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The group was moving toward the door and Emily was saying, “Someone ought to wait here and that might as well be me.”
Cecilia said, “There are torches behind the cellar door.”
Leon said to his mother, “I think you ought to phone the constable.”
Robbie was the last to leave the dining room and the last, he thought, to adjust to the new situation. His first reaction, which did not fade when he stepped into the relative coolness of the hallway, was that he had been cheated. He could not believe that the twins were in danger. The cows would scare them home. The vastness of the night beyond the house, the dark trees, the welcoming shadows, the cool new-mown grass—all this had been reserved, he had designated it as belonging exclusively to himself and Cecilia. It was waiting for them, theirs to use and claim. Tomorrow, or any time other than now, would not do. But suddenly the house had spilled its contents into a night which now belonged to a half-comic domestic crisis. They would be out there for hours, hallooing and waving their torches, the twins would eventually be found, tired and dirty, Lola would be calmed down, and after some self-congratulation over nightcaps, the evening would be over. Within days, or even hours, it would have become an amusing memory to be wheeled out on family occasions: the night the twins ran away.
The search parties were setting off as he reached the front door. Cecilia had linked arms with her brother and as they set off she glanced back and saw him standing in the light. She gave him a look, a shrug, which said—There’s nothing we can do for now. Before he could enact for her some gesture of loving acceptance, she turned, and she and Leon marched on, calling out the boys’ names. Marshall was even further ahead, making his way down the main drive, visible only by the torch he held. Lola was not in sight. Briony was walking around the side of the house. She, of course, would not want to be in Robbie’s company, and that was some relief, for he had already decided: if he could not be with Cecilia, if he could not have her to himself, then he too, like Briony, would go out searching alone. This decision, as he was to acknowledge many times, transformed his life.
Part 1 Chapter 13
WITHIN THE half hour Briony would commit her crime. Conscious that she was sharing the night expanse with a maniac, she kept close to the shadowed walls of the house at first, nike air max classic and ducked low beneath the sills whenever she passed in front of a lighted window. She knew he would be heading off down the main drive because that was the way her sister had gone with Leon. As soon as she thought a safe distance had opened up, Briony swung out boldly from the house in a wide arc that took her toward the stable block and the swimming pool. It made sense, surely, to see if the twins were there, fooling about with the hoses, or floating facedown in death, indistinguishable to the last. She thought how she might describe it, the way they bobbed on the illuminated water’s gentle swell, and how their hair spread like tendrils and their clothed bodies softly collided and drifted apart. The dry night air slipped between the fabric of her dress and her skin, and she felt smooth and agile in the dark. There was nothing she could not describe: the gentle pad of a maniac’s tread moving sinuously along the drive, keeping to the verge to muffle his approach. But her brother was with Cecilia, and that was a burden lifted. She could describe this delicious air too, the grasses giving off their sweet cattle smell, the hard-fired earth which still held the embers of the day’s heat and exhaled the mineral odor of clay, and the faint breeze carrying from the lake a flavor of green and silver.
She broke into a loping run across the grass and thought she could go on all night, knifing through the silky air, sprung forward by the steely coil of the hard ground under her feet, and by the way darkness doubled the impression of speed. She had dreams in cheap nike air max which she ran like this, then tilted forward, spread her arms and, yielding to faith—the only difficult part, but easy enough in sleep—left the ground by simply stepping off it, and swooped low over hedges and gates and roofs, then hurtled upward and hovered exultantly below the cloud base, above the fields, before diving down again. She sensed now how this might be achieved, through desire alone; the world she ran through loved her and would give her what she wanted and would let it happen. And then, when it did, she would describe it. Wasn’t writing a kind of soaring, an achievable form of flight, of fancy, of the imagination?
But there was a maniac treading through the night with a dark, unful nike air max filled heart—she had frustrated him once already—and she needed to be earthbound to describe him too. She must first protect her sister against him, and then find ways of conjuring him safely on paper. Briony slowed to a walking pace, and thought how he must hate her for interrupting him in the library. And though it horrified her, it was another entry, a moment of coming into being, another first: to be hated by an adult. Children hated generously, capriciously. It hardly mattered. But to be the object of adult hatred was an initiation into a solemn new world. It wa nike air max s promotion. He might have doubled back, and be waiting for her with murderous thoughts behind the stable block. But she was trying not to be afraid. She had held his gaze there in the library while her sister had slipped past her, giving no outward acknowledgment of her deliverance. It was not about thanks, she knew that, it was not about rewards. In matters of selfless love, nothing needed to be said, and she would protect her sister, even if Cecilia failed to acknowledge her debt. And Briony could not be afraid now of Robbie; better by far to let him become the object of her detestation and disgust. They had provided for all manner of pleasant things for him, the Tallis family: the very home he had grown up in, countless trips to France, and his grammar school uniform and books, and then Cambridge—and in return he had used a terrible word against her sister and, in a fantastic abuse of hospitality, used his strength against her too, and sat insolently at their dining table pretending that nothing was different. The pretense, and how she ached to expose it! Real life, her life now beginning, had sent her a villain in the form of nike air max 95 an old family friend with strong, awkward limbs and a rugged friendly face who used to carry her on his back, and swim with her in the river, holding her against the current. That seemed about right—truth was strange and deceptive, it had to be struggled for, against the flow of the everyday. This was exactly what no one would have expected, and of course villains were not announced with hisses or soliloquies, they did not come cloaked in black, with ugly expressions. Across the other side of the house, walking away from her, were Leon and Cecilia. She might be telling him about the assault. If she was, he would have h cheap nike air max is arm around her shoulders. Together, the Tallis children would see this brute off, see him safely out of their lives. They would have to confront and convert their father, and comfort him in his rage and disappointment. That his protégé should turn out to be a maniac! Lola’s word stirred the dust of other words around it—man, mad, ax, attack, accuse—and confirmed the diagnosis.
She made her way round the stable cheap nike air max block and stopped under the arched entrance, beneath the clock tower. She called out the twins’ names, and heard in reply only the stir and scuff of hooves, and the thump of a heavy body pressing against a stall. She was glad she had never fallen for a horse or pony, for she would surely be neglecting it by this stage of her life. She did not approach the animals now, even though they sensed her presence. In their terms, a genius, a god, was loitering on the periphery of their world and they were straining for her attention. But she turned and continued toward the swimming pool. She wondered whether having final responsibility for someone, even a creature like a horse or a dog, was fundamentally opposed to the wild and inward journey of writing. Protective worrying, engaging with another’s mind as one entered it, taking the cheap air max dominant role as one guided another’s fate, was hardly mental freedom. Perhaps she might become one of those women—pitied or envied—who chose not to have children. She followed the brick path that led round the outside of the stable block. Like the earth, the sandy bricks radiated the day’s trapped heat. She felt it on her cheek and down her bare calf as she passed along. She stumbled as she hurried through the darkness of the bamboo tunnel, and emerged onto the reassuring geometry of the paving stones.
The underwater lights, installed that spring, were still a novelty. The upward bluish gleam gave everything around the pool a colorless, moonlit look, like a photograph. A glass jug, two tumblers and a piece of cloth stood on the old tin table. A third tumbler containing pieces of soft fruit stood poised at the end of the d nike air max sale iving board. There were no bodies in the pool, no giggling from the darkness of the pavilion, no shushing from the shadows of the bamboo thickets. She took a slow turn around the pool, no longer searching, but drawn to the glow and glassy stillness of the water. For all the threat the maniac posed to her sister, it was delightful to be out so late, with permission. She did not really think the twins were in danger. Even if they had seen the framed map of the area in the library and were clever enough to read it, and were intending to leave the grounds and walk north all night, they would have to follow the drive into the woods along by the railway line. At this time of year, when the tree canopy was thick over the road, the way was in total blackness. The only other route out was through the kissing gate, down toward the ri nike air max 90 sale ver. But here too there would be no light, no way of keeping to the path or ducking the branches that hung low over it, or dodging the nettles that grew thickly on either side. They would not be bold enough to put themselves in danger.
They were safe, Cecilia was with Leon, and she, Briony, was free to wander in the dark and contemplate her extraordinary day. Her childhood had ended, she decided now as she came away from the swimming pool, the moment she tore down her poster. The fairy stories were behind her, and in the space of a few hours she had witnessed mysteries, seen an unspeakable word, interrupted brutal behavior, and by incurring the hatred of an adult whom everyone had trusted, she had become a participant in the drama of life beyond the nursery. All she had to do now was discover the stories, not just the subje nike air max 90 cts, but a way of unfolding them, that would do justice to her new knowledge. Or did she mean, her wiser grasp of her own ignorance?
Staring at water for minutes on end had put her in mind of the lake. Perhaps the boys were hiding in the island temple. It was obscure, but not too cut off from the house, a friendly little place with the consolation of water and not too many shadows. The others might have gone straight across the bridge without looking down there. She decided to keep to her route and reach the lake by circling round the back of the house.
Two minutes later she was crossing the rose beds and the gravel path in front of the Triton fountain, scene of another mystery that clearly foretold the later brutalities. As she passed it she thought she heard a faint shout, and thought she saw from the corner of her eye a nike air max 1 point of light flash on and off. She stopped, and strained to hear over the sound of trickling water. The shout and the light had come from the woods by the river, a few hundred yards away. She walked in that direction for half a minute, and stopped to listen again. But there was nothing, nothing but the tumbling dark mass of the woods just discernible against the grayish-blue of the western sky. After waiting a while she decided to turn back. In order to pick up her path she was walking directly toward the house, toward the terrace where a paraffin globe lamp shone among glasses, bottles, and an ice bucket. The drawing-room French windows still stood wide open to the night. She could see right into the room. And by the light of a single lamp she could see, partially obscured by the hang of a velvet curtain, one end of a sofa across which there lay at a peculiar angle a cyli cheap nike air max trainers ndrical object that seemed to hover. It was only after she had covered another fifty yards that she understood that she was looking at a disembodied human leg. Closer still, and she grasped the perspectives; it was her mother’s of course, and she would be waiting for the twins. She was mostly obscured by the drapes, and one stockinged leg was supported by the knee of the other, which gave it its curious, slanting and levitated appearance.
Briony moved to a window on her left as she came right up to the house in order to be clear of Emily’s sight line. She was positioned too far behind her mother to see her eyes. She could make out only the dip in her cheekbone of her eye socket. Briony was certain her eyes would be closed. Her head was tilted back, and her hands lay lightly clasped in her lap. Her right shoulder rose and fell faintly with her breathing. Briony could not see her mouth, but she knew its downward curve, easily mistaken for the sign—the hieroglyph—of reproach. But it was not so, because her mother was endlessly kind and sweet and good. Looking at her sitting alone, late at night, was sad, but pleasantly so. Briony indulged herself by looking through the window in a spirit of farewell. Her mother was forty-six, dispiritingly old. One day she would die. There would be a funeral in the village at which Briony’s dignified reticence would hint at the vastness of her sorrow. As her friends came up to murmur their condolences they would feel awed by the scale of her tragedy. She saw herself standing alone in a great arena, within a towering colosseum, watched not only by all the people she knew but by all those she would ever know, the whole cast of her life, assembled to love her in her loss. And at the churchyard, in what they called the grandparents’ corner, she and Leon and Cecilia would stand in an interminable embrace in the long grass by the new headstone, again watched. It had to be witnessed. It was the pity of these well-wishers that pricked her eyes.
She could have gone in to her mother then and snuggled close beside her and begun a résumé of the day. If she had she would not have committed her crime. So much would not have happened, nothing would have happened, and the smoothing hand of time would have made the evening barely memorable: the night the twins ran away. Was it thirty-four, or five or six? But for no particular reason, apart from the vague obligation of the search and the pleasure of being out so late, she came away, and as she did so her shoulder caught an edge of one of the open French windows, knocking it shut. The sound was sharp—seasoned pine on hardwood—and rang out like a rebuke. To stay she would have to explain herself, so she slipped away into the darkness, tiptoeing quickly over the slabs of stone and the scented herbs that grew between them. Then she was on the lawn between the rose beds where it was possible to run soundlessly. She came round the side of the house to the front, onto the gravel she had hobbled across barefoot that afternoon.③

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