Click here to Download The Reef PDF Book by Edith Wharton Language English having PDF Size 2.4 MB and No of Pages 164.
All the way from Charing Cross to Dover the train had hammered the words of the telegram into George Darrow’s ears, ringing every change of irony on its commonplace syllables: rattling them out like a discharge of musketry, letting them, one by one, drip slowly and coldly into his brain, or shaking.
The Reef PDF Book by Edith Wharton
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Tossing, transposing them like the dice in some game of the gods of malice; and now, as he emerged from his compartment at the pier, and stood facing the wind-swept platform and the angry sea beyond, they leapt out at him as if from the crest of the waves, stung and blinded him with a fresh fury of derision.
“Unexpected obstacle. Please don’t come till thirtieth. Anna.” She had put him off at the very last moment, and for the second time: put him off with all her sweet reasonableness, and for one of her usual “good” reasons—he was certain that this reason, like the other, (the visit of her husband’s uncle’s widow) would be “good”!
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But it was that very certainty which chilled him. The fact of her dealing so reasonably with their case shed an ironic light on the idea that there had been any exceptional warmth in the greeting she had given him after their twelve years apart. They had found each other again, in London, some three months previously.
At a dinner at the American Embassy, and when she had caught sight of him her smile had been like a red rose pinned on her widow’s mourning. He still felt the throb of surprise with which, among the stereotyped faces of the season’s diners, he had come upon her unexpected face.
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With the dark hair banded above grave eyes; eyes in which he had recognized every little curve and shadow as he would have recognized, after half a life-time, the details of a room he had played in as a child. And as, in the plumed starred crowd, she had stood out for him, slender, secluded and different, so he had felt, the instant their glances met.
That he as sharply detached himself for her. All that and more her smile had said; had said not merely “I remember,” but “I remember just what you remember”; almost, indeed, as though her memory had aided his, her glance flung back on their recaptured moment its morning brightness.
Certainly, when their distracted Ambassadress—with the cry: “Oh, you know Mrs. Leath? That’s perfect, for General Farnham has failed me”—had waved them together for the march to the dining-room, Darrow had felt a slight pressure of the arm on his, a pressure faintly but unmistakably emphasizing the exclamation: “Isn’t it wonderful? The Reef PDF Book
In London—in the season—in a mob?” Little enough, on the part of most women; but it was a sign of Mrs. Leath’s quality that every movement, every syllable, told with her. Even in the old days, as an intent grave-eyed girl, she had seldom misplaced her light strokes; and Darrow, on meeting her again.
Had immediately felt how much finer and surer an instrument of expression she had become. Their evening together had been a long confirmation of this feeling. She had talked to him, shyly yet frankly, of what had happened to her during the years when they had so strangely failed to meet.
She had told him of her marriage to Fraser Leath, and of her subsequent life in France, where her husband’s mother, left a widow in his youth, had been re-married to the Marquis de Chantelle, and where, partly in consequence of this second union, the son had permanently settled himself. The Reef PDF Book
She had spoken also, with an intense eagerness of affection, of her little girl Effie, who was now nine years old, and, in a strain hardly less tender, of Owen Leath, the charming clever young stepson whom her husband’s death had left to her care.
A porter, stumbling against Darrow’s bags, roused him to the fact that he still obstructed the platform, inert and encumbering as his luggage. Yes, he had given her chance enough to learn where he lived; and this minor proof of her indifference became.
As he jammed his way through the crowd, the main point of his grievance against her and of his derision of himself. Half way down the pier the prod of an umbrella increased his exasperation by rousing him to the fact that it was raining. Instantly the narrow ledge became a battle-ground of thrusting, slanting, parrying domes. The Reef PDF Book
The wind rose with the rain, and the harried wretches exposed to this double assault wreaked on their neighbours the vengeance they could not take on the elements. Darrow, whose healthy enjoyment of life made him in general a good traveller, tolerant of agglutinated humanity, felt himself obscurely outraged by these promiscuous contacts.
It was as though all the people about him had taken his measure and known his plight; as though they were contemptuously bumping and shoving him like the inconsiderable thing he had become. “She doesn’t want you, doesn’t want you, doesn’t want you,” their umbrellas and their elbows seemed to say.
He had rashly vowed, when the telegram was flung into his window: “At any rate I won’t turn back”—as though it might cause the sender a malicious joy to have him retrace his steps rather than keep on to Paris! Now he perceived the absurdity of the vow, and thanked his stars that he need not plunge, to no purpose. The Reef PDF Book
Into the fury of waves outside the harbour. With this thought in his mind he turned back to look for his porter; but the contiguity of dripping umbrellas made signalling impossible and, perceiving that he had lost sight of the man, he scrambled up again to the platform.
As he reached it, a descending umbrella caught him in the collar-bone; and the next moment, bent sideways by the wind, it turned inside out and soared up, kite-wise, at the end of a helpless female arm. Darrow caught the umbrella, lowered its inverted ribs, and looked up at the face it exposed to him.
She was amusing, and that, in his present mood, was more to his purpose than the exact shade of her taste. It was odd, too, to discover suddenly that the blurred tapestry of Mrs. Murrett’s background had all the while been alive and full of eyes. Now, with a pair of them looking into his, he was conscious of a queer reversal of perspective. The Reef PDF Book
“Who were the ‘we’? Were you a cloud of witnesses?” “There were a good many of us.” She smiled. “Let me see—who was there in your time? Mrs. Bolt—and Mademoiselle—and Professor Didymus and the Polish Countess. Don’t you remember the Polish Countess? She crystal-gazed, and played accompaniments.
And Mrs. Murrett chucked her because Mrs. Didymus accused her of hypnotizing the Professor. But of course you don’t remember. We were all invisible to you; but we could see. The one fixed point in his immediate future was that his leave was over and that he must be back at his post in London the next morning.
Within twenty-four hours he would again be in a daylight world of recognized activities, himself a busy, responsible, relatively necessary factor in the big whirring social and official machine. That fixed obligation was the fact he could think of with the least discomfort. The Reef PDF Book Download
Yet for some unaccountable reason it was the one on which he found it most difficult to fix his thoughts. Whenever he did so, the room jerked him back into the circle of its insistent associations. It was extraordinary with what a microscopic minuteness of loathing he hated it all: the grimy carpet and wallpaper.
The black marble mantel-piece, the clock with a gilt allegory under a dusty bell, the high-bolstered browncounterpaned bed, the framed card of printed rules under the electric light switch, and the door of communication with the next room. He hated the door most of all.
At the outset, he had felt no special sense of responsibility. He was satisfied that he had struck the right note, and convinced of his power of sustaining it. The whole incident had somehow seemed, in spite of its vulgar setting and its inevitable prosaic propinquities, to be enacting itself in some unmapped region outside the pale of the usual. The Reef PDF Book Download
It was not like anything that had ever happened to him before, or in which he had ever pictured himself as likely to be involved; but that, at first, had seemed no argument against his fitness to deal with it. Perhaps but for the three days’ rain he might have got away without a doubt as to his adequacy.
The rain had made all the difference. It had thrown the whole picture out of perspective, blotted out the mystery of the remoter planes and the enchantment of the middle distance, and thrust into prominence every commonplace fact of the foreground.
It was the kind of situation that was not helped by being thought over; and by the perversity of circumstance he had been forced into the unwilling contemplation of its every aspect… His cigar had gone out again, and he threw it into the fire and vaguely meditated getting up to find another. The Reef PDF Book Download
But the mere act of leaving his chair seemed to call for a greater exertion of the will than he was capable of, and he leaned his head back with closed eyes and listened to the drumming of the rain. She took off her hat and went to the dressing-table to smooth her hair.
The pressure of the hat had flattened the dark strands on her forehead; her face was paler than usual, with shadows about the eyes. She felt a pang of regret for the wasted years. “If I look like this today,” she said to herself, “what will he think of me when I’m ill or worried?”
She began to run her fingers through her hair, rejoicing in its thickness; then she desisted and sat still, resting her chin on her hands. “I want him to see me as I am,” she thought. Deeper than the deepest fibre of her vanity was the triumphant sense that as she was, with her flattened hair, her tired pallor. The Reef PDF Book Download
Her thin sleeves a little tumbled by the weight of her jacket, he would like her even better, feel her nearer, dearer, more desirable, than in all the splendours she might put on for him. In the light of this discovery she studied her face with a new intentness, seeing its defects as she had never seen them.
Yet seeing them through a kind of radiance, as though love were a luminous medium into which she had been bodily plunged. She was glad now that she had confessed her doubts and her jealousy. She divined that a man in love may be flattered by such involuntary betrayals.
That there are moments when respect for his liberty appeals to him less than the inability to respect it: moments so propitious that a woman’s very mistakes and indiscretions may help to establish her dominion. The sense of power she had been aware of in talking to Darrow came back with ten-fold force. The Reef PDF Book Free
She felt like testing him by the most fantastic exactions, and at the same moment she longed to humble herself before him, to make herself the shadow and echo of his mood. She wanted to linger with him in a world of fancy and yet to walk at his side in the world of fact.
She wanted him to feel her power and yet to love her for her ignorance and humility. She felt like a slave, and a goddess, and a girl in her teens. The memory of it glowed in him still as he sat over his crumbling fire; but beneath his physical exultation he felt a certain gravity of mood.
His happiness was in some sort the rallying-point of many scattered purposes. He summed it up vaguely by saying to himself that to be loved by a woman like that made “all the difference”…He was a little tired of experimenting on life; he wanted to “take a line”, to follow things up, to centralize and concentrate, and produce results. The Reef PDF Book Free
Two or three more years of diplomacy—with her beside him!—and then their real life would begin: study, travel and book-making for him, and for her —well, the joy, at any rate, of getting out of an atmosphere of bric-a-brac and card-leaving into the open air of competing activities.
The desire for change had for some time been latent in him, and his meeting with Mrs. Leath the previous spring had given it a definite direction. With such a comrade to focus and stimulate his energies he felt modestly but agreeably sure of “doing something”.
And under this assurance was the lurking sense that he was somehow worthy of his opportunity. His life, on the whole, had been a creditable affair. Out of modest chances and middling talents he had built himself a fairly marked personality, known some exceptional people, done a number of interesting and a few rather difficult things, and found himself. The Reef PDF Book Free
At thirty-seven, possessed of an intellectual ambition sufficient to occupy the passage to a robust and energetic old age. As for the private and personal side of his life, it had come up to the current standards, and if it had dropped, now and then, below a more ideal measure, even these declines had been brief, parenthetic, incidental. In the recognized essentials he had always remained strictly within the limit of his scruples.