THE WOODLAND POOL

They met in the woodland path which Harry had taken in the night. He
was there before the time appointed and threw himself down on the grass
to await her coming. He could see some distance along the path from
where he had stationed himself. It was narrow just here and the thick
overhanging branches of the trees made a green shady tunnel flecked with
quivering points of light.

He waited in a state of patient expectation, not greatly moved or
stirred, but happy and contented. The time did not seem very long,
though he waited for half an hour.

At last she came. She was dressed all in white. It seemed that it must
have been so as she appeared, in the glooming green, which had been like
an empty frame waiting for just that picture of maiden whiteness.

He sprang up to meet her, and she waved her hand when she saw him and
hurried her steps a little. That frank greeting took them back to the
point at which they had parted the day before. An ocean of feeling and
experience had washed over Harry in the intervening hours, but it was
lifted from him as they met and smiled their greetings. His was as
frank and untroubled as hers.

They chattered gaily together like happy children as they turned aside
from the path and went up through the wood. Harry felt an immeasurable
content at being with her, laughed at nothing, and sometimes broke into
snatches of song, which interrupted the conversation and made her laugh
in turn. He had a fresh, clear voice, which Wilbraham had done
something to train. It was a happy little song about June that was
running in his head. She knew it, too, and after a time she took it up
with him. “That’s the way of June.” Once when they had come to a place
a little more open, they stood and sang it together in unison, and then
laughed and went on again.

Her father had gone out painting on the common, she told him. He had
asked her to go with him, but she had said it was too hot in the sun.
She would wander in the woods. “I didn’t say I should wander in the
woods alone,” she said.

“They never want to know where I’m going,” said Harry. “I go out after
breakfast and come back to lunch, and sometimes I tell them where I’ve
been and sometimes I don’t.”

It seemed natural that their elders should go their way, and they should
go theirs, in which elders had no concern. It was their secret, to
which no one had a right but themselves. But it gave Harry great
pleasure to hear from her in that way that it was to be their secret.
“That’s the way of June,” he caroled again, in no very obvious
connection.

They came to the still waters of the hidden pool. It would not have
been surprising if no eye but Harry’s had seen it since the trees had
grown up around it. They had to make their way to it through thick
bushes, which even in winter time could have concealed it. He had been
careful in his visits not to go in and out of the thicket by the same
way, and so leave a break. It was as if he had kept it secret for
himself and her.

When they had pushed their way through they were in a little grassy
fern-fringed space open to the sky, though it was flanked by big trees.
There were one or two more of these tiny lawns sloping to the edge of
the water, but that on to which they came was the largest. An age-old
oak stood sentinel in the middle of it and it was flanked on one side by
a yew that must have been older still, so vast was its dark
circumference and so thick its red ravelled trunk.

Viola exclaimed with delight. The pool stretched in front of them, its
surface unruffled, mirroring the blue sky and the green depths of the
trees and the tall ferns that grew round it. There was no vegetation on
it anywhere. Harry told her that it must be very deep, with a spring
somewhere, or it would have been covered with weed. “It’s much nicer
like this,” she said, laughing at him. When he asked her why she
laughed, she said: “You’re so proud of it.” It did not seem much of a
reason, but he liked her to laugh at him like that, looking at him and
showing her pleasure in everything that he said that revealed a little
of him.

For one moment as they stood by the edge of the water he had a slight
sense of anti-climax. He had brought her, not without difficulty, to
the pool, as if in some way it was to be the end of things, and in some
way also the beginning. But without some lead on her part there was
nothing much to stay there for. It must be either the accepted scene,
or nothing but a point of interest from which they would presently move
on, with nothing more that he had yet thought of in front of them.

The feeling disappeared as she turned towards the mossed roots of the
oak, which made a seat for her. He threw himself among the fern at her
feet with a sensation of desire accomplished. She had accepted it. The
little lawn by the still water, hidden from all human eyes but theirs,
was now consecrated by the simple fact of her taking her seat under the
oak. She was queen of the pool and the deep summer woods.

So far in their intercourse little points had arisen in which it had
been for one or the other of them to take a step further, if it were to
continue. She had stood waiting as Harry rode up to her, he had
stopped, and she had spoken; he had walked with her; he had asked her to
meet him again; he had brought her to the pool, and she had seated
herself there to await what should come. The initiative had been more
his than hers, and now it was his again. The fact of her taking her
seat there, under the tree, was an invitation, though she may not have
meant it as such. They might talk there through the long morning hours,
but their talk could not be only of externals. It must be on a more
intimate note, or they might just as well roam the woods together
lightly. This green nook by the water, hidden and secret, was a shrine
in which they would worship together, as yet they knew not what, but it
would be something sacred and beautiful that was calling to both of
them.

There was silence between them for a moment—the silence of recollection
which comes before an act of devotion. Then Harry looked up at her and
said, with his voice trembling a little: “I’ve never told any one of
this place before. I think I kept it for you.”

She smiled down at him, with the light soft in her eyes. “I’m glad you
did that,” she said. “I shall never forget it. It is so quiet and
green and beautiful,” she added, a little hurriedly, as if the meaning
of her words might be mistaken.

“I might have shown it to the children,” he said, reflectively. “I
don’t quite know why I didn’t. But I’m glad I didn’t, too.”

She asked him who the children were, and he told her about Jane and
Pobbles, and the things that they had done together. She asked him a
good many questions and was a little particular in fixing the exact date
of Jane’s birth, and of her arrival at Royd.

Harry answered all her questions and told her of the map that he had
begun to draw for them the afternoon before. “It seems such ages ago,”
he said. “I was missing them both, but I don’t think I’ve given them a
thought since, until just now.”

She allowed herself to soften towards Jane; for at one point she had
suggested that she seemed rather precocious for so young a child. “Poor
little things!” she said. “I’m sure they must miss you, too. You have
been so good to them. And they are the only young friends you have had,
aren’t they?”

Talking of the children had a little lowered the note of intimacy. Her
last words restored it. “Until I knew you,” he answered.

“And that’s such a very short time.”

“No; it’s a very long time. It’s all the time that matters.”

She smiled at him, and he went on. “Think of it, that only
yesterday—yesterday, much later than this—I was feeling dull and
unhappy. Then I rode out to the sea, and felt much better, but I didn’t
know anything about you. Fancy—only yesterday I had never seen you.”

She listened with her eyes fixed upon him and her lips a little apart.
“What did you think when you first saw me?” she asked, softly.

He hesitated, and then laughed. “I don’t think I thought anything in
particular,” he said. “That’s what is so extraordinary. What did you
think when you saw me?”

It was the children’s pretty game. “I like you. When did you begin to
like me?” But she was not ready to tell him that yet. Or perhaps she
might have told him, if he had acknowledged to some emotion at the first
sight of her. “I was very glad to see somebody who could tell me where
I was,” she said. “I had heard of you, you know, from Mrs. Ivimey; but
somehow I didn’t think of you as you till you told me your name.”

What had she heard of him? She wouldn’t tell him that, either, or at
least not all that she had heard about him; but he was so unaware of the
estimation in which he was held by the people about him that he did not
divine that she was keeping something back.

What Mrs. Ivimey had said of “the folks at the Castle,” generally gave
them something to talk about. She wanted to hear all about his life and
those among whom he spent it; and he talked about himself as he had
never talked to anybody before. His desire was to bring her into it
all. He told her a great deal about his happy childhood, and some of
the secrets that he had cherished. He told her about the stories he had
made up for himself, and, with a little hesitation, the one about the
garden and the flowers, and the end of it. “I was terribly ashamed,” he
said, “oh, for years afterwards. I’m not sure I haven’t been ashamed of
it right up till now. Now I’ve made a clean breast of it—to you—I don’t
mind so much. I must have been a horribly vain little boy. It used to
distress me that my hair wasn’t very black and very smooth. I used to
pray that it might be made so.”

Her eyes rested upon his fair close-cropped head. He was looking down
and did not see the look in them. “I’m glad your prayer wasn’t
answered,” she said. “But I think you must have been a very dear little
boy. I wish I had known you then. What were the violas like in your
story about the flowers? Or didn’t they come in?”

“Yes, they did,” he said, looking up at her. “They were different from
the pansies—gentler and rather shy. They were never naughty.”

“How old were they? Grownup?”

“No; children—with dark eyes and a lot of dark hair all about their
faces.”

“Were they like any little girls you had seen?”

“I don’t think so. I think they must have been rather like you were
then.”

“My eyes were dark, and my hair was loose on my shoulders. Perhaps
something put it into your head that you would know a Viola some day.”

“Scoop, young Jesus, for her eyes
Wood-brown pools of Paradise.”

He said it gently, looking into her eyes. She was startled for a
moment. “You know it, then?” she said.

“Yes, I thought of it when you told me you had been named from a
beautiful poem. But I couldn’t say it then. I didn’t know you well
enough.”

“Have you said it since? Do you know it all?”

“I read it when I got home yesterday. I know it all now.”

“Say it to me.”

He said it right through, slowly, and softly, dwelling on the name
Viola—Viola—with many gradations of his flexible voice, and she thought
she had never heard anything more beautiful than the way he uttered it.
Sometimes her eyes rested on the waters of the pool, but more often on
him, but his were on her all the time:

THE MAKING OF VIOLA

I

_The Father of Heaven_

Spin, daughter Mary, spin,
Twirl your wheel with silver din;
Spin, daughter Mary, spin,
Spin a tress for Viola.

_Angels_

Spin, Queen Mary, a
Brown tress for Viola!

II

_The Father of Heaven_

Weave, hands angelical,
Weave a woof of flesh to pall—
Weave, hands angelical—
Flesh to pall our Viola.

_Angels_

Weave, singing brothers, a
Velvet flesh for Viola!

III

_The Father of Heaven_

Scoop, young Jesus, for her eyes,
Wood-brown pools of Paradise—
Young Jesus, for the eyes,
For the eyes of Viola.

_Angels_

Tint, Prince Jesus, a
Dusked eye for Viola!

IV

_The Father of Heaven_

Cast a star therein to drown,
Like a torch in cavern brown,
Sink a burning star to drown
Whelmed in eyes of Viola.

_Angels_

Lave, Prince Jesus, a
Star in eyes of Viola!

V

_The Father of Heaven_

Breathe, Lord Paraclete,
To a bubbled crystal meet—
Breathe, Lord Paraclete—
Crystal soul for Viola.

_Angels_

Breathe, Regal Spirit, a
Flashing soul for Viola!

VI

_The Father of Heaven_

Child-angels, from your wings
Fall the roseal hoverings,
Child-angels, from your wings
On the cheeks of Viola.

_Angels_

Linger, rosy reflex, a
Quenchless stain, on Viola!

VII

_All things being accomplished, saith the Father of Heaven:_

Bear her down, and bearing, sing,
Bear her down on spyless wing,
Bear her down, and bearing, sing,
With a sound of Viola.

_Angels_

Music as her name is, a
Sweet sound of Viola!

VIII

Wheeling angels, past espial,
Danced her down with sound of viol;
Wheeling angels, past espial,
Descanting on “Viola.”

_Angels_

Sing, in our footing, a
Lovely lilt of “Viola.”

IX

Baby smiled, mother wailed,
Eastward while the sweetling sailed;
Mother smiled, baby wailed,
When to earth came Viola.




_And her elders shall say:_

So soon have we taught you a
Way to weep, poor Viola!

X

Smile, sweet baby, smile,
For you will have weeping-while;
Native in your Heaven is smile,—
But your weeping, Viola?

Whence your smiles, we know, but ah!
When your weeping, Viola?
Our first gift to you is a
Gift of tears, my Viola!

When the musical flow of his voice had ended, they had advanced many
paces further on the path they were treading together, but its end was
not yet known to either of them. Viola’s cheeks were rose-flushed and
her eyes were shining. There was silence for a time as they looked at
one another, and love flew to and fro between them unhampered in his
flight but hidden from them.

Viola breathed a deep sigh, as she drew her eyes away from his, half
unwillingly. “It’s lovely,” she said. “I didn’t know how lovely it was
till you said it. I’m glad I’ve got the most beautiful name in the
world.”

“And the most beautiful eyes in the world,” he said. “I never knew that
there was anything half so beautiful as you, though I have always loved
the beautiful things in the world. I used to wonder what they meant,
and a year ago I thought I had found out. But now I know that I only
knew half of it.”

“Tell me,” she said. “What did you find out a year ago?”

He told her of his moonlight vigil, which he had never thought to tell
any one, and the vision that had come to him at the end of it.

Again she listened to him, fascinated, with her eyes on his and her lips
apart. But as he drew to the end of his story her face grew a little
troubled.

“I should never have seen that,” she said when he had finished.

“We might have seen it together if you had been there,” he said. “There
is no secret I could see that you couldn’t see.”

“No,” she said, rather sadly. “You have always lived in this beautiful
place, and you have seen nothing that isn’t beautiful—all your life. Of
course you could see that, because there was nothing to get in the way.
But it isn’t at all beautiful where I live. I have seen so many ugly
things all round me.”

“It must always be beautiful where you live—Viola.”

He spoke her name caressingly. It was the first time he had uttered it,
except impersonally, and it made a new sweet contact between them.

She smiled at him. “Perhaps if you love beautiful things, and think
about them,” she said, “it doesn’t so much matter if you can’t always
have them about you. Do you think I could really see the fairies, if I
were with you?”

He thought for a moment, with a slight frown on his face, which made the
words that should come out of his thought of great importance to her.
It was not in him to say something just to please her. The lightest
thing that he might say to her would come from the depths of the
unspoilt spirit that was in him.

His face cleared, and he looked up at her again. “I think that when you
are very young you may see something like that,” he said, “—or, by
chance, when you are older. It means something very important, or else
it doesn’t mean much. It meant something very important to me to see
them, but now it’s not so important. If I had never seen it I should
have seen you, and it would have been just the same.”

“Why would it have been just the same?”

She was fascinated anew. Did ever a girl have such incense as this
burned before her? And it was incense lit from a flame in the heart,
not from a spark on the tongue. Her nostrils were eager for the fume of
it.

Again the little considering frown. “It would,” he said, “I know it
would. It all meant you, somehow, though I have never seen you until
now. There was something wanting in it all the time; and it was you. I
should never look at anything now, and think how beautiful it was,
without thinking of you.”

Lover’s words, spoken by an unconscious lover. They pleased and pained
her at the same time.

“I’m afraid you make too much of me,” she said, with a sigh. “If I had
lived here always, as I am living now——!”

She did not complete her sentence. The memory of things she had seen
and known and of which he had known nothing, rose up between them. But
she put them aside, and smiled at him again. “After all,” she said, “I
am here now, and I have never been so happy anywhere else. Perhaps I
have been keeping myself for it, without knowing that it was this I was
meant for. I think I was meant for it, because all the rest seems like
nothing at all. When I go back, it will be less than ever to me.”

Her talk of going back stabbed him. Life would be an incredible thing
when they were parted. They stirred each the other’s fears and
shrinkings as they talked of it, but behind all the pain was the thought
that they would be with one another for a long time yet. They were so
young that time in front of them was not measured by the same rule as
time that had passed. More than two whole weeks and most of a third
Viola had still to spend in Paradise. They would meet every day.
Surely, nothing could prevent their meeting every day! Twice a day they
would meet, in this secret place, and be undisturbed for long summer
hours in their happiness. No need to spoil it by thinking of the end.

They parted for a time. The last Harry saw of her was the white figure
framed in its arch of green. Before she passed out of it she turned and
stood there for a moment, motionless. She was too far for him to see
her face clearly, but the message passed to and fro between them again.
It was all there, though they had not yet spoken it in words, and eyes
were too far off to be read.