Page:Out of due time, Ward, 1906.djvu/25

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I was leaning back on a garden chair with my arms hanging listlessly by my side.

"My dear, how can I write stories when I have seen nothing of life? It may interest you, but——" I stopped. I did not want to make Mary unhappy. I could see that she was troubled about me; the pretty little white forehead was puckered in a frown. There was a maternal instinct in this younger sister of mine that might have touched me if I had not been too self-absorbed. It was not that I suffered from my old temptations to rebelliousness—I felt altogether more listless and depressed than rebellious. I had not enough to do, enough to take me out of myself. I had been feeding on shadows and fancies, and I got my punishment. The greatest realities were losing their place in my mind, their outlines were dimmed by the fog.

I remember at this time moments on the old bench in the wood, wild walks on the common, and slow pacing of the garden plot in front of the house, dull with mental pain. A mist had come over my prayers; I lay awake at night, and could not eat, which was for me the most surprising symptom of all. It was soon after Father Thompson came back, and perhaps at his suggestion, that my mother and old Miss Mills, the governess, first spoke of tonics and then of a change. I felt entirely indifferent as long as I was not again to be sent to anything like the party at Thornly.

Then at this moment of need, as at the other moment, my mother received an invitation for me. She instantly decided that I ought to accept it, although it was entirely surprising that I should be asked, and that I should go to stay with complete strangers. It came about in this way: The Comtesse de Pourcelles had been, by her first marriage, the second wife of a friend of my father's, the Comte d'Etranges, whose first wife had been an Englishwoman. He had had a son, Paul, by the first marriage, and a daughter, Marcelle, by the second. The young d'Etranges', half-brother