`I didn't notice it.'

She continued quickly to lay the table. When she had finished--

`Tea won't be for a few minutes. Will you come and look at the daffodils?' she said.

He rose without answering. They went out into the back garden under the budding damson-trees. The hills and the sky were clean and cold. Everything looked washed, rather hard. Miriam glanced at Paul. He was pale and impassive. It seemed cruel to her that his eyes and brows, which she loved, could look so hurting.

`Has the wind made you tired?' she asked. She detected an underneath feeling of weariness about him.

`No, I think not,' he answered.

`It must be rough on the road--the wood moans so.'

`You can see by the clouds it's a south-west wind; that helps me here.'

`You see, I don't cycle, so I don't understand,' she murmured.

`Is there need to cycle to know that?' he said.

She thought his sarcasms were unnecessary. They went forward in silence. Round the wild, tussocky lawn at the back of the house was a thorn hedge, under which daffodils were craning forward from among their sheaves of grey-green blades. The cheeks of the flowers were greenish with cold. But still some had burst, and their gold ruffled and glowed. Miriam went on her knees before one cluster, took a wild- looking daffodil between her hands, turned up its face of gold to her, and bowed down, caressing it with her mouth and cheeks and brow. He stood aside, with his hands in his pockets, watching her. One after another she turned up to him the faces of the yellow, bursten flowers appealingly, fondling them lavishly all the while.

`Aren't they magnificent?' she murmured.

`Magnificent! it's a bit thick--they're pretty!'

She bowed again to her flowers at his censure of her praise. He watched her crouching, sipping the flowers with fervid kisses.

`Why must you always be fondling things!' he said irritably.

`But I love to touch them,' she replied, hurt.

`Can you never like things without clutching them as if you wanted to pull the heart out of them? Why don't you have a bit more restraint, or reserve, or something?'

She looked up at him full of pain, then continued slowly to stroke her lips against a ruffled flower. Their scent, as she smelled it, was so much kinder than he; it almost made her cry.

`You wheedle the soul out of things,' he said. `I would never wheedle--at any rate, I'd go straight.'

He scarcely knew what he was saying. These things came from him mechanically. She looked at him. His body seemed one weapon, firm and hard against her.

`You're always begging things to love you,' he said, `as if you were a beggar for love. Even the flowers, you have to fawn on them--'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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