D E Stevenson, 1939.
This is a lighter Stevenson (despite the first of my quotes below), bordering on farce at times. There are reviews at Leaves and Pages and Worthwhile Books which give a flavour of it. A couple of passages I liked:
When George had gone the house felt strangely empty and strangely silent. Cathy finished her flowers and bestowed the bowls of roses in their usual places about the house; and all at once, as she placed the big brown pottery bowl on the hall table and stood back to admire the effect, the futility of the thing swept over her. “What is the good?” she demanded of herself. “What is the point of wasting all that time doing flowers? How often have I filled these same silly bowls with flowers – spring flowers, summer flowers, or great shaggy-headed chrysanthemums – and how often shall I go on dong it? Does anyone ever notice them? Would anyone care if I stopped doing it? Would father or mother or Peter or anyone look round and say, ‘Hallo, no flowers!'”
She stood quite still, looking at her handiwork, and it seemed to her that life went on and on and nothing ever happened, and the thought depressed her beyond measure. She seemed to see, in the cycle of the flowers, the cycle of the years of her life – daffodils, sweet peas, roses, delphiniums, chrysanthemums, and beech leaves – and then daffodils again – hundreds of bowls of flowers representing hundred of hours’ work – and all quite useless. Cathy had never felt before that her life was useless and static, but now she could not dismiss the idea. Her reason told her that she was a useful member of society, for her family depended on her in all sorts of ways, and she gave each member of it something that he or she would have missed had it been withdrawn; but, in spite of this, her life seemed suddenly flat and stale and empty – and, worst of all, uneventful.
If Cathy could have stood apart and looked at her life from a distance, or stood still, poised between the past and the future, she would have been able to see that her life was not uneventful, and that it was certainly not static. Nobody’s life is static. … for, if nothing else is happening to them, there is change taking place in their own souls.
Cathy was unused to self-analysis. She was too busy thinking of other people to bother much about herself, so her sudden mood of self-pity took her by surprise, and after a few moments she gave herself a slittle shake and lifted her chin . . . . After all, I’m me, thought Cathy, and that’s always something. Nobody has ever been me before.
Mr Ferrier and Paddy are walking on the Roman Road and he is telling her about the Romans:
“So far from their homes!” said Paddy sadly.
Mr. Ferrier took the point. (He had often found that Paddy’s remarks, even when they seemed irrelevant, were not really irrelevant at all, but usually following a definite train of thought missing out several stations on the way.) “It is curious to think that the Romans, here in Britain, were farther from their homes than is possible in modern times,” he said thoughtfully. “I have not studied the matter seriously, but I believe it may be taken as a fact. There is no place in the world to-day so far from another place in time as the distance from here to Rome in 55 B.C. … ” [I’m not sure this is correct.]
George is trying to redirect Elma’s focus on him:
“Look here,” said George, “I’ll give you a book to read – a modern book that will teach you about the modern world. It’s no good filling your mind up with Sir Walter Scott and – and all that. Things are different now. You’ve got to live in To-day, so you had better learn about it.”
“Yes,” said Elma meekly.
George looked at his shelves and selected a couple of “Peter Wimsey” books. They were his own favourites and, as far as he could remember, they contained nothing which could bring a blush to the cheek of the most innocent maiden on earth. “You take these,” he said. “They’re all about a fellow called Peter Wimsey. You read them carefully and you’ll see what’s what. He’s a modern sort of chap, you know – not like Pendennis.”
“I like Pendennis,” Elma declared. “I think you resemble Pendennis. I thought so from the very – ”
“Oh, no, I don’t. And I don’t resemble Peter Wimsey, either,” said George.
(Later on, someone avoids a party by shutting himself in a room and reading Gaudy Night.)
Tags: DE Stevenson