[…] Michael had clung to the top of the stairway, in no mood for talk and skirmish; and, leanin against the balustrade, wasp-thin in his long white waistcoat, with hands deep thrust into his trousers’ pockets, he watched the turns and twists of Fleur’s white neck, and listened to the Balkan songs, with a sort of blankness in his brain. The word “Mont!” startled him. Wilfrid was standing just below. Mont? He had not been that to Wilfrid for two years!
“Come down here.’
On that half-landing was a bust of Lionel Charwell, K.C., by Boris Strumolovski, in the genre he had cynically adopted when June Forsyte gave up supporting his authentic but unrewarded genius. It had been almost indistinguishable from any of the other busts in that year’s Academy, and was used by the young Charwells to chalk moustaches on.
Beside this object Desert leaned against the wall with his eyes closed. His face was a study to Michael.
“What’s wrong, Wilfrid?”
Desert did not move, “You’ve got to know – I’m in love with Fleur.”
“I’m not going to play the snake. You’re up against me. Sorry, but there it is! You can let fly!” His face was death-pale, and its muscles twitched. In Michael, it was the mind, the heart that twitched. What a very horrible, strange, “too beastly” moment! His best friend – his best man! Instinctively he dived for his cigarette case – instinctively handed it to Desert. Instinctively they both took cigarettes, and lighted each other’s. Then Michael said:
“Fleur – knows?”
Desert nodded: “She doesn’t know I’m telling you – wouldn’t have let me. You’ve nothing against her – yet.” And, still with closed eyes, he added: “I could’t help it.”
It was Michael’s subconscious thought! Natural! Natural! Fool not to see how natural! Then something shut-to within him, and he said: “Decent of you to tell me; but aren’t you going to clear out?”
Desert’s shoulders writhed against the wall.
“I thought so; but it seems not.”
“Seems? I don’t understand.”
“If I knew for certain I’d no chance – but I don’t,” and he suddenly looked at Michael: “Look here, it’s no good keeping gloves on. I’m desperate, and I’ll take her from you if I can.”
“Good God!” said Michael. “It’s the limit!”
Yes! Rub it in! But, I tell you, when I think of you going home with her, and of myself,” he gave a dreadful little laugh, “I advise you not to rub it in.”
“Well,” said Michael, “as this isn’t a Dostoievsky novel, I suppose there’s no more to be said.”
Desert moved from the wall and laid his hand on the bust of Lionel Charwell…
“You realise, at least, that I’ve gone out of my way – perhaps dished myself – by telling you. I’ve not bombed without declaring war.”
“No,” said Michael dully.
“You can chuck my books over to some other publisher.”
“Good-night, then,” said Desert. “Sorry for being so primitive.”
Michael looked straight into his “best man’s” face. There was no mistaking its expression of bitter despair. He made a half-movement with his hand, uttered half the word “Wilfrid”, and, as Desert went down, he went upstairs. […]
Stylistic Analysis /
Barren Ground” by Ellen Anderson Gholson Glasgow
She remembered his words the next day while she sat in the concert hall waiting for the music to begin. At first she had tried to make out the names on the program, desisting presently because they were all so confusing. Beethoven. Bach. Chopin. She went over the others again, stumbling because she could make nothing of the syllables. A-p-p-a-s-s-i-o-n-a-t-a. What did it mean? P-a-t-h-é-tique – that she could dimly grasp. Sonata? Nocturne? What did the strange words mean? How could she be expected to know when she had never heard them before?
Suddenly, while she struggled over the letters, the music floated toward her from the cool twilight of the distance. This was not music, she thought in surprise, but the sound of the storm coming up through the pines at Old Farm. She had heard this singing melody a thousand times, on autumn afternoons, in the woods. Then, as it drew nearer, the harmony changed from sound into sensation; and from pure sensation, rippling in wave after wave like a river, it was merged and lost in her consciousness.
In the beginning, while she sat there, rapt in startled apprehension, she thought of innumerable things she had forgotten; detached incidents, impressions which glittered sharply, edged with light, against the mosaic of her recollections. Mellow sunshine, sparkling like new cider, streamed over her. Music, which she had imagined to be sound only, was changing into colour. She saw it first in delicate green and amber; then in violent clashes of red and purple; but she saw it always as vividly as if it reached her brain through her eyes. She thought first of the evening sky over the bulrushes; of the grass after rain in the pasture; of the pear trees breaking with the dawn from palest green into white. Then the colours changed, and she remembered sunsets over the broomsedge. The glow cast upward from the earth as if the tall grass were burning. The bough of a black-gum tree emblazoned in scarlet on the blue sky. The purple mist of autumn twilight, like the bloom on a grape. The road home through the abandoned fields. The solitary star in a sky which was stained the colour of ripe fruit. The white farm-house. The shingled roof like a hood. Swallows flying. Swallows everywhere, a world of swallows spinning like curved blades against the afterglow.
With a crash the orchestra thundered over her, while sound and colour were transformed into waves of feeling. Pure sensation held and tortured her. She felt the music playing on her nerves as the wind plays on a harp; she felt it shatter her nerves like broken strings, and sweep on crashing, ploughing through the labyrinth of her soul. Down there, in the deep below the depths of her being, she felt it tearing her vitals. Down there, in the buried jungle, where her thoughts had never penetrated, she felt it destroying the hidden roots of her life. In this darkness there was no colour; there was no glimmer of twilight; there was only the maze of inarticulate agony. …
Now it was dying away. Now it was returning. Something that she had thought dead was coming to life again. Something that she had buried out of sight under the earth, was pushing upward in anguish. Something that she had defeated was marching as a conqueror over her life. Suddenly she was pierced by a thousand splinters of crystal sound. Little quivers of light ran over her. Beads of pain broke out on her forehead and her lips. She clenched her hands together, and forced her body back into her chair. “I’ve got to stand it. No matter what it does to me, I’ve got to stand it.”