en-fr  HOME - by William Somerset Maugham
La ferme était située dans un vallon au milieu des collines du Somerset, une vieille maison en pierre entourée de granges, d'enclos et de dépendances.

Au-dessus de la porte d’entrée la date à laquelle elle fut construite avait été gravée en chiffres élégants de l’époque, 1673, la maison grise et érodée par le temps s’insérait autant dans le paysage que les arbres qui l’abritaient.

Une avenue d'ormes splendides qui aurait fait la fierté de beaucoup de demeures de châtelains menait de la route au jardin bien entretenu.



Les gens qui vivaient ici étaient aussi paisibles, robustes et modestes que leur maison ; leur unique vantardise était que depuis sa construction, de père en fils, selon une lignée ininterrompue, ils y naissaient et y mouraient.


Depuis trois cents ans ils avaient cultivé les terres environnantes. George Meadows avait maintenant cinquante ans et sa femme un ou deux ans de moins.

C'étaient tous deux de bonnes personnes, honnêtes à la fleur de l’âge ; et leurs enfants, deux garçons et trois filles, etaient beaux et robustes.



Ils n'avaient aucune prétention de passer pour des messieurs et dames du monde ; ils connaissaient leur rang et en étaient fiers.

Je n'ai jamais vu de ménage plus uni.



Ils étaient joyeux, travailleurs, et aimables.

Ils vivaient d'une façon ancestrale. Leur vie avait une perfection qui lui donnait une beauté aussi précise qu’une symphonie de Beethoven ou un tableau de Titien.

Ils étaient heureux et ils méritaient leur bonheur. Mais le maître de maison n'était pas George Meadows (loin de là, disait-on dans le village); c'était sa mère.

Elle valait deux fois son fils, déclarait-on. C'était une femme de soixante-dix ans, grande, droite et digne, avec des cheveux gris, et bien que son visage fût très ridé, son regard était vif et perspicace.

Sa parole faisait loi dans la maison et dans la ferme, mais elle avait de l'humour, et si sa domination était despotique, elle était aussi pleine de bonté.

Les gens riaient de ses plaisanteries et les répétaient.

C'était une excellente femme d'affaires et vous deviez vous lever très tôt le matin pour être meilleure qu'elle dans une tractation.

C'était un personnage.

Elle combinait, à un rare degré, la bonne volonté avec un sens alerte du ridicule.




Un jour, Mme George m'arrêta alors que je rentrais chez moi. Elle était tout énervée. (Sa belle-mère était la seule Mme Meadows que nous reconnaissions ; l'épouse de George n'était connue que sous le nom de Mme George.)



— Vous ne devinerez jamais qui vient ici aujourd'hui ! me demanda-t-elle.

L'oncle George Meadows. Vous savez, celui qui était en Chine.

— Mais... je pensais qu'il était mort !

— Nous pensions tous qu'il l'était.


J'avais entendu une douzaine de fois l'histoire de l'oncle George Meadows — et cela m'avait amusé parce qu'elle avait la saveur d'une vieille ballade —, c'était étrangement intimidant d'y être mêlé pour de vrai.


L'oncle George Meadows et Tom, son petit frère, avaient tous les deux courtisé Mme Meadows au temps où elle s'appelait encore Emily Green ; quand cinquante ans plus tôt elle avait épousé Tom, George avait pris la mer.


Les rumeurs confirmèrent sa présence sur la côte chinoise.

Pendant vingt ans de temps en temps, il leur fit parvenir des cadeaux ; puis il n'y eut plus de nouvelles de lui ; au décès de Tom Meadows, sa veuve lui écrivit et le prévint, mais ne reçut aucune réponse ; finalement, ils arrivèrent à la conclusion qu'il devait être mort.


Mais deux ou trois jours auparavant, à leur grande surprise, ils avaient reçu une lettre de la directrice de la Maison du Marin à Portsmouth.

Il semblait que pendant les dix dernières années, George Meadows, atteint de rhumatismes, y était résident, et maintenant sentant qu'il n'avait plus longtemps à vivre, voulait voir une fois encore la maison où il était né.


Albert Meadows, son petit-neveu, était parti avec la Ford vers Portsmouth pour le chercher et il devait rentrer cet après-midi.

— C'est formidable, dit Mme George, on ne l'a pas vu ici depuis cinquante ans. Il n'a encore jamais vu mon George qui aura cinquante-et-un ans à son prochain anniversaire.

— Que pense Mme Meadows de cela ? demandai-je.


—Oh, vous savez comme elle est.

Elle est assise là et sourit toute seule.

Tout ce qu'elle a dit, c'est : —C'était un jeune homme séduisant quand il est parti, mais pas aussi stable que son frère.


C'est pourquoi elle a choisi le père de mon George.


— Mais il s'est sans doute apaisé maintenant, dit-elle.


Mme George me demanda d'entrer pour le voir.

Avec la simplicité d'une femme de la campagne qui n'avait jamais été plus loin que Londres, elle s'imaginait, qu'ayant été tous les deux en Chine nous devions avoir quelque chose en commun.

Bien entendu, j'acceptai.

Je trouvai la famille entière rassemblée à mon arrivée ; ils étaient assis dans la vaste cuisine ancienne, au sol de pierre, Mme Meadows dans sa chaise habituelle au coin du feu, très digne ; je constatai avec amusement qu'elle s'était revêtue de sa meilleure robe en soie, tandis que son fils et sa femme étaient attablés avec leurs enfants.

De l'autre côté de la cheminée était assis un vieil homme, recroquevillé sur une chaise.

Il était très maigre et sa peau pendait sur ses os comme un vieux costume trop grand pour lui.

Son visage était ridé et jaune et il avait perdu presque toutes ses dents.

Je lui serrai la main.

— Eh bien, je suis content de voir que vous êtes bien arrivé Mr Meadows, j'ai dit.

— Capitaine, corrigea-t-il.

Il a marché jusqu'ici, me dit Albert, son petit-neveu.

Quand il est arrivé à la porte, il m'a fait arrêter la voiture et m'a dit qu'il voulait marcher.

— Et attention, je n'étais pas sorti de mon lit depuis deux ans.

Ils m'ont soulevé et m'ont mis dans la voiture.

Je pensais que je ne marcherais plus jamais, mais quand j'ai vu les ormes, je me suis souvenu combien mon père avait placé d'espérance quand il les avait plantés, j'ai senti que je pouvais marcher.

Il y a cinquante-deux ans, J'ai descendu cette allée quand je suis parti et maintenant je l'ai remontée..

— Moi, j'appelle ça une folie, déclara Mme Meadows.

— Ça m'a fait du bien. Je me sens mieux et plus fort qu'il y a dix ans. Je te survivrai même, Emily.

— N'en sois pas si sûr, répondit-elle.

Je suppose que personne n'avait appelé Mme Meadows par son prénom depuis une génération.

Cela me causa un petit choc, comme si le vieillard prenait une liberté avec elle.

Elle le regarda avec une lueur de malice dans les yeux et lui, tout en lui parlant, souriait en découvrant ses gencives édentées.

C’était étrange de les regarder, ces deux vieillards qui ne s’étaient pas vus depuis un demi-siècle, et de penser qu’autrefois, il l’avait aimée et elle en avait aimé un autre.

Je me demandai s'ils se souvenaient de ce qu'ils avaient ressenti alors et de ce qu'ils s'étaient dit.

Je me demandai si cela lui semblait étrange, à présent, qu'il ait, pour cette vieille dame, abandonné la maison de ses pères, son héritage légal, et ait vécu une vie d'exilé.

— Avez-vous jamais été marié, Capitaine Meadows ? demandai-je.

— Moi, non ! dit-il de sa voix chevrotante, avec un sourire.

— J'en sais trop sur la nature féminine pour ça.

— C'est ce que tu dis, rétorqua Mme Meadows.

— À dire vrai, je ne serais pas étonnée d'apprendre que tu as épousé une demi-douzaine de femmes noires dans ta vie.

— Elles ne sont pas noires en Chine, Emily, tu devrais le savoir mieux que ça, elles sont jaunes.

— C'est peut-être pourquoi tu es toi-même si jaune.

Quand je t'ai vu, je me suis questionnée ... il a la jaunisse.

— J'ai promis de ne jamais épouser personne d'autre que toi, Emily, et je ne l'ai jamais fait.

Il énonça ceci sans pathos ni ressentiment, juste comme une simple déclaration, comme un homme pourrait dire : « j 'ai annoncé que je marcherais vingt milles et je l'ai fait. »

Il y avait une trace de satisfaction dans son discours.

— Eh bien, répondit-elle, tu l'aurais peut-être regretté si tu l'avais fait.

Je parlai un peu de la Chine avec le vieil homme.

— Il n'y a pas un port de toute la Chine que je ne connaisse mieux que vous ne connaissez le fond de votre poche.

Là où un bateau peut aller, j'y suis allé.

Je pourrais vous retenir assis ici 24 heures sur 24 pendant six mois et ne pas vous dire la moitié des choses que j'ai vues dans ma vie.

— Eh bien, une chose que tu n'as pas faite, George, d'après ce que je vois, dit Mme Meadows, le sourire moqueur mais sans méchanceté dans le regard, — c'est faire fortune.

— Je ne suis du genre à faire des économies.

« Tu gagnes, tu dépenses », c'est ma devise.

Mais s'il y a une chose dont je sois sûr, c'est que si j'avais la chance de pouvoir recommencer ma vie, je la saisirais.

Et il n'y en a pas beaucoup qui pourraient dire ça.

— Non, c'est juste, observai-je.

Je portai mon regard sur lui avec admiration et respect.

C'était un vieil homme édenté, infirme et sans le sou, mais il avait réussi sa vie, car il l'avait appréciée.

Quand je pris congé, il me demanda de revenir le voir le lendemain.

Si je m'intéressais à la Chine, il me raconterait toutes les histoires que je voudrais.

Le lendemain matin, j’ai pensé que j’irais et demanderais au vieil homme s’il voudrait bien me recevoir. Je descendis la magnifique allée d'ormes et quand j'arrivai au jardin, je vis Mme Meadows qui cueillait des fleurs.

Je lui souhaitai le bonjour et elle se redressa.

Elle tenait une large brassée de fleurs blanches.

Je jetai un coup d'œil à la maison et je vis que les stores étaient tirés ; je fus surpris car Mme Meadows aimait le soleil.

« On aura toujours le temps de vivre dans le noir quand on sera six pieds sous terre », disait-elle toujours.

— Comment va le capitaine Meadows ? Lui demandai-je.

— Il a toujours été un original, répondit-elle.

— Quand Lizzie lui a apporté une tasse de thé ce matin, il nous avait quitté.

— Mort ? .

— Oui Mort dans son sommeil.

J'étais en train de cueillir ces fleurs pour les déposer dans la chambre.

Eh bien, je suis contente qu'il ait rendu l'âme dans cette vieille maison.

Les Meadows attachent beaucoup d'importance à ça.

Ils avaient eu pas mal de difficulté à le convaincre d'aller se coucher. Il leur avait raconté tout ce qui lui était arrivé dans sa longue vie.

Il était heureux d'être de retour dans sa vieille maison.

Il était fier d'avoir pu marcher jusqu'au bout de l'allée sans assistance, et il fanfaronnait de pouvoir vivre encore vingt ans.

Mais le destin fit preuve de clémence : la mort a posé le point final au bon endroit.

Mme Meadows huma les fleurs blanches qu'elle tenait dans ses bras.

— Eh bien, je suis contente qu'il soit revenu, dit-elle.

— Après mon mariage avec Tom Meadows et le départ de George, le fait est que je n'étais plus tout à fait certaine d'avoir épousé le bon.
unit 5
For three hundred years they had farmed the surrounding land.
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 6
George Meadows was now a man of fifty, and his wife was a year or two younger.
2 Translations, 5 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 9
I have never seen a more united household.
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 10
They were merry, industrious, and kindly.
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 11
Their life was patriarchal.
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 13
They were happy and they deserved their happiness.
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 15
She was twice the man her son was, they said.
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 18
People laughed at her jokes and repeated them.
2 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 20
She was a character.
2 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 21
She combined in a rare degree goodwill with an alert sense of the ridiculous.
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 22
One day, Mrs George stopped me on my way home.
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 23
She was all in a flutter.
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 25
« Whoever do you think is coming here today ?
2 Translations, 6 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 26
» she asked me.
2 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 27
« Uncle George Meadows.
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 28
You know, him as was in China ».
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unit 29
« Why, I thought he was dead ».
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unit 30
« We all thought he was dead ».
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 33
They heard of him on the China coast.
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 38
« Just fancy" said Mrs George, "he's not been here for more than fifty years.
2 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 39
He's never even seen my George, who's fifty-one next birthday ».
2 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 40
« And what does Mrs Meadows think of it ?
3 Translations, 6 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 41
» I asked.
2 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 42
« Well, you know what she is.
2 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 43
She sits there and smiles to herself.
2 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 45
That's why she chose my George's father.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 46
« But he's probably quietened down by now, » she says.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 47
Mrs George asked me to look in and see him.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 49
Of course I accepted.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 51
On the other side of the fireplace sat an old man, bunched up in a chair.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 53
His face was wrinkled and yellow and he had lost nearly all his teeth.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 54
I shook hands with him.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 55
« Well, I'm glad to see you've got here safely, Mr Meadows » I said.
1 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 56
"Captain" he corrected.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 57
« He walked here »" Albert, his great-nephew, told me.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 58
« When he got to the gate he made me stop the car and said he wanted to walk ».
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 59
« And mind you, I've not been out of my bed for two years ».
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 60
They carried me down and put me in the car.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 63
« Silly, I call it » said Mrs Meadows.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 64
«It's done me good.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 65
I feel better and stronger than I have for ten years.
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 66
I'll see you out yet, Emily».
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 67
« Don't you be too sure », she answered.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 68
I suppose no one had called Mrs Meadows by her first name for a generation.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 69
It gave me a little shock, as though the old man were taking a liberty with her.
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unit 74
« Have you ever been married, Captain Meadows ?
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 75
» I asked.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 76
« Not me » he said, inns quavering voice, with a grin.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 77
« I know too much about woman for that ».
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 78
« That's what you say », retorted Mrs Meadows.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 81
« Perhaps that's why you've got so yellow yourself.
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unit 82
When I saw you, I said to myself, why, he's got jaundice».
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 83
«I said I'd never marry anyone but you, Emily, and I never have ».
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 85
There was a trace of satisfaction in the speech.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 86
« Well, you might have regretted it if ou had », she answered.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 87
I talked a little with the old man about China.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 89
There a ship can go I've been.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 92
« I'm not on to save money.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 93
Lake it and spend it : that's my motto.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 95
And there's not many as'll say that ».
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unit 96
"No, indeed," I said.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 97
I looked at him with admiration and respect.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 99
When I left him he asked me to come and see him again next day.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 100
If I was interested in China he would tell me all the stories I waned to hear.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 101
Next morning I thought I would go and ask if the old man would like to see me.
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 103
I bade her good morning and she raised herself.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 104
She had a huge armful of white flowers.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 106
"Time enough to live in the dark when you're buried," she always said.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 107
"How's Captain Meadows?"
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 108
I asked her.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 109
"He always was a harm-scarum fellow", she answered.
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 110
« When Lizzie took him a cup of tea this morning she found he was dead ».
2 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 111
« Dead?
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 112
».
1 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 113
« Yes.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 114
Died in his sleep.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 115
I was just picking these flowers to put in the room.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 116
Well, I'm glad he died in that old house.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 117
It always means a lot to them Meadows to do that ».
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 118
They had had a good deal of difficulty in persuading him to go to bed.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 119
He had talked to them of all the things that had happened to him in his long life.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 120
He was happy to be back in his old home.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 122
But fate had been kind : death has written the full-stop in the right place.
2 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 123
Mrs Meadows smelt the white flowers that she held in her arms.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago
unit 124
« Well, I'm glad he came back », she said.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 1 year ago

W. Somerset Maugham né à Paris était romancier, dramaturge et nouvelliste anglais.
Il fut médecin et grand voyageur (en Extrême Orient en particulier)
Home décrit en quelques lignes, deux ou trois personnages, un problème psychologique avec un clin d'oeil malicieux.
Bonne lecture et bonnes traductions

by Bouchka 1 year ago

The farm lay in a hollow among the Somerset-shire hills, an old-fashioned stone house surrounded by barns and pens and outhouses.

Over the doorway the date when it was built had been carved in the elegant figures of the period, 1673, and the house, grey and weather-beaten, looked as much a part of the landscape as the trees that sheltered it.

An avenue of splendid elms that would have been the pride of many a squire's mansion led from the road to the trim garden.

The people who lived here were as stolid, sturdy, and unpretentious as the house ; their only boast was that ever since it was built from father to son in one unbroken line they had been born and died in it.

For three hundred years they had farmed the surrounding land. George Meadows was now a man of fifty, and his wife was a year or two younger.

They were both fine, upstanding people in the prime of life ; and their children, two sons and three girls, were handsome and strong.

They had no new-fangled notions about being gentlemen and ladies ; they knew their place and were proud of it.

I have never seen a more united household.

They were merry, industrious, and kindly.

Their life was patriarchal. It had a completeness that gave it a beauty as definite as that of a symphony by Beethoven or a picture by Titian.

They were happy and they deserved their happiness. But the master of the house was not George Meadows (not by a long chalk, they said in the village);  it was his mother.

She was twice the man her son was, they said. She was a woman of seventy, tall, upright, and dignified, with grey hair, and though her face was much wrinkled, her eyes were bright and shrewd.

Her word was law in the house and on the farm ; but she had humour, and if her rule was despotic it was also kindly.

People laughed at her jokes and repeated them.

She was a good business woman and you had to get up very early in the morning to best her in a bargain.

She was a character.

She combined in a rare degree goodwill with an alert sense of the ridiculous.

One day, Mrs George stopped me on my way home. She was all in a flutter. (Her mother-in-law was the only Mrs Meadows we knew ; George's wife was only known as Mrs George).

« Whoever do you think is coming here today ? » she asked me.

« Uncle George Meadows. You know, him as was in China ».

« Why, I thought he was dead ».

« We all thought he was dead ».

I had heard the story of Uncle George Meadows a dozen times, and it had amused me because it had the savor of an old ballad : it was oddly touching to come across it in real life.

For Uncle George Meadows and Tom, his younger brother, had both courted Mrs Meadows when she was Emily Green, fifty years and more ago, and when she married Tom, George had gone away to sea.

They heard of him on the China coast.

For twenty years now and then he sent them presents ; then there was no more news of him ; when Tom Meadows died his widow wrote and told him, but received no answer ; and at last they came to the conclusion that he must be dead.

But two or three days ago to their astonishment they had received a letter from the matron of the sailor's home at Portsmouth.

It appeared that for the last ten years George Meadows, crippled with rheumatism, had been an inmate and now, feeling that he had not much longer to live, wanted to see once more the house in which he was born.

Albert Meadows, his great-nephew, had gone over to Portsmouth in the Ford to fetch him and he was to arrive that afternoon.

« Just fancy" said Mrs George, "he's not been here for more than fifty years. He's never even seen my George, who's fifty-one next birthday ».

« And what does Mrs Meadows think of it ? » I asked.

« Well, you know what she is.

She sits there and smiles to herself.

All she says is, « He was a good-looking young fellow when he left, but not so steady as his brother ».

That's why she chose my George's father.

« But he's probably quietened down by now, » she says.

Mrs George asked me to look in and see him.

With the simplicity of a country woman who had never been further from her home than London, she thought that because we had both been in China we must have something in common.

Of course I accepted.

I found the whole family assembled when I arrived ; they were sitting in the great old kitchen, with its stone floor, Mrs Meadows in her usual chair by the fire, very upright, and I was amused to see that she had put on her best silk dress, while her son and his wife sat at the table with their children.

On the other side of the fireplace sat an old man, bunched up in a chair.

He was very thin and his skin hung on his bones like an old suit much too large for him.

His face was wrinkled and yellow and he had lost nearly all his teeth.

I shook hands with him.

« Well, I'm glad to see you've got here safely, Mr Meadows » I said.

"Captain" he corrected.

« He walked here »" Albert, his great-nephew, told me.

« When he got to the gate he made me stop the car and said he wanted to walk ».

« And mind you, I've not been out of my bed for two years ».

They carried me down and put me in the car.

I thought I'd never walk again, but when I see them elm trees, I remember my father set a lot of store by them elm trees, I felt I could walk.

I walked down that drive fifty-two years ago when I went away and now I've walked back again.

« Silly, I call it » said Mrs Meadows.

«It's done me good. I feel better and stronger than I have for ten years. I'll see you out yet, Emily».

« Don't you be too sure », she answered.

I suppose no one had called Mrs Meadows by her first name for a generation.

It gave me a little shock, as though the old man were taking a liberty with her.

She looked at him with a shrewd smile in her eyes and he, talking to her, grinned with his toothless gums.

It was strange to look at them, these two old people who had not seen one another for half a century, and to think that all that long time ago he had loved her and she had lover another.

I wondered if they remember what they had felt then and what they had said to one another.

I wondered if it seemed to him strange now that for that old woman he had left the home of his fathers, his lawful inheritance, and lived an exile's life.

« Have you ever been married, Captain Meadows ? » I asked.

« Not me » he said, inns quavering voice, with a grin.

« I know too much about woman for that ».

« That's what you say », retorted Mrs Meadows.

«If the truth was known I shouldn't be surprised to hear as how you'd had half a dozen black wives in your day».

« They're not black in China, Emily, you ought to know better than that, they're yellow ».

« Perhaps that's why you've got so yellow yourself.

When I saw you, I said to myself, why, he's got jaundice».

«I said I'd never marry anyone but you, Emily, and I never have ».

He said this not with pathos or resentment, but as a mere statement of fact, as a man light say,

« I said I'd walk twenty miles and I've done it ».

There was a trace of satisfaction in the speech.

« Well, you might have regretted it if ou had », she answered.

I talked a little with the old man about China.

« There's not a port in China that I don't know better than you know your coat pocket.

There a ship can go I've been.

I could keep you sitting here all day long for six months and not tell you half the things I've seen in my day ».

« Well, one thing you've not done, Georgen as far as I can see," said Mrs Meadows, the mocking but not unkindly smile still in her eyes, "and that's to make a fortune ».

« I'm not on to save money.

Lake it and spend it : that's my motto.

But one thing I can say for myself : if I had the chance of going through my life again I'd take it.

And there's not many as'll say that ».

"No, indeed," I said.

I looked at him with admiration and respect.

He was a toothless, crippled, penniless old man, but he had made a success of life, for he had enjoyed it.

When I left him he asked me to come and see him again next day.

If I was interested in China he would tell me all the stories I waned to hear.

Next morning I thought I would go and ask if the old man would like to see me. I strolled down the magnificent avenue of elm trees and when I came to the garden saw Mrs Meadows picking flowers.

I bade her good morning and she raised herself.

She had a huge armful of white flowers.

I glanced at the house and I saw that the blinds were drawn : I was surprised, for Mrs Meadows liked the sunshine.

"Time enough to live in the dark when you're buried," she always said.

"How's Captain Meadows?" I asked her.

"He always was a harm-scarum fellow", she answered. 

« When Lizzie took him a cup of tea this morning she found he was dead ».

« Dead? ».

« Yes.  Died in his sleep.

I was just picking these flowers to put in the room.

Well, I'm glad he died in that old house.

It always means a lot to them Meadows to do that ».

They had had a good deal of difficulty in persuading him to go to bed. He had talked to them of all the things that had happened to him in his long life.

He was happy to be back in his old home.

He was proud that he has walked up the drive without assistance, and he boasted that he would live for another twenty years.

But fate had been kind : death has written the full-stop in the right place.

Mrs Meadows smelt the white flowers that she held in her arms.

« Well, I'm glad he came back », she said.

« After I married Tom Meadows and George went away, the fact is I was never quite sure that I'd married the right one ».