the verge of crying). It was. So perhaps I am only writing a letter to myself. that is. Really. Who was she? Why was she so miserable? She shook herself and took out the plug. just to feel as if I was still in contact with things. She felt it rise now as her fingers fumbled beneath soft layers of folded cotton searching for the sharp cold of a shiny metal toffee tin. If. reading the local paper. Wouldn't a wasted minute become a wasted hour. sitting in traffic jams. she always thought of it as hers. Best avoided. Despite a few moments when her heartbeat seemed to fill the house. This must be something of a surprise. the thought of her life draining into these moments.and took out the top envelope. A lone bag made a break for freedom and buoyed by the swish of air it lifted across the room like a jellyfish. When it was opened a white plastic avalanche slid towards her. I've really no need to ask how things are with you. The paper inside was thick and cream-coloured. She had made this discovery during a rigorous cleaning session one New Year. But this evening as I washed . But still I hope you are both healthy and happy. but steadily it began to swallow bedding. As she let her eyes wander over the page she noticed it was just a little crumpled. this letter gets to you. She unpacked the carrier bag. the orange. it proved to contain nothing more exciting than a pile of old newspapers . the biscuits and the cat food. she decided. It all seems to have worked out pretty much as you planned. rusty enough to break two nails. she opened it. Bathed in yellow light hovering over the gloom of the garden she looked in at a woman repeatedly working a tea towel around the inside of a mug. and then there's the heat and the clouds of flies that rise from the river and make everything twice as hard. she experienced a flush of childish excitement. I remembered your address. There was the sudden sound of water flooding into a drain as somewhere nearby a plug was pulled from a sink.the house clearing its throat . a commemorative coin. standing in a supermarket queue. An overflowing collection of polythene bags scrunched inside other polythene bags in the bottom of a cupboard was her commitment to recycling. Two pairs of eyes followed its progress over the spice rack and breadboard until it was caught on a bottle of olive oil.more dirtiness to clean. She moved to the sink and ran the hot water. lay a table?) Still. wasted hours become wasted days? Where could she be now if she hadn't been doing. pillowcases and blankets of various sorts. Staring out into darkness she listened to the succession of far-off bangs and shudders from the network of pipes. stiff in places. Inside lay a medal from the Polish Airforce. Under the lip of the removable cushioned seat she had found a small catch. a Charles and Diana mug (more mugs!). Really now that I've started I can't think what it was I wanted to say. She threw in the latest addition and slammed the door. Here is just an endless succession of long boring tasks. I think it was just the act of writing that was important. a present bought but never given. it was ridiculous to think that no one else was aware of its existence (was she the only one ever to change a bed. It looked startled as antelopes often do caught in the sights of the black postmark. She put the tin on the table.wire stands. The oak bench was not just a foot rest. hollow chest. and inside a neatly folded bag. what? . as if it had been wetted then dried. when alone in the house. She glanced around the room. An antelope leapt across a colourful stamp. then struggled to slide the two pizza's into an already crowded freezer spraying tiny shards of ice across the floor. it had a blue letterhead and the date in the top right hand corner was July 2000. a pebble taken from Ilfracomb beach in 1978 (could she really remember the heavy heat of that day or did she need the proof of the pebble to tell her she had been there). from somewhere inside a wall a pipe clanked .making tea. three envelopes. a toilet was flushed or maybe a washing machine emptied itself and she realised that her coffee had gone cold. although I guess a blank piece of paper in an envelope would have seemed a little strange.

although sometimes a phrase is so beautiful I have to walk around a little just to let them settle in.time stalling . The letter was written on paper so white and thin that as her gaze fell across it she saw it as a shade of blue. Why go back to the grey. You can't keep it for when you need it and you cannot give to someone else simply by having it yourself. What were they? Had they always been there? I still can't believe you decided to go. The letter itself is written on a school child's lined paper. it's probably so sadly different. the feeling of her pressing up and down with alternate paws. believing I was shedding my cares when really I was storing regrets. But you can't bank happiness. Here I feel as if I am absorbing the sunshine and serenity. Can you still find a way back to the taste of cheap wine. because it will end and time passed is all the same.' . Today we met a group of Americans. But I know your name will still be there. We both felt down because I was working in a stuffy shop and you in a sorting office. I watched days become nights and nights gently give way to days. From the hall the clock calling out the quarter hour. How would they be recognised now . 1968 and the dappling of yellow blotches. and anyway.and dried my clothes suddenly there was this feeling of satisfaction. I can remember wondering if the bark would ever grow back. Now I know that reading is dreaming. I thought I would be content to watch the river flow past and drift away on the scent of water lilies. Since you left we moved further east where the earth here has a reddish tinge and so does the food. If you ever find yourself driving past one weekend . The noise of the cat jumping clumsily onto her lap. the rush? There is a lifetime to do those things. This time the silhouette is not the Queen's but that of Nehru. She re-folded the letter and tapped it several times against her top lip. Perhaps it's thinking about England in the summer. the dirt. listening to Pink Moon and Lay Lady Lay. you said. I know you chase that dream of yours. the world melting away into words. She took out the next envelope. and eight miles of white sand. . faintly. This is the best time.perhaps only by the sound of their laughter? I'm afraid I once damaged the environment in your name and took a penknife to the willow we used to sit by. claws snagging loops of cotton. I am writing this in a flickering of orange and blackness. Some things are clear. that dreaming is sleeping and thought inaction. but the dream is so sweetly deferred here. Well perhaps not. It's okay. Do I remember that September afternoon when I first met you? Is it possible to remember the slide into sleep or the hypnotist's fingers on your eyelids? I only know that it happened because at some stage I awoke. as her eyes run down the page they linger on the date. the noise. I hated it and asked you how it was that time moved so slowly. The stamp is stuck on at an odd angle (but still stuck after all this time!) and he stares down at the scraggly lines of a familiar address. in the end it's not time that you're left with. it doesn't matter. the feel of grass between your fingers and a world that was all shimmering reflections? All those people disappeared into the world. carved in the memory of a tree. talking and reading. perhaps it's the sounds of the river at night but my mind wandered back to the place of long afternoons. Strange.before. then a moment of stillness . five months of toil and worry then calm descends as welcome and unexpected as an ice-cream van clattering through the bush. . The date was April 1976. Nov. and you will do right. a white head against an orange background. Maybe that's why I am writing this letter. One of these made me think of you. the clock in her study responded. While her fingers searched for the flap she looked at the Queen's silver silhouette. 'Do that which makes you happy to do. You told me to go look for happiness and bring some back when I found it. the lucid fragments of a dream. a conversation over the phone one Easter. When I wake I find that all I have left is thoughts of you. They say there is an old man who sells the beads you wanted from the front of his hut. We got a ride on the roof of their van and helped them collect firewood.

at ever-lengthening intervals. . . . Like a tepid tide it rose around her. long harried by grotesque visions. to her mouth. folding in its velvety embrace her relaxed and tired body. . . the effort. And into this darkness she felt herself sinking.. The resistance. and unsuggestive blue. . she distinguished the outlines of a landscape. she was choking. in blissful contrast to the cavernous darkness from which she had of late emerged. the hue of a summer night without stars. with soft inexorableness. at first swimming in the opaline uncertainty of Shelley's vaporous creations. now it was rising too high. Through her mind. But now she just sat for a moment. that calm. He walked vaguely. .. . how would her life have been if she had managed to send just one of them? But the air received no answers and went back to its lazy circulation. leading on the eye and the imagination into regions of fabulous delight. or the butcher's book.and that no one would come to bother her about the next day's dinner . . and cupolas. like a blind man. and as her eyes began to grow more familiar with the melting depths of light about her. not frightened. . her heart beat with a soft and rapturous surprise. tormenting lines of verse. She stood. her mouth was full. They remembered it afterward. mysterious. the impulse to struggle was renewed. In its absence the air in the house seemed to hang with that same question. neutral air which walks the earth between darkness and dawn. . . but it was too transitory to shake her stupor. and she realised that she hadn't been aware of the noise it was making. with the gentle sense of security of one upheld from beneath. an effort of reattachment to the vanishing edges of consciousness. had known their hour of violence.The freezer's cooling mechanism rattled. delicious. The Fulness Of Life For hours she had lain in a kind of gentle torpor." said the nurse.something suggestive in its ineffable hue of an azure background of Leonardo's. As she gazed. yet no tangible gateway was in front of her. Now and then. indistinct impressions of rivers. . The clock struck three. In time she would fold the letter away and place it back in the envelope. and that she should never again hear the creaking of her husband's boots -. and. lying sunk in the tasselled meadow-grasses. on his creaking boots. expanded gradually before her eyes. one looks up through a level roofing of maple-leaves at the vast shadowless. At last even these dim sensations spent themselves in the thickening obscurity which enveloped her. drawing down the eyelids with official composure. aerial forms of mountains. the noise of the cat's contented breathing filling the house. but now they were at an end. to her ears. Someone opened the window and let in a blast of that strange. Ah. over her throat to her chin. enchanting. and a blue stencilling of trees along its curve -.those horrible boots -. now submerging her breast and shoulders. interminably before her. without a disturbing impulse of resistance. someone else led the husband into another room. and presently the silver crescent of a river in the valley. gliding ever higher and higher. . mild yet penetrating as the gathered glimmer of innumerable stars. Help! "It is all over.the vast unrolling of a sunlit plain. so exquisite a promise she read in the summons of that hyaline distance. strange. when the heat seems to have silenced the very birds and insects. fragmentary images of the life that she was leaving. then fell silent. the bag back into the tin and the tin into the trunk. as it seemed. a vague satisfaction in the thought that she had swallowed her noxious last draught of medicine . She would cover it with layers of cloth and place down the seat and lock the catch. bottomless stupor into which she felt herself sinking more and more deeply. . She stepped forward. not unlike that sweet lassitude which masters one in the hush of a midsummer noon. circling softly. now darkened to a uniform blue-blackness. sinking. but hesitating. . then gradually resolved into distincter shape -. gathered in the length of journeys half forgottenthrough her mind there now only moved a few primal sensations of colorless well-being. on a threshold. obstinate presentments of pictures once beheld. place the envelopes back into the bag. Only a wide vista of light. a flash of pain darted through her. a dusk now filled with pale geometric roses. . now creeping gradually. like the ripple of sheet-lightning across such a midsummer sky. towers. .

"And so death is not the end after all." in sheer gladness she heard herself exclaiming aloud. "my marriage was a very incomplete affair. His boots creaked. impatiently. did you owe those exquisite sensations?" "I can hardly tell. yes. will you never guess that close at hand are rooms full of treasures and wonders. were not shared with your husband?" "Oh. dear." she replied. "yet you did not find the fulness of life in your marriage?" "Oh. where one receives formal visits. Oh. if you don't know. then. He was different. after a pause." she replied. and looking up she was aware that before her stood the Spirit of Life. just as I was fond of my grandmother. we never understood each other in the least. He thought it perfectly beautiful. almost reproachfully." "And yet you were fond of your husband?" "You have hit upon the exact word. and in the innermost room." "And what do you call the fulness of life?" the Spirit asked again. such as the eye of man hath not seen. could you but find the handle of the door?'" "Then. I felt like crying out to him: 'Fool. or to one of those calm days at sea. sometimes to a verse of Dante or of Shakespeare. insignificant as the chairs and tables of a hotel parlor. and we were counted a very happy couple. rooms that no step has crossed. but I am not even sure that they are the right ones. far beyond. the holy of holies. sometimes to a picture or a sunset.and. and then there was St. the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes. But I have sometimes thought that a woman's nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall. Sometimes to the perfume of a flower. I think he did -and Wallace was a spiritualist. no one knows whither they lead. "that fulness of life which we all feel ourselves capable of knowing. I was fond of him. and sometimes. "Oh. and my old nurse. "Have you never really known what it is to live?" the Spirit of Life asked her. which seemed to come to you like scattered hints of the fulness of life. "never got beyond the family sitting-room?" "Never." she returned. and the house that I was born in. but then Darwin himself said that he wasn't sure about the soul -. I was fond of him. but beyond that." "To what influence. I do still. the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned. in short. I believed in Darwin. when he was admiring its commonplace furniture. when one seems to be lying in the hollow of a blue pearl." "You were married. and he never read anything but railway novels and the sporting advertisements in the papers -. "How beautiful! How satisfying!" she murmured. "those moments of which you lately spoke. to a word spoken by someone who chanced to give utterance." she said. the drawingroom. "I have never known. where the members of the family come and go as they list." . at the right moment." the Spirit continued." "And your husband. no one knows the way to them. and he always slammed the door when he went out. though my life has not been without scattered hints of it. through which everyone passes in going in and out. "and the worst of it was that he was quite content to remain there. George Mivart --" Her gaze lost itself in the ethereal remoteness of the mountains. are other rooms. "I always knew that it couldn't be. the sitting-room. no -." said the and sympathy are those in commonest use.and -. like the scent of earth which comes to one sometimes far out at sea. of course. and so few people really know what they mean. but that might be yours to live in. "Many words are supposed to define it least. but rarely. "Perhaps now I shall really know what it is to live. with an indulgent scorn. I can't tell you. no. sometimes. to what I felt but could not express.never." As she spoke she felt a sudden thickening of her heart-beats." asked the Spirit.

the light of the Middle Ages. the mystery of it seemed too intolerable to be borne. My heart beat to suffocation. bathed in that light. Francis preached. A priest was at the high altar. "Tell me what compensation. mildly: 'Hadn't we better be going? There doesn't seem to be much to see here. It has seldom happened. such a light as illumines the missals in the library of Siena. in that way. the joy. the organroll of Dante's verse. a color not born of the sun's inveterate kiss. "nor was I thinking of any one person when I spoke." "Oh. at Venice. the crackle of the fagots around Arnold of Brescia. joined in strange unison with voices earlier and more remote. that I have owed such feelings to people. "I never loved anyone. absorbed in rapt contemplation of the marble miracle which rose before me. more solemn. the laughter of the ladies listening on the hillside to the quips of the Decameron. I felt myself borne onward along a mighty current. dispersed by a sudden wind. suggestive in some remote way of the honeycolored columns of the Parthenon. gazing into the bottom of his hat. The marble. and all the plastic terror and beauty born of man's hand from the Ganges to the Baltic quivered and mingled in Orcagna's apotheosis of Mary. whose source seemed to be in the very beginning of things." said the Spirit. The clouds had vanished. "The church was silent. then the Spirit of Life said: "There is a compensation in store for such needs as you have expressed. I could not understand even then the words of the song. I heard the rhythmic blow of the craftsmen's hammers in the goldsmiths' workshops and on the walls of churches. cunningly wrought as a casket of ivory and enriched with jewel-like incrustations and tarnished gleams of gold.all this and much more I heard. but of two or three who. but made up of cryptal twilight. however. the fluted columns. more significant than the limpid sunshine of Greece. fierce. or tender. the tears burned my lids. I entreat you!" . with its swirling eddies of passion. I had never been in the church before. though Florence was not new to me. "It was near sunset on a rainy spring afternoon in Easter week. while plague-struck Florence howled beneath them -. the party-cries of armed factions in the narrow streets. had called forth a single note of that strange melody which seemed sleeping in my soul. in Florence." she said. his white cope a livid spot in the incense-laden obscurity. Life in all its varied manifestations of beauty and strangeness seemed weaving a rhythmical dance around me as I moved. took on an unspeakable rosy hue. the sculptured bas-reliefs and canopy of the marvellous shrine."Someone whom you loved?" asked the Spirit. "I turned to my husband." Her recital ended. then you do understand?" she exclaimed. but at that moment he rose. rather sadly. and no one ever gave me a moment of such happiness as it was my lot to feel one evening in the Church of Or San Michele. we might have found the key to it together. but more mystic. by touching for an instant upon a certain chord of my being. "As I gazed the mediaeval bosses of the tabernacle of Orcagna seemed to melt and flow into their primal forms so that the folded lotus of the Nile and the Greek acanthus were braided with the runic knots and fish-tailed monsters of the North. till I swam upon the fiercely rushing tide of the Middle Ages. and as I sat there. the twitter of the swallows to which St. and as we entered the church the fiery panes of the high windows shone out like lamps through the dusk. and gleams of sunset through symbolic panes of chrysoprase and ruby. And so the river bore me on." "Tell me about it. but for the wail of the priest and the occasional scraping of a chair against the floor. or burns like a hidden fire through the Madonna of Gian Bellini in the Church of the Redeemer. worn and mellowed by the subtle hand of time. more complex. and the flame of candles upon martyrs' tombs. and you know the table d'hote dinner is at half-past six o'clock. but I knew that if there had been someone at my side who could have heard it with me. and wherever the spirit of man had passed I knew that my foot had once been familiar. the light of the candles flickering up and down like fireflies about his head. yet subdued to such awful harmony that I thought of the song that the morning stars sang together and felt as though it were sounding in my ears. who was sitting beside me in an attitude of patient dejection. there was an interval of silence. and in that magical light I saw for the first time the inlaid steps. its heaven-reflecting pools of poetry and art. said. and stretching his stiffened legs. "Strange to say. past the alien face of antique civilizations and the familiar wonders of Greece. richer. and whose tremendous waters gathered as they went all the mingled streams of human passion and endeavor. a few people knelt near by. We stole behind them and sat down on a bench close to the tabernacle of Orcagna. passionate.

too. Crivelli --" "I never supposed that anyone else had noticed it. have looked for me?" "All my life." she sighed. and tell each other in the same words all that we think and feel?" "So. heard now and then a floating fragment of their talk blown backward like the stray swallows which the wind sometimes separates from their migratory tribe. "that every soul which seeks in vain on earth for a kindred soul to whom it can lay bare its inmost being shall find that soul here and be united to it for eternity.not as you and I understand each other. "I am he."It is ordained. and the Spirit of Life. that of the rose." "How wonderful! And did you never." she asked him. it is curious how certain flowers suggest certain painters-the perfume of the incarnation." ." he replied. Leonardo. often and often. "Did you never feel at sunset --" "Ah. with rising favorite always. never find anyone in the other world who understood you?" "Not wholly -." "Have you never thought --" "Oh. exultant. She laid her hand in his and drew him toward the parapet which overhung the valley. but I never heard anyone else say so. but I never dreamed that anyone else had. who kept watch near the threshold. shall I find him at last?" she cried. yes. hand in hand. "into that marvellous country. "Ah." "What?" she asked. She looked up and saw that a man stood near whose soul (for in that unwonted light she seemed to see his soul more clearly than his face) drew her toward him with an invincible force. that all Botticelli and Mantegna are dormant in those flying folds of her drapery?" "After a storm in autumn have you never seen --" "Yes. "Then you. the tuberose. looking down over the parapet upon the shimmering landscape which stretched forth beneath them into sapphirine space. yes. too. Titian." "Then you feel it. "have I hoped and dreamed. "He is here. shall we see it together. as if with the self-same eyes." the Spirit answered. They stood. too? Oh." said the Spirit of Life." A glad cry broke from her lips. that line -. Is it possible --" "You know the stooping Victory in the frieze of the Nike Apteros?" "You mean the one who is tying her sandal? Then you have noticed." he answered. "Are you really he?" she murmured. I am happy. "Shall we go down together. Did you?" "Do you remember that line in the third canto of the 'Inferno?'" "Ah.

love. "Surely. he turned to her and said: "Love. "why delay a moment? Surely you feel. and he felt that a cloud was passing over the radiance of her soul.' the 'Tempest' or 'Les Caprices de Marianne. for. too --" "How beautiful! How strange --" Their voices rose and fell. "it was not that which troubled you? For my part I have walked through Lethe. "you told me that every soul which has not found a kindred soul on earth is destined to find one here. but from the terrace where we walk at sunset. home would not be like home to me. It seems to me that I can see our home already. with a strange hesitation in her voice. "Wait a moment." said the Spirit. are you quite sure of yourself? Is there no one on earth whom you sometimes remember?" "Not since I have seen you.yes. The past has melted like a cloud before the moon. "What is it?" he entreated. "Ask. is it not. Let us go down into that beautiful country together and make a home for ourselves on some blue hill above the shining river." he rebuked her." she repeated." As he spoke. that eternity itself is too short to hold such bliss as ours. dear. and she stood motionless. and by imperceptible degrees was leading her toward the shining steps which descended to the valley. "A home. slowly." ." She made no answer to his pleadings. "a home for you and me to live in for all eternity?" "Why not. She did not answer. yes. with a certain tender impatience. unless --" "Unless?" he wonderingly repeated.' or the thirty-first canto of the 'Paradise. "A little while ago." But he had recovered his hold upon her hand. being a man. Think. but she thought to herself. don't you see. and you. slowly." he replied. rousing herself with a visible effort. dear. the hand she had forgotten in his was suddenly withdrawn. but it died in the ensuing silence. which one?" As he spoke he saw the answer trembling joyously upon her lips. help me to choose. who still stood near the threshold. "I want to ask you a question." she said. and he saw that the shadow deepened on her soul. With which shall we begin? Come. "Tell me first. I know -." she said. love? Am I not the soul that yours has sought?" "Y-yes -. with an impulse of whimsical inconsistency. a stream goes delicately toward the river."But surely you must have felt --" "Oh. and a sculptured cornice against the blue? Groves of laurel and oleander and thickets of roses surround it. in a troubled voice. why should we linger here? All eternity lies before us." he passionately implored. O my soul's soul. Indoors our favorite pictures hang upon the walls and the rooms are lined with books. Still she stood motionless. "Unless you slammed the door and wore creaking boots. I never lived until I saw you. like the murmur of two fountains answering each other across a garden full of flowers. yes. love. the eye looks out over woodlands and cool meadows where. at last we shall have time to read them all. At length." she began. deep-bowered under ancient boughs. "Come. as I do.' or 'Epipsychidion' or "Lycidas'? Tell me. Shall it be 'Faust' or the 'Vita Nuova. resisting the persuasion of his hand. Have I not always seem it in my dreams? It is white. she turned away from him and moved toward the Spirit of Life. with polished columns.but. but at length. he had indeed forgotten.

I never minded the creaking of his boots." she said. "Do not be too sure of that. and he was always so sorry when he had slammed the door. and he would never believe you if you told him that I had gone away with someone else-never. of course. If he had come here first he would have waited for me for years and years." she said. and I dare say you will find someone else a great deal cleverer --" And without pausing to hear his answer she waved him a swift farewell and turned back toward the threshold. indignantly. cheerfully. "if he didn't find me here." said the Spirit. or to ask the price of anything before he bought it." she said." said the Spirit."And have you not found one?" asked the SpiriT "Yes. I mean to wait for my husband. His inkstand would never be filled. I know." "True. It is a solemn moment. Was it of disappointment or triumph "Then -. "I am sorry. Besides." warned the Spirit. she listens for the creaking of his boots." She interrupted. "Don't you see. "for your husband imagined that he had found his soul's mate on earth in you. ” "His boots will creak just as much as ever --" "No matter." said the Spirit. "He wouldn't give a fig for all that. almost wistfully. except when my head ached." the Spirit replied. "I have all eternity to wait in." "So be it." "But consider. for he always thought that he understood me. "Here." she answered. and I don't suppose it will ache here. "Do you still keep up here that old fiction about choosing? I should have thought that you knew better than that. as on earth." she said. "What do I intend to do?" she returned. "that you did not love him. "I shall be the only sufferer. and the Spirit continued: "He will not understand you here any better than he did on earth. in due measure to his capacity for being active and happy. "I should have liked to talk with you again. "that you are now choosing for eternity. but you will understand. and for such delusions eternity itself contains no cure. he wouldn't even know what novels to read." "And continue to read railway novels --" She interposed." She turned to her kindred soul and looked at him gently." "And he will slam the door --" "Very likely.She took no notice of this. How can I help myself? He will expect to find me here when he comes. impatiently: "Many men do worse than that. Some field of activity and happiness he will doubtless find. ." "But you said just now.” And still seated alone on the threshold. "but don't you understand that I shouldn't feel at home without him? It is all very well for a week or two -." "Choosing!" she said. with a half-sad smile." "No matter.then what will happen to him when he comes here?" "That I cannot tell you. and it would break his heart not to find me here when he comes. simply. He would never remember to have his umbrella re-covered. almost angrily: "He will never be happy without me. "that I can't possibly go with you?" "But what do you intend to do?" asked the Spirit of Life. each one must decide for himself. and he would always be out of stamps and visiting-cards. only he never could remember not to. I always had to choose the kind he liked. Why." she said." She pointed with a contemptuous gesture to the magic vision of hill and vale sloping away to the translucent mountains." She gave a little cry. who stood listening with a mien of wonder and dismay. never." answered the Spirit of Life. but will it be so with my husband's soul also?" "No.but for eternity! After all. no one else would know how to look after him. "No matter. "Will my husband come soon?" she asked the Spirit of Life "That you are not destined to know." She turned abruptly to her kindred soul. "Why. with a murder or a forgery and a successful detective. he is so helpless.

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