(from ’Taking the veil’ by Katherine Mansfield)
It seemed impossible that anyone should be unhappy on such a beautiful morning. Nobody was, decided Edna, except herself. The windows were flung wide in the houses. From within there came the sound of pianos, little hands chased after each other and ran away from each other, practicing scales. The trees fluttered in the sunny gardens, all bright with spring flowers. Street boys whistled, a little dog barked; people passed by, walking so lightly, so swiftly, they looked as though they wanted to break into a run. Now she actually saw in the distance a parasol (=an umbrella which protects from the sun), peach- coloured, the first parasol of the year.
Perhaps even Edna did not look quite as unhappy as she felt. It is not easy to look tragic at eighteen, when you are extremely pretty, with the cheeks and lips and shining eyes of perfect health. Above all, when you are wearing a French blue frock and your new spring hat trimmed with cornflowers. True, she carried under her arm a book bound in horrid black leather. Perhaps the book provided a gloomy note, but only by accident; it was the ordinary Library binding. For Edna had made going to the Library an excuse for getting out of the house to think, to realize what had happened, to decide somehow what was to be done.
An awful thing had happened. Quite suddenly, at the theatre last night, when she and Jimmy were seating side by side in the dress-circle, without a moment’s warning — in fact, she had just finished a chocolate almond and passed the box to him again — she had fallen in love with an actor. But — fallen in — love...
The feeling was unlike anything she had ever imagined before. It wasn’t in the least pleasant. It was hardly thrilling. It was — really, it was absolutely — oh, the most — it was simply — in fact, from that moment Edna knew that life could never be the same. She drew her hand away from Jimmy’s leaned back, and shut the chocolate box forever. This at last was love.
Edna and Jimmy were engaged. She had had her hair up for a year and a half; they had been publicly engaged for a year. But, they had known they were going to marry each other ever since they walked in the Botanical Gardens with their nurses, and sat on the grass with a wine biscuit and a piece of barley- sugar each for their tea. It was so much an accepted thing that Edna had worn a wonderfully good imitation of an engagement-ring out of a cracker all the time she was at school. And up till now they had been devoted to each other.
But now it was over. It was so completely over that Edna found it difficult to believe that Jimmy did not realize it too. How much better to know it now than to wait until after they were married! Now it was possible that Jimmy would get over it. No, it was no use deceiving herself; he would never get over it! His life was wrecked, was ruined; that was inevitable. But he was young...
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- Jimmy understood everything
- Jimmy suspected her
- Jimmy couldn’t believe her
- Jimmy noticed nothing
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