عضو فعال جداً
عدد المساهمات : 1827
تاريخ التسجيل : 07/02/2010
|موضوع: Not At All الأحد 12 يناير 2014, 11:29|| |
Not At All.
Jessie Butler sits down in the armchair situated just inside her bedroom. She allows her nerves to calm. Her hands fiddle with the pink geraniums her daughter Margaret had given her earlier. She holds them against her breast as if they were her children in need of protection. Looking at the flowers, she thinks back to a few hours earlier when Margaret had given them to her as she sat with Mr Singer talking about art and music in the garden on that very warm summer afternoon.
"You would indeed make an excellent portrait," Mr Singer had said.
"But my husband would not think so, Mr Singer," Jessie had replied.
"Does he not like art?" Mr Singer had asked. Jessie had no idea if her husband liked art or not: they did not speak about such things. It did not appear on the horizon of their conversations. She now wonders if her husband, William, has no sense of what art or music is about. He never talks about such things, at least not to her.
Jessie lifts the geraniums to her long straight nose and sniffs. I have forgotten how lovely they smell, she muses, closing her eyes for a few moments, allowing herself to drift away to where her memory takes her. She recalls her mother taking her for walks across fields blanketed in flowers, the scent engulfing them as they past by. The warm sun, the white clouds, her innocent self brushing her small fingers against the flowers as they moved through them.
Jessie opens her eyes with a start. Was that Dobson on the stairs? William will wonder where she has got to and will have sent Dobson, the butler, to seek her out. She listens carefully. Her ears scan for every sound outside her room. Her eyes watch the doorknob. Nothing.
Mr Duncan and Mr Percy had come to dinner and had brought their wives, and Mr Wilton had arrived alone, his wife being, he said, unwell. How I loathe these dinners, Jessie muses sitting back in the armchair, letting the geraniums sit in her lap. Mrs Duncan and Mrs Percy were only permitted to accompany their husbands to these dinners because they were harmless souls whose intellect was not of sufficient ability to cause any harm or disquiet. Jessie found them both tedious and dreary. If only Mrs Wilton had come I could cope, because Mrs Wilton has at least some ability to converse with me over matters, which the other two ladies lack.
"I see the gardens are being well attended to," Mr Percy had said when they all sat down for dinner.
"The roses especially are cared for."
Mr Duncan nodded agreement.
And the next half hour was taken up with matters of the gardens and the gardeners employed and what was in season and what was not. Only Mr Wilton, it seemed, paid Jessie any attention. His eyes moved over her across the dining table and she was certain she detected a smile and a glimmer in his large brown eyes. His wife, Maud, a sickly woman, was one of the few, whom Jessie could, without much effort, like and enjoy being with for long periods.
Jessie rises from the armchair. She will have to return to the dinner party or William will send Dobson on his mission. She doesn't trust Dobson. He has that darkness of features, she thinks, that makes him appear in league with all that was of this world and all its evil and darkness. What did I see in William all those years ago to want to marry him? she asks herself going to the bedroom door. Now I am his and have given birth to four of his children as he terms them. Only Margaret seems to be mine in closeness. The others, cold and distant.
Jessie walks slowly along the passage, her white dress with its black and white bodice, disturbs the silence with its rustle as she moves. It is against her will to return to the dreary dinner party, but she has little nerve to face a row with William for disappearing.
"Are you all right?" William enquires as she sits down again at the table. His eyes scan her and she is aware of his stare.
"Yes," she replies, but looks away from William and lets her eyes move to those of Mr Wilton. He is smiling and his eyes are bright as if a light burns beyond them. William returns to his conversation with Mr Percy and Mr Duncan and his eyes move away from Jessie.
"You have returned to save me from boredom," Mr Wilton whispers to her, leaning towards her as he does so. Jessie studies him for a few moments. She doesn't know what to make of him. She smiles, but is not sure quite what to say in reply. "If Maud were here I would be in no need of such salvation," he added in another whisper.