The Solitary Summer
by Elizabeth von Arnim
To the man of wrath With some apologies and much love
May 2nd.--Last night after dinner, when we were in the garden, I said, "I want to be alone for a whole
summer, and get to the very dregs of life. I want to be as idle as I can, so that my soul may have time to
grow. Nobody shall be invited to stay with me, and if any one calls they will be told that I am out, or
away, or sick. I shall spend the months in the garden, and on the plain, and in the forests. I shall watch
the things that happen in my garden, and see where I have made mistakes. On wet days I will go into the
thickest parts of the forests, where the pine needles are everlastingly dry, and when the sun shines I'll lie
on the heath and see how the broom flares against the clouds. I shall be perpetually happy, because
there will be no one to worry me. Out there on the plain there is silence, and where there is silence I
have discovered there is peace."
"Mind you do not get your feet damp," said the Man of Wrath, removing his cigar.
It was the evening of May Day, and the spring had taken hold of me body and soul. The sky was full of
stars, and the garden of scents, and the borders of wallflowers and sweet, sly pansies. All day there had
been a breeze, and all day slow masses of white clouds had been sailing across the blue. Now it was so
still, so motionless, so breathless, that it seemed as though a quiet hand had be en laid on the garden,
soothing and hushing it into silence.
The Man of Wrath sat at the foot of the verandah steps in that placid after-dinner mood which suffers
fools, if not gladly, at least indulgently, and I stood in front of him, leaning against the sun-dial.
"Shall you take a book with you?" he asked.
"Yes, I shall," I replied, slightly nettled by his tone. "I am quite ready to admit that though the fields and
flowers are always ready to teach, I am not always in the mood to learn, and sometimes m y eyes are
incapable of seeing things that at other times are quite plain."
"And then you read?"