excerpt from 'The Golden Sovereign' pp. 181–84 (419 words)

excerpt from 'The Golden Sovereign' pp. 181–84 (419 words)

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The Golden Sovereign

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Bertie … sat with his back to me.  He was an untrained oarsman, and at last I had to suggest that he might do better to ship his sculls and leave the job to me.  He assented with the greatest good-humour, and proposed that he should hum the accompaniment of Schubert’s boat-song, ‘Auf dem Wasser’, while Maudie sang the melody.  It appeared that he had taken her repertoire in hand, replacing such pieces as ‘Because’, ‘Kashmiri Song’, and ‘Two Eyes of Grey’, by lieder chosen to draw out and confirm the quality of Maudie’s singing voice.

                I stopped rowing as she sang.  I leaned over the sculls, my head heavy with the tumult of this conflict.  Bertie beat time with one hand, his blunt-ended fingers flashing in the sun.  His humming accompaniment was so deep-toned that the sides of the boat vibrated.  The blue sky above us, with a dappled cloudlet here and there; the sleeping hills to the north, and the sleeping pastures around us; the green willows posting the canal, shuddering under the heat of the sunlight; Maudie’s pure voice, effortless and ravishing; and death, and hatred, and murder in my heart …

                The melody of Schubert’s song floated out from that powerful throat.  I glanced up, out of the Pit, and saw the smooth muscles of her neck, the perfect teeth and the moulding of her mouth. Then I dropped my gaze again, for I had seen something else, something to accuse me.  She was singing to him, and under his instructing guidance … His was the master’s hand, and his the true love.  I had to acknowledge both, before that day was over.

                The purity and simplicity of Maudie’s singing finally roused me from the despair and self-pity into which I had fallen.  Still in that eternity while the boat slowly came to rest among the water-weeds, and while I leaned over my sculls, my head bowed, I passed round the circles of that inward hell, the hatred, the shame, the embrace of murder.  From one after another I extricated myself, mandrake-wise, tearing myself up by the roots from this horror, acknowledging that the betrayal was in me, not in the lovers …

               The song ended, and Bertie’s hand dropped to the gunwale.  He turned to look at me, and I saw the happiness in his eyes … Silence fell over us all.

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excerpt from 'The Golden Sovereign' pp. 181–84 (419 words)


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