Story type: Literature
They lay on the cliff where the warm sun fell. Beneath them were rocks, lichen-spotted above, and orange and russet and pink beneath.
Around the headland the ocean ravened with roaring breath, flinging itself ceaselessly on the land, only to fall back with clutching snarl over the pebbles.
The smell of hot cedars was in the air. The distant ships drove by with huge sails bellying. Occasional crickets chirped faintly. Sandpipers skimmed the beach.
The man and woman were both gray. He lay staring at the sky. She sat with somber eyes fixed on the distant sea, whose crawling lines glittered in ever-changing designs on its purple sweep.
They were man and wife; both were older than their years. They were far past the land of youth and love.
“O wife!” he cried, “let us forget we are old; let us forget we are disillusioned of life; let us try to be boy and girl again.”
The woman shivered with a powerful, vague emotion, but she did not look at him.
“O Esther, I’m tired of life!” the man went on. “I’m tired of my children. I’m tired of you. Do you know what I mean?”
The woman looked into his eyes a moment, and said in a low voice:
“No, Charles.” But the man knew she meant yes. The touch of her hand grew cold.
“I’m tired of it all. I want to feel again the wonder and mystery of life. It’s all gone. The love we have now is good and sweet and true; that of the old time was sweeter. It was so marvelous. I trembled when I kissed you, dear. I don’t now. It had more of truth, of pure, unconscious passion, and less of habit. Oh, teach me to forget!”
He crept nearer to her, and laid his head in her lap. His face was knotted with his passion and pain.
The wife and mother sighed, and looked down at his hair, which was getting white.
“Well, Charles!” she said, and caressingly buried her fingers in his hair. “I’ll try to forget for your sake.”
He could not understand her. He did not try. He lay with closed eyes, tired, purposeless. The sweet sea wind touched his cheek, white with the indoor pallor of the desk worker. The sound of the sea exalted him. The beautiful clouds above him carried him back to boyhood. There were tears on his face as he looked up at her.
“I’m forgetting!” he said, with a smile of exultation.
But the woman looked away at the violet-shadowed sails, afar on the changeful purple of the sea, and her throat choked with pain.