The Well of loneliness
longing, having that in her body that betokened happy promise--the
archetype of the very perfect woman, whom creating God has found good.
Sir Philip had met her away in County Clare--Anna Molloy, the slim virgin
thing, all chastity, and his weariness had flown to her bosom as a spent
bird will fly to its nest--as indeed such a bird had once flown to her,
she told him, taking refuge from the perils of a storm.
Sir Philip was a tall man and exceedingly well-favoured, but his charm
lay less in feature than in a certain wide expression, a tolerant
expression that might almost be called noble, and in something sad yet
gallant in his deep-set hazel eyes. His chin, which was firm, was very
slightly cleft, his forehead intellectual, his hair tinged with auburn.
His wide-nostrilled nose was indicative of temper, but his lips were
well-modelled and sensitive and ardent--they revealed him as a dreamer
and a lover.
Twenty-nine when they had married, he had sown no few wild oats, yet
Anna's true instinct made her trust him completely: Her guardian had
disliked him, opposing the engagement, but in the end she had had her own
way. And as things turned out her choice had been happy, for seldom had
two people loved more than they did; they loved with an ardour
undiminished by time; as they ripened, so their love ripened with them.
Sir Philip never knew how much he longed for a son until, some ten years
after marriage, his wife conceived a child; then he knew that this thing
meant complete fulfilment, the fulfilment for which they had both been
waiting. When she told him, he could not find words for expression, and
must just turn and weep on her shoulder. It never seemed to cross his
mind for a moment that Anna might very well give him a daughter; he saw
her only as a mother of sons, nor could her warnings disturb him. He
christened the unborn infant Stephen, because he admired the pluck of
that Saint. He was not a religious man by instinct, being perhaps too
much of a student, but he read the Bible for its fine literature, and
Stephen had gripped his imagination. Thus he often discussed the future
of their child: 'I think I shall put Stephen down for Harrow', or: 'I'd
rather like Stephen to finish off abroad, it widens one's outlook on
And listening to him, Anna also grew convinced; his certainty wore down
her vague misgivings, and she saw herself playing with this little
Stephen, in the nursery, in the garden, in the sweet-smelling meadows.
'And himself the lovely young man,' she would say, thinking of the soft
Irish speech of her peasants; 'And himself with the light of the stars in
his eyes, and the courage of a lion in his heart!'
When the child stirred within her she would think it stirred strongly
because of the gallant male creature she was hiding; then her spirit grew
large with a mighty new courage, because a man-child would be born. She
would sit with her needle-work dropped on her knees, while her eyes
turned away to the long line of hills that stretched beyond the Severn
valley. From her favourite seat underneath an old cedar, she would see
these Malvern Hills in their beauty, and their swelling slopes seemed to
hold a new meaning. They were like pregnant women, full-bosomed,
courageous, great green-girdled mothers of splendid sons! thus through all
those summer months she sat and watched the hills, and Sir Philip would
sit with her--they would sit hand in hand. And because she felt grateful
she gave much to the poor, and Sir Philip went to church, which was
seldom his custom, and the Vicar came to dinner, and just towards the end