The Best British Short Stories of 1922 HTML version

The Lie
(From The Blue Magazine and Harper's Bazar)
The hours had passed with the miraculous rapidity which tinctures time when one is on
the river, and now overhead the moon was a gorgeous yellow lantern in a greyish purple
The punt was moored at the lower end of Glover's Island on the Middlesex side, and rose
and fell gently on the ebbing tide.
A girl was lying back amidst the cushions, her hands behind her head, looking up through
the vague tracery of leaves to the soft moonlight. Even in the garish day she was pretty,
but in that enchanting dimness she was wildly beautiful. The hint of strength around her
mouth was not quite so evident perhaps. Her hair was the colour of oaten straw in autumn
and her deep blue eyes were dark in the gathering night.
But despite her beauty, the man's face was averted from her. He was gazing out across
the smoothly-flowing water, troubled and thoughtful. A good-looking face, but not so
strong as the girl's in spite of her prettiness, and enormously less vital.
Ten minutes before he had proposed to her and had been rejected.
It was not the first time, but he had been very much more hopeful than on the other
The air was softly, embracingly warm that evening. Together they had watched the
lengthening shadows creep out across the old river. And it was spring still, which makes
a difference. There is something in the year's youth--the sap is rising in the plants--
something there is, anyway, beyond the sentimentality of the poets. And overhead was
the great yellow lantern gleaming at them through the branches with ironic approval.
But, in spite of everything, she had shaken her head and all he received was the
maddening assurance that she "liked" him.
"I shall never marry," she had concluded. "Never. You know why."
"Yes, I know," the man said miserably. "Carruthers."
And so he was looking out moodily, almost savagely, across the water when the
temptation came to him.