“Bees blew like cake-crumbs through the golden air, white butterflies like sugared wafers, and when it wasn't raining a diamond dust took over which veiled and yet magnified all things”
“She was too honest, too natural for this frightened man; too remote from his tidy laws. She was, after all, a country girl; disordered, hysterical, loving. She was muddled and mischievous as a chimney-jackdaw, she made her nest of rags and jewels, was happy in the sunlight, squawked loudly at danger, pried and was insatiably curious, forgot when to eat or ate all day, and sang when sunsets were red.”
“She leaned out of the window slow and sleepy, and the light came through her nightdress like sand through a sieve.”
“The prospect Smiler was a manic farmer. Few men I think can have been as unfortunate as he; for on the one hand he was a melancholic with a loathing for mankind, on the other, some paralysis had twisted his mouth into a permanent and radiant smile. So everyone he met, being warmed by his smile, would shout him a happy greeting. And beaming upon them with his sunny face he would curse them all to hell.”
“It came out sparkling like liquid sky.”
“Me dad planted that tree,’ she said absently, pointing out through the old cracked window.
The great beech filled at least half the sky and shook shadows all over the house.
Its roots clutched the slope like a giant hand, holding the hill in place. Its trunk writhed with power, threw off veils of green dust, rose towering into the air, branched into a thousand shaded alleys, became a city for owls and squirrels. I had thought such trees to be as old as the earth, I never dreamed that a man could make them. Yet it was Granny Trill’s dad who had planted this tree, had thrust in the seed with his finger. How old must he have been to leave such a mark? Think of Granny’s age, and add his on top, and you were back at the beginning of the world.”
“Granny Trill and Granny Wallon were traditional ancients of a kind we won’t see today, the last of that dignity of grandmothers to whom age was its own embellishment. The grandmothers of those days dressed for the part in that curious but endearing uniform which is now known to us only through music-hall. And our two old neighbours, when setting forth on errands, always prepared themselves scrupulously so. They wore high laced boots and long muslin dresses, beaded chokers and candlewick shawls, crowned by tall poke bonnets tied with trailing ribbons and smothered with inky sequins. They looked like starlings, flecked with jet, and they walked in a tinkle of darkness.
Those severe and similar old bodies enthralled me when they dressed that way. When I finally became King (I used to think) I would command a parade of grandmas, and drill them, and march them up and down - rank upon rank of hobbling boots, nodding bonnets, flying shawls, and furious chewing faces. They would be gathered from all the towns and villages and brought to my palace in wagon-loads. No more than a monarch’s whim, of course, like eating cocoa or drinking jellies; but far more spectacular any day than those usual trudging guardsmen.”
“Emmanuel Twinning, on the other hand, was gentle and very old, and made his own suits out of hospital blankets, and lived nearby with a horse.
Emmanuel and the skewbald had much in common, including the use of the kitchen, and one saw their grey heads, almost any evening, poking together out of the window. The old man himself, when seen alone, seemed to inhabit unearthly regions, so blue and remote that the girls used to sing:
O come, O come, E-mah-ah-ah-new-el!
An’ ransom captive Is-rah-ah-ah-el!…
At this he would nod and smile gently upon us, moving his lips to the hymn. He
was so very old, so far and strange, I never doubted that the hymn was his. He wore sky-blue blankets, and his name was Emmanuel; it was easy to think he was God.”
“This tiny, white-washed Infants' room was a brief but cosy anarchy. In that short time allowed us we played and wept, broke things, fell asleep, cheeked the teacher, discovered things we could do to each other, and exhaled our last guiltless days.
My desk companions were those two blonde girls, already puppyishly pretty, whose names and bodies were to distract and haunt me for the next fifteen years of my life. Poppy and Jo were limper chums; they sat holding hands all day; and there was a female self-possession about their pink sticky faces that made me shout angrily at them.
Vera was another I studied and liked; she was lonely, fuzzy and short. I felt a curious compassion for stumpy Vera; and it was through her, and no beauty, that I got into trouble and received the first public shock of my life. How it happened was simple, and I was innocent, so it seemed. She came up to me in the playground one morning and held her face close to mine. I had a stick in my hand, so I hit her on the head with it. Her hair was springy, so I hit her again and watched her mouth open up with a yell.
To my surprise a commotion broke out around me, cries of scandal from the older girls, exclamations of horror and heavy censure mixed with Vera's sobbing wails. I was intrigued, not alarmed, that by wielding a beech stick I was able to cause such a stir. So I hit her again, without spite or passion, then walked off to try something else.”
“Dorothy scratched her dark head, yawning wide, and white feathers floated out of her hair.”
“Ay, cómo trabajaban las chicas entonces; antes del amanecer ya estaban en pie, muertas de sueño, para disponer veinte o treinta fuegos. Barrer, fregar, limpiar y pulir se hacía sólo para volver a hacerlo. Lavar montañas de vajilla y cubertería, corretear escaleras arriba y abajo; y aquellas campanillas irascibles que empezaban a resonar como en una rabieta… Justo cuando lograbas sentarte un instante.”
“The untarred road wound away up the valley, innocent as yet of motor-cars, wound empty away to other villages, which lay empty too, the hot day long, waiting for the sight of a stranger. We”
“On the first of July, while Ariel sat on their blanket, gazing out at the sun-spangled water, Chyna tried to read a newspaper, but every story distressed her. War, rape, murder, robbery, politicians spewing hatred from all ends of the political spectrum. She read a movie review full of vicious ipse dixit criticism of the director and screenwriter, questioning their very right to create, and then turned to a woman columnist’s equally vitriolic attack on a novelist, none of it genuine criticism, merely venom, and she threw the paper in a trash can.”
“Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps”
“For a country is considered the more civilized the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak or a powerful one too powerful.”
“Rule number one for not being creepy,” she says. “Announce your presence in a room if another person doesn’t see you come in.”
“Do you love him?"
How would I know?"
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