"I was secretary of the English water company at Toledo."
Philip remembered that Clutton had spent some months in Toledo, and the journalist's answer made him look at him with more interest; but he felt it would be improper to show this: it was necessary to preserve the distance between the hospital patient and the staff. When he had finished his examination he went on to other beds.
Thorpe Athelny's illness was not grave, and, though remaining very yellow, he soon felt much better: he stayed in bed only because the physician thought he should be kept under observation till certain reactions became normal. One day, on entering the ward, Philip noticed that Athelny, pencil in hand, was reading a book. He put it down when Philip came to his bed.
"May I see what you're reading?" asked Philip, who could never pass a book without looking at it.
Philip took it up and saw that it was a volume of Spanish verse, the poems of San Juan de la Cruz, and as he opened it a sheet of paper fell out. Philip picked it up and noticed that verse was written upon it.
"You're not going to tell me you've been occupying your leisure in writing poetry? That's a most improper proceeding in a hospital patient."
"I was trying to do some translations. D'you know Spanish?"
"Well, you know all about San Juan de la Cruz, don't you?"
"I don't indeed."
"He was one of the Spanish mystics. He's one of the best poets they've ever had. I thought it would be worth while translating him into English."
"May I look at your translation?"
"It's very rough," said Athelny, but he gave it to Philip with an alacrity which suggested that he was eager for him to read it.
It was written in pencil, in a fine but very peculiar handwriting, which was hard to read: it was just like black letter.
"Doesn't it take you an awful time to write like that? It's wonderful."
"I don't know why handwriting shouldn't be beautiful." Philip read the first verse:
Philip looked curiously at Thorpe Athelny. He did not know whether he felt a little shy with him or was attracted by him. He was conscious that his manner had been slightly patronising, and he flushed as it struck him that Athelny might have thought him ridiculous.In an obscure night
"What an unusual name you've got," he remarked, for something to say.
"It's a very old Yorkshire name. Once it took the head of my family a day's hard riding to make the circuit of his estates, but the mighty are fallen. Fast women and slow horses."
He was short-sighted and when he spoke looked at you with a peculiar intensity. He took up his volume of poetry.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|