Author's note: The chapter and page numbers herein correspond to those in Garden of Shadows. My chapters are meant to fit into the context of the book, and follow book canon as much as possible.
Garden of Shadows (The Missing Chapters)
"Only her shadow once upon a stone-
I saw,-and, lo, the shadow and the garden, too, were gone." - Ode to Silence
Chapter 6 insert-A
"People give pain, are callous and insensitive, empty and cruel...but place heals the hurt, soothes the outrage, fills the terrible vacuum that these human beings make." - Eudora Welty
I was relieved to arrive at the Union Railroad station after the long journey. The motion of the train had made me feel sick-doubtless a physical manifestation of grief. If it had not been so late and the house at such a distance, I'd have walked there, even carrying my suitcase, so glad was I to have my feet on steady ground again. But it was quite late, and I was fortunate to find a taxicab. The driver kept trying to draw me into conversation, but conversation was an effort I simply could not make. Finally, he gave up, and spent the remaining minutes of the drive whistling the same few bars of Dardanella over and over, insuring that that tune would be going round in my head all night.
The car rolled in the twilight through the elm-shaded streets I'd known all of my twenty-eight years. Dull-eyed, I looked out at State Street and the bank building my father had once worked in, before he'd acquired his own business. I had been taken there as a small girl, awed by the ornately carved wood, the expanse of the rooms, and the power of the elegantly dressed men who smoked cigars, consumed strong coffee, and made important business decisions, daily. I used to believe they changed the world in that building, and the kindness of their indulgence of a visiting, curious child drew my respect and eventual interest in joining that elite team one day, before I understood that this wasn't possible. My mother insisted on putting a stop to my visits, gently reminding my father that I was a young lady, and should, therefore, take up more suitable pastimes. I was still preoccupied with these memories when the car stopped in front of the house.
A cool evening breeze sighed through the birches and maple trees as I unlocked the front gate and walked toward the stately Victorian house that, had I come back for any other reason, I should have been overjoyed to see. My homecoming was bittersweet. At the top of the porch steps, I leaned against the railing and summoned strength to enter the home where my father had spent his last four years of life without me. I hadn't arrived in time to share his funeral with those who could have mourned with me.
Philip had closed up the house as instructed, and there was no one to let me in. The letter box was overflowing with mail addressed to my father. The sight of his name on envelopes never to be opened by him threatened to destroy my composure as I fumbled in my handbag for the key.
The tall, uncurtained windows on either side of the front door faced blankly out at the darkening night. So often-impelled by a child's superstition that I must catch that last glimpse in order to avert some disaster-I'd looked out of those windows, craning to see Father's retreating figure through the rhododendrons that partially obscured the view of the front walk.
The fog signal from the lighthouse called in the distance as I finally swung the heavy front door inward. The immediate mustiness of the closed-up house assailed me, but it was also the safe, known smell of home, of dried lavender and mahogany. The new silence within was unnatural. I reached for the lamp on the spinet desk to the right of the door. One gentle pull on the chain, and a dim light spilled into the hallway onto the faded Aubusson rug, bringing with it a sense of security.
I made my way to the kitchen, comforted by the sight of familiar objects. There would be time later to dither over remembrances, but for now I had to take care of my more basic needs; I had eaten nothing on the train. My father, I discovered, must have regularly taken his meals away from home, for the kitchen cupboards were nearly bare, and the breadbox held only one stale slice. I drank a tumbler of cold water, and promised myself a large breakfast in the morning.
Nothing had changed in my absence, as if waiting for my return. That saddened me. How lonely Father must have been.
My father had visited us one Christmas, and after the birth of each of the boys, staying on for weeks each time. But heated arguments between Malcolm and myself had preceded and followed each visit, since Malcolm disliked guests to remain for more than a few days. He did not understand-or simply didn't care-that my father was lonely.
Losing Father had come as a shock. It hurt deeply to realize that, most likely, he had been ill when he traveled to Virginia last July, and I hadn't known.
It was like him to keep that to himself; he hadn't wanted to worry me. His attention had been focused on enjoying the visit with us, and with his grandsons.
Most likely, he had been having spells for some time before his final stroke.
Father had always treated me as though I was the most important person in the world, and that was a kind of love I would never again know. I should have made more of an effort to visit him, even if it meant defying Malcolm's wishes.
If my father could somehow see me now, I hoped he would understand how I felt, why I had not come home sooner, and most of all, I hoped he hadn't been disappointed in me. The weight of grief settled over me for our lost opportunities: the confidences not shared, the holidays missed.
For the sake of my boys, I had tried to contain my sorrow at Foxworth Hall, but now there was no need; there was no one to protect. Nor had I wanted to cry on the train, but many hours with nothing else to think about made that an impossibility. I thought I'd shed tears enough on the train, but I sat in the cold kitchen, weeping for the trusting way Father had let me make my own choice about my marriage, not insisting in the last moment that perhaps we were both mistaken. Would I have listened if he had expressed any misgivings? I cried, too, for the loss of my mother, whose advice I had surely needed, and whose presence might have kept me from such a blunder. I cried for the emptiness of my father's last years, and for the increasing emptiness of my own life. Father had wanted me to be happy, and once again, I was disappointing him.
A quarter of an hour later, the parlor clock proclaiming the lateness of the hour, I proceeded upstairs to prepare for bed. I switched on a wall sconce halfway up the stairway, trying to chase away the strangeness of the empty house with light, but the T-shaped second-floor hallway was shadowy. In my room, I undressed, gladly discarding the black wool dress-which I knew I could never again wear-for a nightdress. I'd just turned down the bed, when the telephone jangled, alarmingly shrill. Down the stairs I bolted, and nearly lost my footing, forgetting that the treads were high and the risers narrower than the staircases at Foxworth. But I reached the front hall in time, unhooked the receiver and pulled the phone forward, hunching over to speak into it.
It was Malcolm, calling to see that I'd arrived. I was relieved to hear another human voice, even Malcolm's voice, to break the vacant spell of the house.
After inquiring in an offhand manner about the train trip, he asked if I'd decided at what price I'd want to sell this place. Momentarily stunned, I did not reply. The line crackled, carrying Malcolm's impatience across the miles to me. I could imagine his expression as easily as if he were standing before me.
"You had time on the train to think it through."
"That wasn't at all what was on my mind."
"Well, what are your plans?"
"Tonight, I have no plans." said I, tracing the cool brass of the candlestick telephone with my fingertips. "The property is part of my inheritance, and will someday be the boys' inheritance as well. I will meet with Mr. Teller tomorrow. I am here to settle my father's affairs, and then I'll look over the contents of the house and decide what to put into storage, and what to send home."
"Look here," his voice was sharp, and he immediately affected a calmer tone, changing his tactics suddenly, in the same abrupt way in which he moved and spoke. "you have two young children who need tending. It won't do for you to be away, indulging in needless, debilitating emotions. I insist that you arrange to return in two days. That should be sufficient time to see his attorney."
"Needless emotions? I've just lost my father!"
"Olivia," said Malcolm, his voice softening, only pretending compassion, I was sure, "that is precisely why it is too soon for you to be taking on the responsibilities of seeing to your father's estate. Until you have sorted yourself out, I can take care of this for you."
"I am perfectly capable, Malcolm. The only thing I'd like you to do for me is take care of the boys properly until I'm home."
"Well, what do you think I've been doing?" he asked defensively. "Though you should know that I think their behavior is deplorable! One minute Mal acts like a human being, and the next he's regressing into babyhood. And that useless Mary Stuart went home early today."
"It is not her job to see to the boys. I might have guessed you'd try to shirk your parental responsibilities."
"I am not accustomed to this, Olivia. You might be more understanding. Mal refused to let me clean his teeth, and Joel cries for no reason that I can see. They've both been ill-tempered since you left."
"You haven't been too harsh with them, have you, Malcolm?"
"You needn't sound so worried."
"If I sound worried it's because I am well acquainted with your propensity for causing havoc, even when that isn't your intention."
"Which is nothing compared to yours for talking nonsense-for stating what matters least in any situation." he retorted.
"No, I haven't been harsh; I've merely given them some much-needed discipline. If you did that more often, maybe they would have some respect for me."
"They have plenty of respect for your authority, Malcolm. Joel is terrified of you."
"I would hardly say he's terrified."
"You might give Joel some of that Humphrey's Three. It's in the far left of the medicine cabinet. He's getting teeth in, and that should settle him."
"Don't tell me you can't manage to look after your own children, Malcolm. It is undoubtedly easier than the way you typically spend your days." I said, not sure that it was really true, but I knew it would silence his complaints. "It's late. Good night."
Before he could reply, I'd replaced the earpiece on its hook, with a satisfying metallic plink.
In the morning, I woke to an empty house, and knew-as sometimes I was reminded at Foxworth-that for me, mornings were the loneliest time of day. Once thoroughly awake, I could happily spend an entire day in solitude, but I found it quite untenable to have to make my own coffee, and, worse, not to have a single cheerful "good morning" wished me. To be alone first thing made me feel as though I must have dreamed my life-dreamed Malcolm and the children, dreamed my own existence.
Still, I determinedly turned my attention to the most pressing of the matters at hand. I regarded my mirrored reflection, pulled a dress from the closet, and held it up critically. The dress was an extremely light gray with a light hue of sage green and tiny pink roses. It made me think of early spring, like a breath of fresh air. I rather liked to look at it, but liked it less once I had put it on. So I selected a maroon dress with tapered sleeves and cream-colored lapel collar, to which I affixed a thin diamond bar pin, a favorite of mine because it was discreet and tasteful, and could be worn with almost anything. That brooch was one of the few birthday gifts Malcolm ever gave me; once the children arrived, we rarely exchanged any but Christmas gifts.
I had a productive day, going from office to office, signing documents and finalizing plans. I found the errands invigorating, and welcomed the distraction it provided from the other impending tasks. Being home brought me some peace. The kindness of old acquaintances (who still called me "Miss Winfield," not remembering my married name) was a balm to smooth over my grief.
I returned to the house early enough in the evening to prepare dinner, a subtly flavored rice and chicken dish, a salad, and warm gingerbread with a fruit sauce. Feeling considerably better than I had the previous evening, I decided to indulge in a long bath-a small luxury I seldom had time for at home, where free time was scarce.
I perched on the curved lip of the tub and twisted my hair into a tight bun, so that it would not trail into the water. The taps emitted a metallic squeak as I adjusted them, waiting for the tub to fill nearly to the top. I poured in a fragrant oil I'd bought that day. I stayed in until my fingertips were shriveled, until I could no longer feel the cold of the house, and until my racing thoughts stilled and my mind was emptied and serene. After nearly dozing off in the bath, I buttoned myself into the warmest nightdress I'd brought from Virginia and went downstairs again, planning to call to check on the boys. The operator failed to establish a connection, so I finally gave up for the night.
Beginning the next day, I meant to start sorting through my father's belongings as well as my own, remembering my yesterdays, and possibly making decisions about how my life would proceed. I didn't want to think about it, but I must find a way to improve matters with Malcolm.
If marriage fell short of what I needed, I had been brought up to believe I must submit to whatever was required of me. My father's words to me on my wedding day chastised me, bolstered my resolve, kept me on course.
There was a part of me-the part that craved conventionality and order and a man to depend on-that could not forget his admonishment, but my parents had also taught me to depend upon myself and to trust my own judgment, so I had quite a conflict within. This inner turmoil never completely disappeared.
Sometimes, I thought I had inadvertently put myself into a situation akin to the time of my parents' youth, when a woman often found herself tied for life to a man she had little or no affection for, and in some instances, despised. And yet, remembering my mother's optimism renewed my own now and then. I had lost my innocence, but perhaps hope was more enduring.
I had much to work through in this brief trip, for there would be little chance to think of any but practical matters once I returned home. It wasn't only my father I'd lost, but my youth-at least, that was how I felt.
I'd hoped to see Elaine, an old friend while I was in New London, but when I went to her mother's home, I found that I was too late, and now there was one more passage of bereavement to move through. I had brought a volume of poetry along to read on the train, the last gift from that same childhood friend. She had died of the Spanish influenza in the epidemic of that abjectly perilous year, 1918. In the cover of the book, she'd written:
"With every good wish for Christmas ... I am not too well, even now. Love, Elaine"
The brief message had been her last communication, and the simplicity and weariness of her words were now a painful reproach. She'd sent a gift, and had written her congratulations when Mal was born, then I had never heard from her again.
My own letters to Elaine had grown shorter, increasingly formal in tone, and farther apart. She had been my dearest friend once, and when her silence lasted for months, I assumed she was hurt, or angry with me for my reticence. I simply could not put into words what my life had become, and what a disappointment my marriage was.
I'd never cared for poetry, but found my eyes skimming lines which I could have written, so true to my own emotions were they. One in particular struck a chord, and I read it several times, absorbing the melancholia captured therein.
"Remember me as I was then;
Turn from me now, but always see The laughing shadowy girl who stood-
At midnight by the flowering tree,
With eyes that love had made as bright,
As the trembling stars of the summer night.
Turn from me now, but always hear,
The muted laughter in the dew,
Of that one year of youth we had,
The only youth we ever knew -
Turn from me now, or you will see,
What other years have done to me."
I closed the book, thinking of Elaine, and of myself, and how this simple verse applied to both of us. Had she guessed what a sadness my life had become? Had she felt hers was just as hopeless? I had been so shamefully self-absorbed that I did not know the answer, and because of it I had lost a dear friend. I didn't know where comfort would come from, but I knew I must never again pass up friendship if it was offered.
Unable to rest soundly here, alone, away from the absolute silence of the Virginia countryside at night, without the solid assurance of many rooms and vast spaces of the mansion protectively around me, I was brought to the edge of wakefulness around one o'clock, the third night of my stay. I froze, aware of a foreign sound. I looked toward the open doorway into the hall, but all was quiet. Perhaps it had only been the rattle of one of the loose shutters downstairs. Finally, I fell into a light sleep.
Later, I heard the floor creak, and came fully awake, my heart pounding. There was no question of the sounds being a product of my sleep-dazed imagination. In the vaporous gray light, I saw Malcolm's shape filling the doorway.
"You gave me such a fright! What are you doing here?"
I was not at all pleased to see him. The floor was cold beneath my feet when I reluctantly left the bed, reaching for the blue velvet dressing-gown draped over its footboard.
"I've made coffee." he said, and moved briskly away. I followed, descending the stairs slowly, lead-limbed.
"How long have you been here?"
"It's been about an hour." he admitted. His gloves lay on the table, and cups and saucers had been set out. I poured two cups of the steaming coffee, returning the percolator to the stovetop. Malcolm passed me the chilled bottle of milk, and leaned against the ice box, drumming his fingers against its oak surface. Warm milk would have been best, I thought, but then, coffee never kept Malcolm awake.
I was about to ask what he'd been doing for an hour; I didn't like the thought of him snooping about in my father's den, but a more disturbing thought occurred to me, a dread seeping into my mind. I expected to be given dreadful news, punishment for wishing-if only for a day-to set aside my role of wife and mother.
"Is something wrong with Mal or Joel?"
"Nothing whatever, except that they're spoiled mama's boys who can't get through a day without crying for you."
"They're babies. What do you expect?"
"They are my sons, and I expect them to act as such."
"Malcolm," I said, quietly furious, "you should have stayed home. One of us needs to be with them. How do you think they will feel, with both of us gone? How will it look?"
"I hadn't thought." To his credit, he looked troubled.
"No, you don't think. And now Mrs. Stuart will need to be compensated in some extravagant way. You've asked her to do something which isn't reasonable."
"Mrs. Wilson is staying with them."
Malcolm's implicit trust in Bernice Wilson was due to the fact that she had worked for the Foxworths for thirty years.
"Still, you oughtn't to have left them. And you haven't told me why you are here."
"To hurry you along. I cannot continue to work, and play nursemaid as well. You are needed at home, Olivia, not here having a vacation."
"I am sorry that help can't conveniently and immediately be hired. It isn't as if I planned this, you know, Malcolm."
This was hardly an enjoyable time-certainly not a vacation, but I didn't want to start even a minor disagreement.
"If you've come to offer your assistance-if you really mean to help, there are some things you can do. We shall talk about that later. It's so early! I'm still exhausted, and you must be too-why, it's not even dawn! Did you take the train?"
"I drove." he said, and when I looked at him more closely, I could see the circles of fatigue beneath his eyes. I didn't let myself wonder what it meant that Malcolm should feel it necessary to make that long journey, and I felt no sympathy, though in those days, with road conditions being poor, to undertake such a lengthy trip was not as easy as it is now.
"You must be hungry, then. Have you eaten?"
"I don't want anything."
Carrying our coffee cups, Malcolm followed me into the sitting room, and I remembered the first time I had seen him, so handsome, so unattainable, I'd thought. It had been here, in this very room, and not so long ago. How strange that that memory should mean anything, with so much emotional distance separating us, and separating me from my once cherished dreams. He looked exactly the same. The thought conjured up a hint of wistful yearnings, but I was determined that my thoughts should not take me down that disheartening path.
"I lit the furnace first thing when I arrived. You should have had someone do that sooner. It won't do for you to catch cold and have to prolong your stay."
I couldn't imagine Malcolm doing any task as menial as shoveling coal. At home, that was a job usually delegated to Lucas.
"So, you couldn't bear to be away from me any longer?" I quipped. Malcolm scowled. "There really is no humor in you, is there, Malcolm?"
He glanced toward the half open double doors to Father's den, as if still sensing his presence in the rooms. Perhaps some modicum of respect kept Malcolm's retorts less sharp.
"I choose not to waste my time on frivolity." he said. I chose not to reply.
I sipped at the coffee I didn't want, and watched him from across the room. The glow of the light spilling through the red and amber panels of the Tiffany lamp softened the colors of the room in this early morning half-darkness and lent an air of mystery which I still found compelling. The magic I'd felt four years ago was still disconcertingly alive. Perhaps it was part of this house, so far from the reality of the life waiting back in Virginia.
"Why are you staring?"
"I suppose I'm just remembering." I said.
He regarded me, uneasily, but did not ask what I'd meant.
"We should get some sleep if we're going to get anything done today." he said abruptly, and rising from the divan, walked through to the front entryway where he'd left his suitcase.
"I can't let you stay in my father's room, you understand." I said as we reached the top of the stairs. Malcolm shrugged.
All at once, I felt trapped; why should my home be invaded in this way? My room had been my sanctuary. I had gazed wonderingly at my reflection in the vanity mirror, had lain in my solitary bed and dreamt of him, but not once had my daydreams conjured the reality of my present life. I felt a foolish reluctance to share the place which had been my refuge.
Walking into my old bedroom for the first time in four years had been a somber experience, rather like revisiting the dwelling of another deceased friend. Dresses I'd left behind still hung in my closet; books by Anna Katharine Green and Ethel M. Dell were stacked neatly inside my desk, along with the fashion magazines I had studied. A half-full glass bottle of coconut shampoo stood on the bathroom shelf where I'd left it, and the pair of jeweled hair combs I'd meant to take with me lay on the edge of the sink; absolutely nothing had been touched, apparently. The ghost of my younger self lived within these rooms, haunting them with my girlish habits and dreams.
It is difficult to imagine ever feeling the way I felt then, or to remember what were my thoughts. But, in fact, very little had changed. I was still painfully aware of the differences between other women my age and myself; I was unable to easily carry on small talk, or giggle over trifling things others often found frightfully amusing. I'd believed being loved could change all of that, but marriage hadn't brought about any great transformation. It only left me feeling as fragile as the thin glass of the curios I collected, in danger of shattering.
Malcolm did not care to help me, or to know what I felt. If only the glass could splinter and draw blood, as mine had been drawn... but that would never happen. I believed then-when I was young-that the shield around his emotions was impenetrable, but I did not know why a man not yet thirty years of age, should be so hardened against those who might have cared for him.
I busied myself-more out of nervousness than necessity-with the unpacking and arranging of clothes while Malcolm excused himself to have a bath. By the time I heard his footsteps approaching, I was in bed, already having switched on the red-fringed lamp in the adjoining room. It lit the way for him past the bookcase, a loveseat with carved, curved back, my slant-top writing desk, and on the opposite wall the wide table displaying the dollhouse, which stood like a shadow of itself, the colors of the stained-glass Magnolia window behind it cloaked by darkness.
Malcolm was asleep within minutes. I lay quietly, willing sleep to come, worrying about Mal and Joel, so far away. I listened to the house creak and settle. The quiet of the night was deep. The ticking of the clock on the dresser to my left and the hiss of the radiator in the corner finally lulled me into oblivion.
Rays of late morning sunlight woke me. Awareness of where I was, and why, penetrated the fog of half-sleep. Malcolm had shifted in his sleep, and I lay motionless, enjoying the uncommon sensation of him next to me-the solid comfort and warmth of his nearness, the pine scent of soap on his skin-before he moved away slightly, so that we did not touch. I did not know if this was a conscious choice. Even in slumber, I thought with a pang, my husband did not wish to be close to me.