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|Crome Yellow||Aldous Huxley|
|Page 6 of 7||
"In the garden that afternoon they found themselves for a moment alone.
"You won't tell anyone, George? Promise you won't tell anyone,' she implored. 'It would make us look so ridiculous. And besides, eating IS unspiritual, isn't it? Say you won't tell anyone.'
"'I will,' said George brutally. 'I'll tell everyone, unless...'
"'I don't care, said George. 'I'll give you twenty-four hours to decide.'
"Lady Lapith was disappointed, of course; she had hoped for better things--for Timpany and a coronet. But George, after all, wasn't so bad. They were married at the New Year.
"My poor grandfather!" Mr. Wimbush added, as he closed his book and put away his pince-nez. "Whenever I read in the papers about oppressed nationalities, I think of him." He relighted his cigar. "It was a maternal government, highly centralised, and there were no representative institutions."
Henry Wimbush ceased speaking. In the silence that ensued Ivor's whispered commentary on the spirit sketches once more became audible. Priscilla, who had been dozing, suddenly woke up.
"What?" she said in the startled tones of one newly returned to consciousness; "what?"
Jenny caught the words. She looked up, smiled, nodded reassuringly. "It's about a ham," she said.
"What's about a ham?"
"What Henry has been reading." She closed the red notebook lying on her knees and slipped a rubber band round it. "I'm going to bed," she announced, and got up.
"So am I," said Anne, yawning. But she lacked the energy to rise from her arm-chair.
The night was hot and oppressive. Round the open windows the curtains hung unmoving. Ivor, fanning himself with the portrait of an Astral Being, looked out into the darkness and drew a breath.
"The air's like wool," he declared.
"It will get cooler after midnight," said Henry Wimbush, and cautiously added, "perhaps."
"I shan't sleep, I know."
Priscilla turned her head in his direction; the monumental coiffure nodded exorbitantly at her slightest movement. "You must make an effort," she said. "When I can't sleep, I concentrate my will: I say, 'I will sleep, I am asleep!' And pop! off I go. That's the power of thought."
"But does it work on stuffy nights?" Ivor inquired. "I simply cannot sleep on a stuffy night."
"Nor can I," said Mary, "except out of doors."
"Out of doors! What a wonderful idea!" In the end they decided to sleep on the towers--Mary on the western tower, Ivor on the eastern. There was a flat expanse of leads on each of the towers, and you could get a mattress through the trap doors that opened on to them. Under the stars, under the gibbous moon, assuredly they would sleep. The mattresses were hauled up, sheets and blankets were spread, and an hour later the two insomniasts, each on his separate tower, were crying their good-nights across the dividing gulf.
On Mary the sleep-compelling charm of the open air did not work with its expected magic. Even through the mattress one could not fail to be aware that the leads were extremely hard. Then there were noises: the owls screeched tirelessly, and once, roused by some unknown terror, all the geese of the farmyard burst into a sudden frenzy of cackling. The stars and the gibbous moon demanded to be looked at, and when one meteorite had streaked across the sky, you could not help waiting, open-eyed and alert, for the next. Time passed; the moon climbed higher and higher in the sky. Mary felt less sleepy than she had when she first came out. She sat up and looked over the parapet. Had Ivor been able to sleep? she wondered. And as though in answer to her mental question, from behind the chimney-stack at the farther end of the roof a white form noiselessly emerged--a form that, in the moonlight, was recognisably Ivor's. Spreading his arms to right and left, like a tight-rope dancer, he began to walk forward along the roof-tree of the house. He swayed terrifyingly as he advanced. Mary looked on speechlessly; perhaps he was walking in his sleep! Suppose he were to wake up suddenly, now! If she spoke or moved it might mean his death. She dared look no more, but sank back on her pillows. She listened intently. For what seemed an immensely long time there was no sound. Then there was a patter of feet on the tiles, followed by a scrabbling noise and a whispered "Damn!" And suddenly Ivor's head and shoulders appeared above the parapet. One leg followed, then the other. He was on the leads. Mary pretended to wake up with a start.
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