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ow old? As old as this house?” Vance questioned.
“Oh, ages older. My father used to go ther christian louboutin e when he was a little boy. It was an old house then. He could just remember seeing old Miss Lorburn, Mother says. She lived to be very old. She was a friend of my grandfather’s, I believe. It’s a dreary place anyhow. Laura Lou hates it. She says the rooms are full of ghosts, and she’s scared of it. But I say it’s because she hates missing her Saturday afternoon at the movies.”
“Upton — ” Laura Lou again protested.
“Well, you do. And Mother don’t like you to go to the Willows because you break things. But you’ll have to, tomorrow.”
Laura Lou made no answer, and Vance pursued his interrogatory. “And who are those ladies your mother spoke about, who come in and raise a row?”
“Oh, Mrs. Spear and her daughter. Mrs. Spear was a Lorburn. They won’t come tomorrow — not in this heat. If they’re here — and I’m not sure they are any jimmy choo outlet how — ”
“Here? At Paul’s Landing?”
“Well, they live up at Eaglewood, another Lorburn place, a couple of miles from here, up the mountain. There’s a grand view of the river from there. It’s in the guidebooks. And they’re supposed to come down to the Willows now and then, and keep an eye on us, the way we do on the hired man.”
“How many Lorburn places are there round here?”
“They owned pretty near the whole place before the Revolution. Now there’s only these two houses left.”
“I suppose they had a big real estate boom, and got rid of everything?”
Upton chuckled incredulously in the dusk. “I don’t believe there’s ever been much boom of any kind about the Lorburns. They just got poorer and poorer and died off, I guess.”
Vance was genuinely puzzled. “Well, I don’t see why they couldn’t have worked up a boom and unloaded the stu jimmy choo uk ff on somebody,” he murmured. Then he remembered Harrison Delaney’s incapacity in the same line, and his grandmother’s caustic comments on old families that have run to seed. He was glad that no aristocratic blood clogged his own lively circulation, and that, anyhow, there were no old families in a go-ahead place like Euphoria.
Upton got up and stretched his thin arms above his head. “Well, I’m going to get a move on toward bed. It was about 150 in that fernhouse this afternoon.” He groped his way between them, and went into the hall, banging the screen door after him in the instinctive defence against mosquitoes. From where Vance lay in the hammock he could see Upton put the chain across the front door, and bolt it.
Suddenly, close to him in the darkness, he heard Laura Lou say: “You’ve had that old lilac in your buttonho jimmy choo le all day. It smells all faded.” She bent above him and snatched it out of his coat. Instinctively he put up his hand to prevent her; his poem had made the withered blossom sacred. “Oh, don’t — ” But his hand, instead of the lilac, caught her soft fingers. They quivered, frightened yet entreating, and the warmth of her touch rushed through him, tempting, persuading; but she was no more than a little girl, awkward and ignorant, and he was under her mother’s roof. Besides, if it had not been for the heat and the darkness, and his mood of sensuous lassitude, he did not believe that even the touch of her soft skin would have roused him; the raw flapper had no charm for his unripe senses.
“Here — give it back! Listen to me, Laura Lou!” But she sprang out of reach with one of her maddening giggles, and he let her hand go, and the lilac with it, indifferently.
Upton came clumping back to the porch. “Going up to bed too?” he asked. Vance assented and tumbled out of the hammock. “All right. Then I’ll put the lamp out. Come along, Laura Lou.” To Vance he added: “Mother left a candle on the upper landing,” and he reached up to the swinging lamp, pulled it down, and filled the passage with the stench of its extinction. Laura Lou had already slipped up ahead of them to her mother’s room.
Chapter 6
“It’s here,” Upton said.
Vance had jokingly offered to accompany Upton to the Willows, and help him to dust Miss Lorburn’s rooms, so that Laura Lou should not miss the movies. But Laura Lou, flushing crimson, replied in a frightened whisper that it wasn’t true, that she wanted to go to the Willows, that she always did go when her mother couldn’t — so Vance hired a bicycle at a nearby garage, and the three cousins set out.
Upton stopped before a padlocked gate overhung with trees. A deep green lane led up to it, so rutty and grass-grown that the cousins, jumping from their bicycles, climbed it on foot. Upton pulled out a key, unlocked the padlock of the gate, and led the way in, followed by Vance and Laura Lou. The house, which was painted a dark brown, stood at the end of a short grass-grown drive, its front so veiled in the showering gold-green foliage of two ancient weeping willows that Vance could only catch, here and there, a hint of a steep roof, a jutting balcony, an aspiring turret. The fa?ade, thus seen in trembling glimpses, as if it were as fluid as the trees, suggested vastness, fantasy, and secrecy. Green slopes of unmown grass, and heavy shrubberies of unpruned syringa and lilac, surrounded it; and beyond the view was closed in on all sides by trees and more trees. “An old house — this is the way an old house looks!” Vance thought.
The three walked up the drive, their steps muffled by the long grass and clover which had pushed up through the gravel. When the front of the house was before them, disengaged from the fluctuating veil of willows, Vance saw that it was smaller than he had expected; but the air of fantasy and mystery remained. Everything about the front was irregular, but with an irregularity unfamiliar to him. The shuttered windows were very tall and narrow, and narrow too the balconies, which projected at odd angles, supported by ornate wooden brackets. One corner of the house rose into a tower with a high shingled roof, and arched windows which seemed to simulate the openings in a belfry. A sort of sloping roof over the front door also rested on elaborately ornamented brackets, and on each side of the steps was a large urn of fluted iron painted to imitate stone, in which some half-dead geraniums languished.
While Upton unlocked the front door and went in with his sister, Vance wandered around to the other side of the building. Here a still stranger spectacle awaited him. An arcaded verandah ran across this front, and all about it, and reaching out above it from bracket to bracket, from balcony to balcony, a wistaria with huge distorted branches like rheumatic arms lifted itself to the eaves, festooning, as it mounted, every projecting point with long lilac fringes — as if, Vance thought, a flock of very old monkeys had been ordered to climb up and decorate the house front in celebration of some august arrival. He had never seen so prodigal a flowering, or a plant so crippled and ancient; and for a while it took his attention from the house. But not for long. To bear so old a climber on its front, the house must be still older; and its age, its mystery, its reserve, laid a weight on his heart. He remembered once, at Euphoria, waking in the night — a thing which seldom happened to him — and hearing the bell of the Roman Catholic church slowly and solemnly toll the hour. He saw the church every day on his way to school: a narrow-fronted red brick building with sandstone trim, and a sandstone cross over the gable; and though he had heard the bell time and time again its note had never struck him. But sounding thus through the hush of the night, alone awake in the sleeping town, it spoke to his wakefulness with a shock of mystery.
The same feeling came over him as he stood in the long grass before the abandoned house. He felt in the age and the emptiness of it something of the church bell’s haunting sonority — as if it kept in its mute walls a voice as secret and compelling. If only he had known how to pull the rope and start the clapper swinging!
As he stood there the shutters were thrown back from one of the windows on the ground floor, and Upton leaned out to hail him. “Hul-LO! Laura Lou thought the ghosts had got you.”
“They had — almost,” Vance laughed. He went up to the window and swung himself into the room. Upton had opened all the shutters, and the afternoon light flowed softly in. The room was not large, but its ceiling was high, with a dim cobwebby cornice. On the floor was a carpet with a design of large flower wreaths and bows and loops of faded green. The mantelpiece, richly carved, was surmounted by a mirror reaching to the ceiling; and here and there stood pieces of furniture of a polished black wood inlaid with patterns of ivory or metal. There were tall vases on mantel and table, their flanks painted with landscapes in medallion, or garlanded with heavy wreathes like those on the carpet. On the mantelpiece Vance noticed a round-faced clock guarded by an old man in bronze with a scythe and an hourglass; and stiffly ranged about the room were armchairs and small seats covered with a pale material slit and tattered with age. As Vance stood looking at it all Laura Lou appeared from another room. A long apron covered her from chin to knees, and she had tied a towel about her head, and carried a large feather duster.
“This is where she always sat,” she whispered to Vance, signalling to him to follow. The room she led him into was more sombre than the other, partly because the wistaria had stretched a long drapery across one of the windows, partly because the walls were dark and had tall heavy bookcases against them. In a bow window stood a table with a velvet table cover trailing its faded folds and moth~eaten fringes on the floor. It bore a monumental inkstand, a bronze lamp with a globe of engraved glass, a work basket, and two or three books. But what startled Vance, and made him, in his surprise, forget everything else, was the fact that one of the books lay open, and that across the page was a small pair of oddly shaped spectacles in a thin gold mounting. It looked as if someone had been reading there a few minutes before, and, disturbed by the sound of steps, had dropped the book and spectacles and glided out of sight. Vance remembered Laura Lou’s fear of ghosts, and glanced about him half apprehensively, as if the reader of that book, the wearer of those spectacles, might be peering at them from some shadowy corner of the room.
As he looked his eye fell on a pict cheap jimmy choo ure hanging above the mantelpiece — a crayon drawing, he thought it must be, in a bossy and ponderous gilt frame. It was the portrait of a middle-aged woman, seen in three-quarter length. She leaned on a table with a heavy velvet cover, bearing an inkstand and some books — the very table and the very inkstand, Vance perceived, on which the picture itself looked down. And the lady, past a doubt, was Miss Lorburn: Miss Lorburn in her thoughtful middle age. She had dark hair, parted in heavy folds above a wide meditative forehead touched with highlights in chalk. Her face was long and melancholy. The lappets of her lace cap fell on her shoulders, and her thin arms emerged from the wide sleeves of a dark jacket, with undersleeves of white lawn also picked out in chalk.
The peculiar dress, the sad face, resembled nothing Vance had ever seen; but instantly he felt their intimate relation to all that was peculiar and unfamiliar in the house. The past — they all belonged to the past, this woman and her house, to the jimmy choo sale same past, a past of their own, a past so remote from anything in Vance Weston’s experience that it took its place in the pages of history anywhere in the dark Unknown before Euphoria was. He continued to gaze up at the sad woman, who looked down on him with large full-orbed eyes, as if it were she who had just dropped her book and spectacles, and reascended to her frame as h jimmy choo bridal e came in.
Without surprise he heard Laura Lou say behind him: “This is the book she was reading when she died. Mr. Lorburn — that’s her nephew — won’t let us touch anything in this room, not even to dust it. We have to dust the things without moving them.”
He had never heard Laura Lou make such a long speech; but he had no ears for it. He nodded, and she tiptoed away with her duster. Far off, down the inlaid wooden floors, he heard Upton clumping about in his heavy gardening shoes, opening other doors and shutters. Laura Lou called to him, and their voices receded together to some distant part of the house.
Vance stood alone in Miss Lorburn’s library. He had never been in a private library before; he hardly knew that collections of books existed jimmy choo h&m as personal possessions, outside of colleges and other public institutions. And all these books had been a woman’s, had been this Miss Lorburn’s, and she had sat among them, lived among them, died reading them — reading the very one on the table at his elbow! It all seemed part of the incomprehensible past to which she and the house belonged, a past so remote, so full of elusive mystery, that Vance’s first thought was: “Why wasn’t I ever told about the Past before?”
He turned from the portrait and looked about the room, trying vainly to picture what this woman’s life had been, in her solemn high-ceilinged house, alone among her books. He thought of her on winter evening jimmy choo handbags s, sitting at this table, beside the oil lamp with the engraved globe, her queer little spectacles on that long grave nose, poring, poring over the pages, while the wind wailed down the chimney and the snow piled itself up on the lawns. And on summer evenings she sat here too, probably — he could not picture her out of doors; sat here in a slanting light, like that now falling through the wistaria fringes, and leaned her sad head on her hand, and read and read . . . .
His eyes wandered from the close rows of books on jimmy choo wedding shoes the shelves to the one lying open on the table. That was the book she had been reading when she died — died as a very old woman, and yet so incalculably long ago. Vance moved to the table, and bent over the open page. It was yellow, and blotched with dampness: the type was queer too, different from any that was familiar to him. He read:
“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan — ”
Oh, what beautiful, what incredible words! What did they mean? But what did it matter what they meant? Or whether they meant anything but their own unutterable music? Vance dropped down into the high-backed armchair by the table, pushed the spectacles away from the page, and read on.
“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man,
Down to a sunless sea . . .”
It was a new music, a music utterly unknown to him, but to which the hidden chords of his soul at once vibrated. It was something for HIM— something that intimately belonged to him. What had he ever known of poetry before? His mind’ cheap jimmy choo uk s eye ran over the verse he had been nurtured on: James Whitcomb Riley, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Bliss Carman’s “Songs from Vagabondia”; hackneyed old “pieces” from Whittier and Longfellow, in the Sixth Reader; Lowell’s “Ode” — there were fine bits in that — Whitman’s “Pioneers” (good, too, but rather jiggy); and then the new stuff he had got glimpses of here and there in the magazines, in one or two of the “highbrow” jimmy choo shoes h&m reviews (but these hardly ever came his way), and in his college paper. And he had taken it for granted that he had covered the field of poetry . . . .
And now — this! But this WAS poetry, this was what his soul had been alight for, this was what the word Poetry meant, the word which always made wings rustle in him when he read it. He sat with his head between his hands, reading on, passionately, absorbedly, his whole being swept away on that mighty current. He remembered that, as he looked up at the house from without, he had compared it to a long-silent bell, and had longed to set its sonorous waves in motion. And behold, the bell was swinging and clanging all about him now, enveloping him in great undulation of sound like the undulations of a summer sea.
But for that inner music the house was utterly silent. The steps and voices of his cousins had died away. The very afternoon light seemed to lie arrested on the page. He seemed to have been sitting there a long time, in this unmoving ecstasy, when something stirred near him, and raising his head he saw a girl standing in the door and looking at him.
“Oh, who wrote this?” he exclaimed breathlessly, pointing to the book.
It was only after he had asked the question, after his voice had sounded aloud in his own ears, that he became conscious of her presence as of something alien, substantial, outside of his own mind, a part of the forgotten world of reality. Then he saw that she was young, tall, and pale, with dark hair banded close under her drooping hat. There was something about her, he saw also, that fitted into the scene, seemed to mark her as a part of it, though he was instantly aware cheap jimmy choo of her being so young, not much older than himself, he imagined. But what were time and space at that moment?
Without surprise, but merely smiling a little, she came up and bent over the book, narrowing her lids slightly in the way of the short~sighted. “That? Why — but Coleridge, of course!” She chanted softly after him:
“‘Through caverns measureless to man,
Down to a sunless sea.’”
Vance sat looking up at her. He had heard the “of course,” but without heeding it. All he cared for was that she had given him the man’s name — the man who had imagined that. His brain was reeling as if he were drunk. He had not thought of moving from his chair, of naming himself to the newcomer, or asking her name.
“Did he write a lot more?” he asked.
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