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Chapter 4 Conversation in a Pantry

It was no use, she simply could not sleep. She had tried lying all sorts of ways: with the blanket pulled over her or the blanket off; with her knees doubled up to her chin or stretched so straight that her feet nearly touched the bottom of the bed; on her back with her hands under her neck, or with her face burrowed1 in the pillow. Nothing helped. Going on in her she could still feel the bumps and lurches of the coach in which she had ridden most of that day. Then the log that had been smouldering in the brick fireplace burnt away in the middle, and collapsed2 with a crash; and the two ends, rolling together, broke into flames again. These threw shadows which ran about the ceiling, and up and down the white walls, like strange animals.

She was spending the night with Alice, and they had had a fire “just for luxury,” and had sat by it for nearly an hour before going to bed. It would be her last chance of anything like that, Alice said: in schools, you never had fires, and all lights went out to the minute. And their talk had been fearfully interesting. For Alice was in love — she was over seventeen — and had told her about it just as if she was grown up, too; looking into the fire with ever such a funny little smile, and her blue eyes quite small behind their thick, curly lashes3.

“Oh, don’t you wish we could see into the future, Trix? And what it’s going to bring us?”

But though she said yes, she wasn’t sure if she did, really; she liked surprises better. Besides, all the last part of the time Alice talked, she had been screwing up her courage to put a question. But she hadn’t managed to get it out. And that was one reason why now she couldn’t sleep.

With a fresh toss, she sighed gustily4. And, where her tumblings and fidgetings had failed, this sound called her companion back from the downy meadows.

“What’s the matter, child? Aren’t you asleep yet?”

“No, I simply can’t.”

Alice sat up in bed, and shook her hair back from her face. “You’re over-excited. Try a drink of water.”

“I have. I’ve drunk it all up.”

“Then you must be hungry.”

“Well, yes, I am perhaps . . . a little.”

“Come on then, let’s forage5.” And throwing back the sheet, the elder girl slid her feet to the floor.

One tall white figure, one short, they opened the door and stepped out on the verandah.

Here it was almost as bright as day; for the moon hung like a round cheese in the sky, and drenched6 everything with its light. Barefoot they pattered, the joins in the verandah floor-boards, which had risen, cutting into their soles. Had they to pass open windows, dark holes in which people lay sleeping, Alice laid a finger on her lips. From one of these came the sound of snores — harsh snores of the chromatic7 kind, which went up the scale and down, over and over again, without a pause.

Turning a corner, they stepped off the verandah and took a few steps on hard pebbly8 ground. Inside the pantry, which was a large outhouse, there were sharp contrasts of bluish-white moonlight and black shadows.

Swiftly Alice skimmed the familiar shelves. “Here’s lemon cheese-cakes . . . and jam tarts9 . . . and ginger-snaps . . . and pound cake. But I can’t start you on these, or you’d be sick.” And cutting a round off a home-made loaf, she spread it thickly with dairy butter, topped by a layer of quince jelly. “There, that’s more wholesome10.”

Oh, had anything ever tasted so delicious? as this slice eaten at dead of night. Perched on an empty, upturned kerosene-tin, the young girl munched11 and munched, holding her empty hand outspread below, lest the quivering jelly glide12 over the crust’s edge.

Alice took a cheese-cake and sat down on a lidded basket. “I say, DID you hear Father? Oh, Trix, wouldn’t it be positively13 too awful if one discovered AFTERWARDS, one had married a man who snored?”

The muncher14 made no answer: the indelicacy of the question stunned15 her: all in the dark as she was, she felt her face flame. And yet . . . was this not perhaps the very chance she had been waiting for? If Alice could say such a thing, out loud, without embarrassment16. . . . Hastily squeezing down her last tit-bit — she felt it travel, over-large, the full length of her gullet — she licked her jellied fingers clean and took the plunge17.

“Dallie, there’s something I . . . I want to ask you something . . . something I want to know.”

“Fire away!” said Alice, and went on nibbling18 at the pastry-edging that trimmed her tartlet19.

“Yes. But . . . well, I don’t quite . . . I mean I . . .

“Like that, is it? Wait a tick,” and rather more rapidly than she had intended, Alice bolted her luscious20 circle of lemon-cheese, picked up her basket and planted it beside the tin. “Now then.”

Shut away in this outhouse, the young girl might have cried her words aloud. But leaning over till she found the shell of her friend’s ear, she deposited them safely inside. Alice, who was ticklish21, gave an involuntary shudder22. But as the sense of the question dawned on her, she sat up very stiff and straight, and echoed perturbed23: “HOW? Oh, but Kid, I’m not sure — not at all sure — whether you ought to know. At your age!” said seventeen to thirteen.

“But I must, Dallie.”

“But why, my dear?”

“Because of something Ruth said.”

“Oh, Ruth!” said Alice scornfully. “Trust Ruth for saying the wrong thing. What was it?”

“Why, that . . . now I was growing up . . . was as good as grown up . . . I must take care, for . . . for fear. . . . But, Dallie, how can I? . . . if I don’t know?” This last question came out with a rush, and with a kind of click in the throat.

“Well, well! I always have felt sorry for you children, with no mother but only Ruth to bring you up — and she for ever prinking before her glass. But you know you’ll be perfectly24 safe at school, Trix. They’ll look after you, never fear!”

But there was more to, come.

It was Ella, it seemed, Ella Morrison, who was two years older than her, who’d begun it. She’d said her mother said now she mustn’t let the boys kiss her any more.

“And you have, eh?”

Trixie’s nod was so small that it had to be guessed at. Haltingly, word by word, the story came out. It had been at Christmas, at a big party, and they were playing games. And she and some others, all boys, had gone off to hide from the rest, and they’d climbed into the hay-loft, Harry25 MacGillivray among them; and she rather liked Harry, and he liked her, and the other boys knew it and had teased them. And then they said he wasn’t game to kiss her and dared him to. And she didn’t want him to, not a bit . . . or only a teeny weeny bit . . . and anyhow she wasn’t going to let him, there before them all. But the other boys grabbed her, and one held her arms and another her legs and another her neck, so: that he could. And he did — three times — hard. She’d been as angry as anything; she’d hit them all round. But only angry. Afterwards, though . . . when Ellie told her what her mother had said . . . and now Ruth. . ..

But she got no further; for Alice had thrown back her head and was shaking with ill-repressed laughter.,‘Oh, you babe . . . you blessed infant, you! Why, child, there was no more harm in that than . . . well, than in this!” And pulling the girl to her she kissed her soundly, some half-dozen times, with scant26 pause between. An embarrassing embrace, from which Trixie made uneasy haste to free herself; for Alice was plump, and her nightgown thin.

“No, you can make your little mind easy,” continued the elder girl on recovering her breath. “Larking27’s all that was and couldn’t hurt a fly. IT’S WHAT LARKING LEADS TO,” said Alice, and her voice sank, till it was hollow with mystery.

“What does it?”

“Ah!” said Alice in the same sepulchral28 tone. “You asked me just now how babies came. Well, THAT’S HOW, my dear.”

“Yes, but . . .”

“Come, you’ve read your Bible, haven’t you? The Garden of Eden, and so on? And male and female created He them?”

“But. . .”

“Well, Trix, in MY opinion, you ought to be content with that . . . in the meanwhile. Time enough for more when . . . well, when you’re married, my dear.” Not for the world would Alice have admitted her own lack of preciser knowledge, or have uncovered to the day her private imaginings of the great unknown.

“But suppose I . . . Not EVERY lady gets married, Dallie! And than I’d never know.”

“And wouldn’t need to. But I don’t think there’s much fear of that, Trix! You’re not the stuff old maids are made of,” said Alice sturdily, welcoming the side issue.

Affectionately Trixie snuggled up to her friend. This tribute was most consoling. (How awful should nobody want you, you remain unchosen!) All the same she did not yield; a real worm for knowledge gnawed29 in her. “Still, I don’t quite see . . . truly I don’t, Dallie . . . how you CAN ‘take care,’ if you don’t know how.”

At this outlandish persistence30 Alice drew a heavy sigh. “But, child, there’s surely something in you . . . at least if there isn’t there ought to be . . . that tells you what’s skylarking and what isn’t? Just you think of undressing. Suppose you began to take your clothes off in front of somebody, somebody who was a stranger to you, wouldn’t something in you stop you by saying: it isn’t done, it’s not NICE?”

“Gracious, yes!” cried Trixie hotly. “I should think so indeed!” (Though she could not imagine herself BEGINNING.) But here, for some reason, what Alice had said about a husband who snored came back to her, and got tangled31 up with the later question. “But, Dallie, you have to . . . do that, take your clothes off . . . haven’t you? . . . if you . . . sleep in the same bed with somebody,” was what she wanted to say, but the words simply would not come out.

Alice understood. “But ONLY if you’re married, Trixie! And then, it’s different. Then everything’s allowed, my dear. If once you’re married, it doesn’t matter what you do.”

“Oh, doesn’t it?” echoed Trixie feebly, and her cheeks turned so hot that they scorched32. For at Alice’s words horrid33 things, things she was ashamed even to think, came rushing into her mind, upsetting everything she had been taught or told since she was a little child. But SHE wouldn’t be like that, no, never, no matter how much she was married; there would always be something in HER that would say “don’t, it’s not nice.”

A silence followed, in which she could hear her own heart beating. Then, out of a kind of despair, she asked: “Oh, WHY are men and women, Dallie? Why have they got to be?”

“Well now, really’!” said Alice, startled and sincerely shocked. “I hope to goodness you’re not going to turn irreligious, and begin criticising what God has done and how He’s made us?”

“Of course not! I know everything He does is right,” vowed34 Trixie, the more hotly because she couldn’t down the naughty thought: if He’s got all that power, then I don’t see why He couldn’t have arranged things differently, let them happen without . . . well, without all this bother . . . and so many things you weren’t supposed to know . . . and what you were allowed to, so . . . so unpleasant. Yes, it WAS unpleasant, when you thought of undressing . . . and the snores . . . and — and everything.

And then quite suddenly and disconcertingly came a memory of Alice sitting looking into the fire, telling about her sweetheart. She had never known before that Alice was so pretty, with dimples round her mouth, and her eyes all shady. Oh, could it mean that . . . yes, it must: Alice simply didn’t MIND.

Almost as if this thought had passed to her, Alice said: “Just you wait till you fall in love, Trix, and then it’ll be different — as different as chalk from cheese. Then you’ll be only too glad, my dear, that we’re not all the same — all men or all women. Love’s something that goes right through you, child, I couldn’t even begin to describe it — and you wouldn’t understand it if I did — but once you’re in love, you can’t think of anything else, and it gives you such a strange feeling here that it almost chokes you!”— and laying one hand over the other on the place where she believed her heart to be, Alice pressed hard. “Why, only to be in the same room with him makes you happy, and if you know he’s feeling the same, and that he likes to look at you and to hold your hand — oh, Trix, it’s just Heaven!”

I do believe she’d even like him snoring, thought Trixie in dismay. (But perhaps it was only OLD men who snored.) Confused and depressed35, she could not think of anything to reply. Alice did not speak again either, and there was a long silence, in which, though it was too dark to see her, Trixie guessed she would have the same funny little smile round her mouth and the same funny half-shut eyes, from thinking about George. Oh dear! what a muddle36 everything was.

“But come!” cried Alice, starting up from her dreams. “To bed and to sleep with you, young woman, or we shall never get you up in time for the morning coach. Help yourself to a couple of cheese-cakes . . . we can eat them as we go.”

Tartlets in hand, back they stole along the moon-blanched verandah; back past the row of dark windows, past the chromatic snores — to Trixie’s ears these had now a strange and sinister37 significance — guided by a moon which, riding at the top of the sky, had shrunk to the size of a pippin.


1 burrowed 6dcacd2d15d363874a67d047aa972091     
v.挖掘(洞穴),挖洞( burrow的过去式和过去分词 );翻寻
  • The rabbits burrowed into the hillside. 兔子在山腰上打洞。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • She burrowed her head into my shoulder. 她把头紧靠在我的肩膀上。 来自辞典例句
2 collapsed cwWzSG     
  • Jack collapsed in agony on the floor. 杰克十分痛苦地瘫倒在地板上。
  • The roof collapsed under the weight of snow. 房顶在雪的重压下突然坍塌下来。
3 lashes e2e13f8d3a7c0021226bb2f94d6a15ec     
n.鞭挞( lash的名词复数 );鞭子;突然猛烈的一击;急速挥动v.鞭打( lash的第三人称单数 );煽动;紧系;怒斥
  • Mother always lashes out food for the children's party. 孩子们聚会时,母亲总是给他们许多吃的。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Never walk behind a horse in case it lashes out. 绝对不要跟在马后面,以防它突然猛踢。 来自《简明英汉词典》
4 gustily 6ffd7a7772c10cb22ab70138466d7e47     
5 forage QgyzP     
  • They were forced to forage for clothing and fuel.他们不得不去寻找衣服和燃料。
  • Now the nutritive value of the forage is reduced.此时牧草的营养价值也下降了。
6 drenched cu0zJp     
adj.湿透的;充满的v.使湿透( drench的过去式和过去分词 );在某人(某物)上大量使用(某液体)
  • We were caught in the storm and got drenched to the skin. 我们遇上了暴雨,淋得浑身透湿。
  • The rain drenched us. 雨把我们淋得湿透。 来自《简明英汉词典》
7 chromatic aXpz4     
  • The removal of the chromatic aberration is then of primary importance.这时消除色差具有头等重要性。
  • In lampblack many kitchens easy to present the chromatic aberration.油烟较多的厨房中易出现色差。
8 pebbly 347dedfd2569b6cc3c87fddf46bf87ed     
  • Sometimes the water spread like a sheen over the pebbly bed. 有时河水泛流在圆石子的河床上,晶莹发光。
  • The beach is pebbly. 这个海滩上有许多卵石。
9 tarts 781c06ce7e1617876890c0d58870a38e     
n.果馅饼( tart的名词复数 );轻佻的女人;妓女;小妞
  • I decided to make some tarts for tea. 我决定做些吃茶点时吃的果馅饼。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • They ate raspberry tarts and ice cream. 大家吃着木莓馅饼和冰淇淋。 来自辞典例句
10 wholesome Uowyz     
  • In actual fact the things I like doing are mostly wholesome.实际上我喜欢做的事大都是有助于增进身体健康的。
  • It is not wholesome to eat without washing your hands.不洗手吃饭是不卫生的。
11 munched c9456f71965a082375ac004c60e40170     
v.用力咀嚼(某物),大嚼( munch的过去式和过去分词 )
  • She munched on an apple. 她在大口啃苹果。
  • The rabbit munched on the fresh carrots. 兔子咯吱咯吱地嚼着新鲜胡萝卜。 来自辞典例句
12 glide 2gExT     
  • We stood in silence watching the snake glide effortlessly.我们噤若寒蝉地站着,眼看那条蛇逍遥自在地游来游去。
  • So graceful was the ballerina that she just seemed to glide.那芭蕾舞女演员翩跹起舞,宛如滑翔。
13 positively vPTxw     
  • She was positively glowing with happiness.她满脸幸福。
  • The weather was positively poisonous.这天气着实讨厌。
14 muncher 434dd9e0c22af9ff82ef4d9bc747ca87     
15 stunned 735ec6d53723be15b1737edd89183ec2     
adj. 震惊的,惊讶的 动词stun的过去式和过去分词
  • The fall stunned me for a moment. 那一下摔得我昏迷了片刻。
  • The leaders of the Kopper Company were then stunned speechless. 科伯公司的领导们当时被惊得目瞪口呆。
16 embarrassment fj9z8     
  • She could have died away with embarrassment.她窘迫得要死。
  • Coughing at a concert can be a real embarrassment.在音乐会上咳嗽真会使人难堪。
17 plunge 228zO     
  • Test pool's water temperature before you plunge in.在你跳入之前你应该测试水温。
  • That would plunge them in the broil of the two countries.那将会使他们陷入这两国的争斗之中。
18 nibbling 610754a55335f7412ddcddaf447d7d54     
v.啃,一点一点地咬(吃)( nibble的现在分词 );啃出(洞),一点一点咬出(洞);慢慢减少;小口咬
  • We sat drinking wine and nibbling olives. 我们坐在那儿,喝着葡萄酒嚼着橄榄。
  • He was nibbling on the apple. 他在啃苹果。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
19 tartlet tartlet     
20 luscious 927yw     
  • The watermelon was very luscious.Everyone wanted another slice.西瓜很可口,每个人都想再来一片。
  • What I like most about Gabby is her luscious lips!我最喜欢的是盖比那性感饱满的双唇!
21 ticklish aJ8zy     
  • This massage method is not recommended for anyone who is very ticklish.这种按摩法不推荐给怕痒的人使用。
  • The news is quite ticklish to the ear,这消息听起来使人觉得有些难办。
22 shudder JEqy8     
  • The sight of the coffin sent a shudder through him.看到那副棺材,他浑身一阵战栗。
  • We all shudder at the thought of the dreadful dirty place.我们一想到那可怕的肮脏地方就浑身战惊。
23 perturbed 7lnzsL     
adj.烦燥不安的v.使(某人)烦恼,不安( perturb的过去式和过去分词 )
  • I am deeply perturbed by the alarming way the situation developing. 我对形势令人忧虑的发展深感不安。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Mother was much perturbed by my illness. 母亲为我的病甚感烦恼不安。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
24 perfectly 8Mzxb     
  • The witnesses were each perfectly certain of what they said.证人们个个对自己所说的话十分肯定。
  • Everything that we're doing is all perfectly above board.我们做的每件事情都是光明正大的。
25 harry heBxS     
  • Today,people feel more hurried and harried.今天,人们感到更加忙碌和苦恼。
  • Obama harried business by Healthcare Reform plan.奥巴马用医改掠夺了商界。
26 scant 2Dwzx     
  • Don't scant the butter when you make a cake.做糕饼时不要吝惜奶油。
  • Many mothers pay scant attention to their own needs when their children are small.孩子们小的时候,许多母亲都忽视自己的需求。
27 larking 0eeff3babcdef927cc59a862bb65be38     
v.百灵科鸟(尤指云雀)( lark的现在分词 );一大早就起床;鸡鸣即起;(因太费力而不想干时说)算了
  • Stop larking about and get on with your work. 不要只贪玩,去做你的工作。 来自辞典例句
  • The boys are larking about behind the house. 男孩们在屋子后面嬉耍。 来自辞典例句
28 sepulchral 9zWw7     
  • He made his way along the sepulchral corridors.他沿着阴森森的走廊走着。
  • There was a rather sepulchral atmosphere in the room.房间里有一种颇为阴沉的气氛。
29 gnawed 85643b5b73cc74a08138f4534f41cef1     
咬( gnaw的过去式和过去分词 ); (长时间) 折磨某人; (使)苦恼; (长时间)危害某事物
  • His attitude towards her gnawed away at her confidence. 他对她的态度一直在削弱她的自尊心。
  • The root of this dead tree has been gnawed away by ants. 这棵死树根被蚂蚁唼了。
30 persistence hSLzh     
  • The persistence of a cough in his daughter puzzled him.他女儿持续的咳嗽把他难住了。
  • He achieved success through dogged persistence.他靠着坚持不懈取得了成功。
31 tangled e487ee1bc1477d6c2828d91e94c01c6e     
adj. 纠缠的,紊乱的 动词tangle的过去式和过去分词
  • Your hair's so tangled that I can't comb it. 你的头发太乱了,我梳不动。
  • A movement caught his eye in the tangled undergrowth. 乱灌木丛里的晃动引起了他的注意。
32 scorched a5fdd52977662c80951e2b41c31587a0     
烧焦,烤焦( scorch的过去式和过去分词 ); 使(植物)枯萎,把…晒枯; 高速行驶; 枯焦
  • I scorched my dress when I was ironing it. 我把自己的连衣裙熨焦了。
  • The hot iron scorched the tablecloth. 热熨斗把桌布烫焦了。
33 horrid arozZj     
  • I'm not going to the horrid dinner party.我不打算去参加这次讨厌的宴会。
  • The medicine is horrid and she couldn't get it down.这种药很难吃,她咽不下去。
34 vowed 6996270667378281d2f9ee561353c089     
  • He vowed quite solemnly that he would carry out his promise. 他非常庄严地发誓要实现他的诺言。
  • I vowed to do more of the cooking myself. 我发誓自己要多动手做饭。
35 depressed xu8zp9     
  • When he was depressed,he felt utterly divorced from reality.他心情沮丧时就感到完全脱离了现实。
  • His mother was depressed by the sad news.这个坏消息使他的母亲意志消沉。
36 muddle d6ezF     
  • Everything in the room was in a muddle.房间里每一件东西都是乱七八糟的。
  • Don't work in a rush and get into a muddle.克服忙乱现象。
37 sinister 6ETz6     
  • There is something sinister at the back of that series of crimes.在这一系列罪行背后有险恶的阴谋。
  • Their proposals are all worthless and designed out of sinister motives.他们的建议不仅一钱不值,而且包藏祸心。


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