The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham Read Free Book Online

Book: The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham Read Free Book Online
Authors: W. Somerset Maugham
due to accident; neither of them had seen the opportunity till it was face to face with them) to discover that she felt in no way different from what she had before. She had expected that it would cause some, she hardly knew what, fantastic change in her so that she would feel like somebody else; and when she had a chance to look at herself in the glass she was bewildered to see the same woman she had seen the day before.
    ‘Are you angry with me?’ he asked her.
    ‘I adore you,’ she whispered.
    ‘Don’t you think you were very silly to waste so much time?’
    ‘A perfect fool.’

    Her happiness, sometimes almost more than she could bear, renewed her beauty. Just before she married, beginning to lose her first freshness, she had looked tired and drawn. The uncharitable said that she was going off. But there is all the difference between a girl of twenty-five and a married woman of that age. She was like a rosebud that is beginning to turn yellow at the edges of the petals, and then suddenly she was a rose in full bloom. Her starry eyes gained a more significant expression; her skin (that feature which had always been her greatest pride and most anxious care) was dazzling: it could not be compared to the peach or to the flower; it was they that demanded comparison with it. She looked eighteen once more. She was at the height of her glowing loveliness. It was impossible not to remark it and her women friends asked her in little friendly asides if she was going to have a baby. The indifferent who had said she was just a very pretty woman with a long nose admitted that they had misjudged her. She was what Charlie had called her the first time he saw her, a raging beauty.
    They managed their intrigue with skill. He had a broad back, he told her (‘I will not have you swank about your figure,’ she interrupted lightly), and it did not matter about him; but for her sake they mustn’t take the smallest risk. They could not meet often alone, not half often enough for him, but he had to think of her first, sometimes in the curio shop, now and then after luncheon in her house when no one was about; but she saw him a good deal here and there. It amused her then to see the formal way he spoke to her, jovial, for he was always that, with the same manner he used with every one. Who could imagine when they heard him chaff her with that charming humour of his that so lately he had held her in his passionate arms?
    She worshipped him. He was splendid, in his smart top boots and his white breeches, when he played polo. In tennis clothes he looked a mere boy. Of course he was proud of his figure: it was the best figure she had ever seen. He took pains to keep it. He never ate bread or potatoes or butter. And he took a great deal of exercise. She liked the care he took of his hands; he was manicured once a week. He was a wonderful athlete and the year before he had won the local tennis championship. Certainly he was the best dancer she had ever danced with; it was a dream to dance with him. No one would think he was forty. She told him she did not believe it.
    ‘I believe it’s all bluff and you’re really twenty-five.’
    He laughed. He was well pleased.
    ‘Oh, my dear, I have a boy of fifteen. I’m a middle-aged gent. In another two or three years I shall just be a fat old party.’
    ‘You’ll be adorable when you’re a hundred.’
    She liked his black, bushy eyebrows. She wondered whether it was they that gave his blue eyes their disturbing expression.
    He was full of accomplishments. He could play the piano quite well, rag-time, of course, and he could sing a comic song with a rich voice and good humour. She did not believe there was anything he could not do: He was very clever at his work too and she shared his pleasure when he told her that the Governor had particularly congratulated him on the way he had done some difficult job.
    ‘Although it’s I as says it,’ he laughed, his eyes charming with the love he bore

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