“We, in France, have been learning tolerance to God as well as to man,” he was saying. “Possibly before the war we have been drastic, but the truly remarkable revival——”
France again! France and Italy and Oregon—on and on and on—the clock on the mantel clicked away the minutes ruthlessly, the precious minutes that belonged to a dying world. It was striking eleven when Mrs. Lindsay rose.
“Then that’s cleared up, I think,” she said.191 “We begin the regular routine to-morrow morning, don’t we? Half-past nine? And here?”
“The house has been placed at my disposal,” replied O’Hara formally. “I have placed it at the Committee’s. It has proved a convenient arrangement.”
“Are the night sessions usual?” she asked.
“Usual? I don’t know.” He looked at her wearily; how could any one emerge from that harrowing bickering and man?uvering so fresh and untouched and shining? “We have them when it seems necessary—how often should you say, De Nemours?”
“Never mind.” The cool fingers were touching his; she was going. “I will keep my evenings free, too—I was simply wondering what to do about some invitations. But nothing else counts, of course, does it? Do get a good rest; you look
so tired. Good-night.” She smiled, nodded the golden head graciously, and was gone.
O’Hara stood gazing blankly at the closed door for a moment—then he swung across the room, flung the windows up with a carefully controlled violence, and stood leaning heavily against its frame, his shoulders sagging suddenly, his tired young face turned to the stars.
“You find it too warm?” De Nemours inquired courteously.
192 “No—I don’t know. Those beastly violets——”
“Violets?” De Nemours waited with raised brows.
“The first time the poison gas came over at Ypres, the chap standing next to me said, ‘Funny—there’s a jolly smell of violets about.’ Violets—God!” His voice twisted—broke. But after a minute he continued casually: “Rotten trick to have your senses go back on you like that, what? They’re the little beggars Nature has given us for
guards and watchmen and here one of them turns traitor and instead of shrieking ‘Careful—careful—the ugliest poison ever found is touching you!’ it whispers ‘See, it smells of violets—oh, England—oh, Spring.’ Damned traitors, the lot of them—for ever telling us that poison is sweet!”
“Why, so it is,” murmured De Nemours. “Many and many a time. But where were the violets to-night, mon ami?”
O’Hara jerked about incredulously, “What! you didn’t smell them? Why, every time she moved the air was thick with them!”
“Ah, Youth!” Irony and regret tempered the low laughter. “One must be young indeed to smell violets 长沙桑拿论坛 when a woman moves!”
Celati stirred slightly. “A most remarkable woman, this Mrs. Lindsay.”
193 “Remarkable, indeed. There is something about her fine and direct——”
O’Hara stared at him aghast. “Direct? Man, but you’re mad! The
woman’s tortuous as a winding lane—and it’s a dark place it leads to, I’m thinking.”
De Nemours yielded once more to indulgent mirth, “Pauvre ami, those nerves of yours play tricks with you! Mrs. Lindsay is a woman with an exceptional mind of which she makes exceptional use. She is a beautiful woman, but alas, she does not remind you of it. She is entirely devoted to her work, she shows tact and courage, a rare discretion, a fine simplicity——”
“Oh, God!” There was something very like despair in O’Hara’s mirth. “Simplicity, by the Almighty! Because she wears blue serge instead of white lace? Why, I 长沙桑拿休闲场所推荐 tell you that she trails yards of chiffon behind her when she goes, that her eyes are for ever smiling at you over a scented fan, that there’s always a rose in her hair and a kiss on her lips. She’s just as simple as Eve—and she still has fast hold of the apple!”
Celati eyed him a trifle sternly. “You object to women in politics, Mr. O’Hara?”
“Object? My soul, no! My mother and sister are in it up to their eyebrows, and making a rattling good job of it, too. But when they play the game,194 they play it. They leave more trappings than their hats and cloaks downstairs; they let you forget that they are women, and remember that they are human beings.”
“I find masculine women—distasteful.”
“I never said that they were masculine,” O’Hara retorted sharply, “I said that they were first and foremost human beings. Any other attitude is 长沙桑拿论坛 fatal. I tell you that this woman cares nothing in the world for our game; she is playing her own. And she is playing with loaded dice.”
“And what game is she playing, pray?”
“The oldest game in the world,” said O’Hara. “Antony’s dark-eyed Egypt played it, and that slim witch, Mary Stuart, and the milliner’s exquisite minx, Du Barry. Only they played behind silken curtains, with little jewelled hands and heads and words. They fight with other weapons nowadays, but the stakes haven’t changed since Antony lost a world and won a kiss.”
“And the stakes?”
“Why, you are the Stake,” said O’Hara. “And I—and Celati there; they are playing for Power—and Man is Power—and Man, poor fool, is their toy. Little Sisters of Circe—they have come out from behind their pale silken curtains and stripped the jewels from the small hands and perfumed195 长沙桑拿论坛社区 heads and covered their shining shoulders with harsh stuffs and schooled their light tongues to strange words—and we are blind and mad, and call them comrade!”
“Tiens, tiens!” murmured De Nemours, “you interest me, O’Hara. I confess that I had failed to find this sinister glamour; but you open pleasant vistas in a parched land!”
O’Hara gave him a wrenched smile. “That was not my endeavour,” he said briefly.
Celati rose, a little stiffly. He was a heavy man, and oddly deliberate for a Latin.
“It is late,” he said. “Are you coming, De Nemours? Till to-morrow morning, Mr. O’Hara; a rivederla.”
“Good-night,” returned O’Hara. “At nine-thirty, then. Good-night.”
He stood staring down absently at the polished surface of the table for a moment or so after the door had closed, and then crossed to the open window. The stars were shining brightly—but they were very far away and cold, the stars. There was something nearer and sweeter in the quiet room behind him, nearer and sweeter even than on that spring day at Ypres. He turned from the window with a gesture at once violent and weary. Those accursed violets! He could smell them still.