Saturday, August 13, 1904
You cannot grasp it. Seize the breath of morn,
Or bind the perfume of the rose as well.
God put it in my soul when I was born;
It is not mine to give away, or sell
Summer nearly over. I am already sick to death of the Tibetan campaign, which Paul Lard and all the Sitwells, not to mention Tom, think such a glorious business, or whatever it is they do think. I find very little to admire about shooting a lot of ill-equipped mountaineers for the crime of sharing borders with Russia and China - for I can't see that there is anything else to it, excpet for a kind of perverse desire to make boot-prints all over a clean patch of snow. And just to-day there was a poem in the Enterprise lauding the Japanese for their "pluck" in taking on Imperial Russia. Well, what of the pluck of the Tibetans agains Imperial Britain?
Tom jokes that this anti-British freak of mine is simply the rebel Scotch streak in my blood, confused and stifled by present conditions of peace and asserting itself as best it can in petulance. Very funny, I suppose. But you know, I was a perfect patriot in childhood, anyway until the South African war went sour. I would like to be patriotic. I don't want to write of it here - I have already been laughed at roundly by Ray and Frank and Tom for opening my mouth and inadvertently exposing my great girlish ignorance like a swath of bare leg. I'm sure I have nothing rational to say of it. But it is hard to unknow anything. I think that war was crueler than any of us here really knew- and when we began to learn it was too late and too far away to change, and now, having been so trumpted and bannered at the start, the whole dreadful mess has been swept under- buried in the ash-heap of memory, like an unpleasant secret. And what of the present venture? I doubt it will be redemptive, or even useful, to slaughter a lot of Tibetans and force our- their- - way into Lhasa ahead of the Russians. Yet I suppose in a few years Tibet will be just another corner of the Dominon with its own side-whiskered governor and Literary Society and a Union Jack fluttering merrily over tea and cakes in the anteroom of a milk-toast Church of Tibet beautifully got up in the local archetecture. Perhaps it is hopelessly sentimental to talk of places belonging to this or that people when they must be conquered and exchanged and brought into line with the future anyway- - if not by Britain than by Russia or the Turks or some other power, and probably suffer the worse for it.
Oh, dear, I am afraid sometimes that just to remember what happened from one moment to the next would be. . . would make the world impossible.
Well, I wrote to Cal, and said flatly that I was not prepared for nor had the time to spare for visitors and that his letter took me by surprise, and that I was a good deal busier than I am, and that I expected to be busy for some time- until Christmas at the earliest. That is the earliest I can conceive of being happy to see him, in all honesty- though I really phrased it all quite sweetly, with no sarcasm at all - - I promise. Perhaps a very small amount.
In the end I could not make myself refuse him decisively. Heaven only knows why; he hasn't any real attraction for me at all, except as a friend- - and that incidentally; I should feel no particular sorrow if he dropped out of my life for good. Perhaps that is why: I know I could never feel overmastered by Cal; if he were a tyrant, I would only laugh at him; if he were unfaithful, I would feel betrayed only in the abstract. In a way perhaps it would be a relief and a comfort to be with someone I didn't care about in the least, and who looked well enough and loved me just the same. And certainly there is no danger in Cal. But that is not the reason I set for myself; I simply reasoned that it was unfair to dismiss as unsuitable someone whom, after all, I know almost nothing about. So really we are just as we were a month ago - - nothing resolved. I suppose this is cowardly- - for I don't want to marry him. . . yet. Who knows what I may want by and by? I told him though, he must consider himself completely free, and I would do the same. A wholly unsatisfying reply, I know- - - but it was all I could give him without lying outright- - - for I don't know. . . I don't know anything about it.
I sent that letter last Monday and have received no reply yet. Is it wrong to hope he gives up on me and never responds? Tom is rather dismayed by his friend and says it is no better than he deserves. But when I ask why, he rolls his eyes and tells me I'm better off not knowing. Hardly a thing to inspire confidence!
Tom is in town another week before he moves back to Halifax. He came by in the afternoon and we had a good old-fashioned chat. He worries about me, poor dear. And college has improved him, all told. Perhaps the other scholars have shown him up a time or two, for he's not nearly so stiff and pompous as before. Said he wouldn't bring me any more books till I went to a dance. I said it's not my fault the Shrewsbury girls don't want me showing them up. He grinned and said, are you too proud to accompany your humble cousin? So we went and had a splendid time.
It was Margery Chilton's and so the "crowd" was a good jumble of young and old. A whole clot of Priests were there - Eamon, Nate, Neil. . . and Dean, looking dreadfully stringy and out-of-place, but oh-so-clearly trying to affect an air of aloof and dignified amusement while all the while following like a helpless magnet . . . could it be? Yes! Emily Byrd Starr! So it seems Neil Priest may have had some basis for speculation after all. Emily was there with one of her bloodless cousins, but barely spoke to the poor fellow all evening, and did spend a good deal of time launching her affected smile at the elder Priest while the latter smirked and pawed the air around her face and the former picked at all her food. I couldn't get close enough to hear what they were saying, but I could tell by the look of him it was a lot of melodious hornswoggle. Well, why should I care what Miss Starr does? Only I didn't much like his air of ownership- - - that's all.
Ilse was there, and the center of attention as always, all got up in pink and yellow like a schoolgirl's straw hat. It stung my heart to see her- - - though whether because I'll never have her confidence, or her careless beauty, or her friendship, I don't know. "Ilse dear," I said, "I can't help but notice that Mr. Priest is paying a good deal of attention to Emily. Do you think he ought to be so forward?"
"What, Dean?" said Ilse, momentarily puzzled. "Oh, he's harmless. Odd duck enough, but then, so's Emily, when you get right down to it. Can't say it's any of your buisness anyhow, dear."
"It's not, of course, dear. But one can't help but notice things. If you ask me. . ."
"Didn't," said Ilse laconically, poking the last half of a butter tart between her red lips. Then one of the Sitwells grabbed her, a half-second before the dance began, and she was swept up into it and away from me as ever.
May is flirting just as much as before now that Lou is back in Ch'town, and I certainly won't be the one to say a word about it. I have washed my hands of her completely. Poor May. She looks like an anxious chicken, all vanity and fear. Paul Laird asked me to dance then, and I assented- more that I was caught off-guard, though I have no objections to Paul beyond his general Paul-hood. He tried to talk to me about his internship with Wareham's and I couldn't listen; he kept circling the subject of the future- - - our future, as if there were any such a thing- - - stupidly round and round like a beetle in a bath-tub. In the end I had to feign a stomach-ache, and Tom and I went out under the open air to analyze all and sundry. The moon was so bright and swollen it was almost like day - - a day seen eerie and silvery through a vitascope camera, days or years later, perhaps.
I shall miss Tom dreadfully, of course, and miss the ability to take his earnest, quick-witted, nagging and affectionate presence for granted- - - but I'm not going to be desolate, Diary. I know now that I have years and years ahead of me and I am going to do something in them, and that's all there is to it. I didn't bother telling Tom my plans as he'd only laugh at them, but I can tell you that I fully intend to conquer this year. I have already begun- - - well, I don't suppose I want to say too much here, either, but as for High School courses, I can see no reason why I shouldn't make well over eighty in all subjects with plenty of time left over for . . . well, whatever I choose! I expect I'll be able to tell you soon enough!