When winter beckons, but autumn delivers the prospect of a miracle...
August came: starflower blue the skies. The new-mown hay was thick with clover, its dust filtering out over the countryside. Animals darted for cover elsewhere, missing the reaper’s blade by a whisker’s span. Heat shimmered off the walls. On his own lawn, Adam stumbled across a four-leaf clover and brought it to Angel with that same delight he had discovered the heartsease months ago.
“I heard from Elizabeth this morning,” he confided. “Andrew’s coming up for rest of the summer holiday next week.”
Naturally, he was looking forward to it. His voice was resonant with anticipation. “You could come with us on our expeditions. We shall follow badgers’ trails and hunt the eyrie of the golden eagle. Why don’t you?”
She shook her head, smiling, touched.
“He’d love you, I know he would.”
“No, Adam. He must have you to himself.”
His silence seemed to confirm that the war of interests had been amicably resolved.
“Besides,” Angel said, “I shouldn’t want to be a drag, lag behind, spoil things. I haven’t the strength to quest for golden eagles.”
A summer fatigue had overtaken her, weariness drenching down into her bones with the sun. Where her eyes had been limpid, they were slightly opaque, as if the world and its demands was foreclosing upon her.
Maybe it was then, gazing down at the leaf, that she began to see in its irregular shape, the germination of something new. For days and days it wrestled within her, she hadn’t a notion what it was or how it came to be. A sense of disorientation took hold of her, vaguely familiar, just like the old days when she didn’t belong, and yet different still. The blood fizzed around her sinuses like a heady wine, forcing her head down, down to take rest. The weeks ran together. Sleep came in deep draughts. She woke, vexed, to a new day and craved only for fruit, exotic fruit, more and still more of it. Melons and pineapples, grapes, green figs, these were what slaked her feverish palate.
In the wood, along the thinning hedgerows, berries ripened in clusters of scarlet and orange and gold, blackberries bloated with amethystine juice. Folk said it would be a hard winter. No more the wheat swayed in Glenfinnie’s fields. Acres of stubble gleamed coarsely under the harvest moon, the grain sifted, the stalks hacked from their roots. Fire spread over the hills. All night its acrid odour came in waves through the house. By day, the rawness and vibrance of colour appalled her. Her eyes ached with crimson, nausea rose inside her at the sight of ochres and greens. She longed for darkness and quiet, for the mists to come down and the jaded tints of winter.
Jude looked on, at a loss to help her. She refused at that point to see a doctor.
And then the phase passed, as abruptly as it had come. She was calm and settled again. Her skin which had dried out in these last few weeks, glowed clear and soft. Her eyes shone as brilliantly as ever. A kindness had come into them, deeper than humour, deeper yet than goodwill, as though every last vestige of fear and doubt had been put to flight by her mortification. It was a kind of death and new life, a shedding of husks. A going on.
At last she understood what was happening. She looked out to the hills not wishing for winter, nor yet afraid of its approach. She looked with love upon the changing face of the earth, knew herself to be of it, a limb, an adjunct.
“We must find room for the cradle,” Angel told Jude. “We’re going to have a baby.”