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Bliss and Other Stories


The wind, the wind. It's frightening to be here in her room by herself. The bed, the mirror, the white jug and basin gleam like the sky outside. It's the bed that is frightening. There it lies, sound asleep. . . . Does Mother imagine for one moment that she is going to darn all those stockings knotted up on the quilt like a coil of snakes ? She's not. No, Mother. I do not see why I should. . . . The wind—the wind ! There's a funny smell of page 142 soot blowing down the chimney. Hasn't anyone written poems to the wind ? ..." I bring fresh flowers to the leaves and showers." . . . What nonsense.

" Is that you, Bogey ? "

" Come for a walk round the esplanade, Matilda. I can't stand this any longer."

" Right-o. I'll put on my ulster. Isn't it an awful day ! " Bogey's ulster is just like hers. Hooking the collar she looks at herself in the glass. Her face is white, they have the same excited eyes and hot lips. Ah, they know those two in the glass. Good-bye, dears ; we shall be back soon.

" This is better, isn't it ? "

" Hook on," says Bogey.

They cannot walk fast enough. Their heads bent, their legs just touching, they stride like one eager person through the town, down the asphalt zigzag where the fennel grows wild and on to the esplanade. It is dusky—just getting dusky. The wind is so strong that they have to fight their way through it, rocking like two old drunkards. All the poor little pahutukawas on the esplanade are bent to the ground.

" Come on ! Come on ! Let's get near."

Over by the breakwater the sea is very high. They pull off their hats and her hair blows across her mouth, tasting of salt. The sea is so high that the waves do not break at all; they thump against the rough stone wall and suck up the weedy, page 143dripping steps. A fine spray skims from the water right across the esplanade. They are covered with drops ; the inside of her mouth tastes wet and cold.

Bogey's voice is breaking. When he speaks he rushes up and down the scale. It's funny—it makes you laugh—and yet it just suits the day. The wind carries their voices—away fly the sentences like little narrow ribbons.

" Quicker ! Quicker ! "

It is getting very dark. In the harbour the coal hulks show two lights—one high on a mast, and one from the stern.

" Look, Bogey. Look over there."

A big black steamer with a long loop of smoke streaming, with the portholes lighted, with lights everywhere, is putting out to sea. The wind does not stop her ; she cuts through the waves, making for the open gate between the pointed rocks that leads to . . . It's the light that makes her look so awfully beautiful and mysterious. . . . They are on board leaning over the rail arm in arm.

" . . . Who are they ? "

"... Brother and sister."

" Look, Bogey, there's the town. Doesn't it look small ? There's the post office clock chiming for the last time. There's the esplanade where we walked that windy day. Do you remember ? I cried at my music lesson that day—how many years ago ! Good-bye, little island, good-bye. . .."

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Now the dark stretches a wing over the tumbling water. They can't see those two any more. Goodbye, good-bye. Don't forget. . . . But the ship is gone, now.

The wind—the wind