The Voyage Out HTML version

Chapter XXV
The afternoon was very hot, so hot that the breaking of the waves on the shore sounded
like the repeated sigh of some exhausted creature, and even on the terrace under an
awning the bricks were hot, and the air danced perpetually over the short dry grass. The
red flowers in the stone basins were drooping with the heat, and the white blossoms
which had been so smooth and thick only a few weeks ago were now dry, and their edges
were curled and yellow. Only the stiff and hostile plants of the south, whose fleshy leaves
seemed to be grown upon spines, still remained standing upright and defied the sun to
beat them down. It was too hot to talk, and it was not easy to find any book that would
withstand the power of the sun. Many books had been tried and then let fall, and now
Terence was reading Milton aloud, because he said the words of Milton had substance
and shape, so that it was not necessary to understand what he was saying; one could
merely listen to his words; one could almost handle them.
There is a gentle nymph not far from hence,
he read,
That with moist curb sways the smooth Severn stream.
Sabrina is her name, a virgin pure;
Whilom she was the daughter of Locrine,
That had the sceptre from his father Brute.
The words, in spite of what Terence had said, seemed to be laden with meaning, and
perhaps it was for this reason that it was painful to listen to them; they sounded strange;
they meant different things from what they usually meant. Rachel at any rate could not
keep her attention fixed upon them, but went off upon curious trains of thought suggested
by words such as "curb" and "Locrine" and "Brute," which brought unpleasant sights
before her eyes, independently of their meaning. Owing to the heat and the dancing air
the garden too looked strange--the trees were either too near or too far, and her head
almost certainly ached. She was not quite certain, and therefore she did not know,
whether to tell Terence now, or to let him go on reading. She decided that she would wait
until he came to the end of a stanza, and if by that time she had turned her head this way
and that, and it ached in every position undoubtedly, she would say very calmly that her
head ached.
Sabrina fair,
Listen where thou art sitting
Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of lilies knitting
The loose train of thy amber dropping hair,
Listen for dear honour's sake,