Although Bertha Young was thirty she still had moments like this when she wanted to run instead of walk, to take dancing steps on and off the pavement, to bowl a hoop, to throw something up in the air and catch it again, or to stand still and laugh at – nothing – at nothing, simply.
What can you do if you are thirty and, turning the corner of your own street, you are overcome, suddenly by a feeling of bliss – absolute bliss! – as though you’d suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late afternoon sun and it burned in your bosom, sending out a little shower of sparks into every particle, into every finger and toe? …
Oh, is there no way you can express it without being “drunk and disorderly”? How idiotic civilisation is! Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare, rare fiddle?
“No, that about the fiddle is not quite what I mean,” she thought, running up the steps and feeling in her bag for the key – she’d forgotten it, as usual – and rattling the letter-box. “It’s not what I mean, because – Thank you, Mary” – she went into the hall. “Is nurse back?”
“And has the fruit come?”
“Yes, M’m. Everything’s come.”
“Bring the fruit up to the dining-room, will you? I’ll arrange it before I go upstairs.”
It was dusky in the dining-room and quite chilly. But all the same Bertha threw off her coat; she could not bear the tight clasp of it another moment, and the cold air fell on her arms.
But in her bosom there was still that bright glowing place – that shower of little sparks coming from it. It was almost unbearable. She hardly dared to breathe for fear of fanning it higher, and yet she breathed deeply, deeply. She hardly dared to look into the cold mirror – but she did look, and it gave her back a woman, radiant, with smiling, trembling lips, with big, dark eyes and an air of listening, waiting for something … divine to happen … that she knew must happen … infallibly.
< 2 >
Mary brought in the fruit on a tray and with it a glass bowl, and a blue dish, very lovely, with a strange sheen on it as though it had been dipped in milk.
“Shall I turn on the light, M’m?”
“No, thank you. I can see quite well.”
There were tangerines and apples stained with strawberry pink. Some yellow pears, smooth as silk, some white grapes covered with a silver bloom and a big cluster of purple ones. These last she had bought to tone in with the new dining-room carpet. Yes, that did sound rather far-fetched and absurd, but it was really why she had bought them. She had thought in the shop: “I must have some purple ones to bring the carpet up to the table.” And it had seemed quite sense at the time.
When she had finished with them and had made two pyramids of these bright round shapes, she stood away from the table to get the effect – and it really was most curious. For the dark table seemed to melt into the dusky light and the glass dish and the blue bowl to float in the air. This, of course, in her present mood, was so incredibly beautiful … She began to laugh.
“No, no. I’m getting hysterical.” And she seized her bag and coat and ran upstairs to the nursery.
Nurse sat at a low table giving Little B her supper after her bath. The baby had on a white flannel gown and a blue woollen jacket, and her dark, fine hair was brushed up into a funny little peak. She looked up when she saw her mother and began to jump.
“Now, my lovey, eat it up like a good girl,” said nurse, setting her lips in a way that Bertha knew, and that meant she had come into the nursery at another wrong moment….