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    But, even as she said it, Mary had a glimpse into depths that were closed to her menkind. Just to be married! It meant that solace of the woman who was getting on in years — the plain gold band on the ring finger. It meant no longer being shut out from the great Society of Matrons; no longer needing to look the other way were certain subjects alluded to; or pretending not to notice the nods and winks, the silently mouthed words that went on behind your back. It was all very well when you were young; when your very youth and innocence made up for it: as you grew older, it turned to a downright mortification — like that of going in to dinner after the bride of eighteen.


    1.Once the music had begun, however, he fell back on his own reflections; they were quickened rather than hampered by the delicate tinkling of the piano. He felt strangely elated: not a doubt of it, a good talk was one of the best of medicines, particularly for such a dry, bottled-up old fogy as he was on the verge of becoming. Of course, did you open your heart you must have, for listener, one who was in perfect tune with you; who could pick up your ideas as you dropped them; take your meaning at a word. And mortals of this type were all too rare; in respect of them, his life had been a sandy waste. Which had told heavily against him. Looking down the years he saw that, all through, his most crying need had been for spiritual companionship; for the balm of tastes akin to his own. It was a crippling reflection that never yet had he found the person to whom he could have blurted out his thoughts without fear of being misunderstood . . . or disapproved . . . or smiled at for an oddity. Here, having unexpectedly tapped a woman’s quick perception, a woman’s lively sympathy, he had a swift vision of what might have been — that misty picture that inhabits the background of most minds. To know his idiosyncrasies fondly accepted — his mental gropings accompanied, his roving spirit gauged and condoned . . . not as any fault of his own, but as an innate factor in his blood! Ah! but for that to come to pass, one would need to leave choosing one’s fellow-traveller on the long life-journey until one’s own mind and character had formed and ripened. How could one tell, in the twenties, what one would be on nearing the fifties? — in which direction one would have branched out, and set, and stiffened? At twenty all was glamour and romance; and it seemed then to matter little whether or no a heart was open to the sufferings of the brute creation; whether the written word outweighed the spoken; in how far the spiritual mysteries made appeal — questions which gradually, with time, came to seem more vital than all else. In youth one’s nature cried aloud for companionship . . . one’s blood ran hot . . . the mysteries played no part. And then the years passed and passed, and one drifted . . . drifted . . . slowly, but very surely . . . until . . . well, in many a case, he supposed the fact that you HAD drifted never came to your consciousness at all. But should anything happen to pull you up with a jerk, force you to cast the plummet; should you get an inkling of something rarer and finer: then, the early flames being sunk to a level glow, you stood confounded by your aloofness . . . by the distance you had travelled . . . the isolation of your state. But had he, in sooth, ever felt other than lonely, and alone? Mary was — had always been — dearest and best of wives . . . yet . . . yet . . . had they, between them, a single idea in common? . . . Did they share an interest, a liking, a point of view? — with the one exception of an innate sobriety and honesty of purpose. No, for more years than he cared to count, Mary had done little, as far as he was concerned, but sit in judgment: she silently censured, mentally condemned all those things in life which he held most worth while: his needs, his studies, his inclinations — down to his very dreams and hopes of a hereafter.
    2.When, having braved the bergs and cyclones of the desolate South Pacific, and rounded the Horn; having lain becalmed in the Doldrums, bartered Cross for Plough, and snatched a glimpse of the Western Isles: when the homeward-bound vessel is come level with Finisterre and begins to skirt the Bay, those aboard her get the impression of passing at one stroke into home waters. Gone alike are polar blasts and perfumed or desert-dry breezes; gone opalescent dawns, orange-green sunsets, and nights when the very moon shines warm, the black mass of ocean sluggish as pitch. The region the homing wanderer now enters is quick with associations. These tumbling crested marbled seas, now slate-grey, now of a cold ultramarine, seem but the offings of those that wash his native shores; and they are peopled for him by the saltwater ghosts of his ancestors, the great navigators, who traced this road through the high seas on their voyages of adventure and discovery. The fair winds that belly the sails, or the head winds that thwart the vessel’s progress, are the romping south-west gales adrip with moisture, or the bleak north-easters which scour his island home and make it one of the windy corners of the world. Not a breath of balmy softness remains. There is a rawness in the air, a keener, saltier tang; the sad-coloured sky broods low, or is swept by scud that flies before the wind; trailing mists blot out the horizon. And these and other indelible memories beginning to pull at his heartstrings, it is over with his long patience. After tranquilly enduring the passage of some fifteen thousand watery miles, he now falls to chafing, and to telling off the days that still divide him from port and home.
    3.The words set a string of memories vibrating; and a silence fell. Unlike many of her sex, who would have babbled on, the lady just smiled and waited; and even her waiting was perfect in tact.
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