Birds called. Breezes played among branches just bursting into green. Daffodils, proud and erect, stood in clumps about the dazzling lawn. Young, pulsing, eager things elbowed their way through last year's leaves to taste the morning sun; the wide-eyed celandine, yellower than butter; the little violet, hugging the earth for fear of being seen; the sturdy bourgeois daisy; the pale-faced anemone, earliest to wake and earliest to sleep; the blue bird's-eye in small family groups; the blatant dandelion already a head and shoulders taller than any neighbor. Every twig in the old garden bore its new load of buds that were soft as kittens' paws; and up the wrinkled trunks of ancient trees young ivy leaves chased each other like school-boys.
Spring had come again, and its eternal spirit spread the message of new-born hope, stirred the sap of awakening life, warmed the bosom of a wintry earth and put into the hearts of birds the old desire to mate. But the lonely girl turned a deaf ear to the call, and rounded her shoulders over the elderly desk with tears blistering her letter.
"I'm miserable, miserable," she wrote. "There doesn't seem to be anything to live for. I suppose it's selfish and horrid to grumble because Mother has married again, but why did she choose the very moment when she was to take me into life? Oh, Alice, what am I to do? I feel like a rabbit with its foot in a trap, listening to the traffic on the main road—like a newly fledged bird brought down with a broken wing among the dead leaves of Rip Van Winkle's sleeping-place. You'll laugh when you read this, and say that I'm dramatizing my feelings and writing for effect; but if you've got any heart at all, you'd cry if you saw me (me of all girls!) buried alive out here without a single soul to speak to who's as young as I am—hushed if I laugh by mistake, scowled at if I let myself move quickly, catching old age every hour I stay here."
"Why, Alice, just think of it! There's not a person or a thing in and out of this house that's not old. I don't mean old as we thought of it at school, thirty and thirty-five, but really and awfully old. The house is the oldest for miles round. My grandfather is seventy-two, and my grandmother's seventy. The servants are old, the trees are old, the horses are old; and even the dogs lie about with dim eyes waiting for death."
"When Mother was here, it was bearable. We escaped as often as we could, and rode and drove and made secret visits to the city and saw the plays at matinees. There's nothing old about Mother. I suppose that's why she married again. But now that I'm left alone in this house of decay, where everybody and everything belongs to the past, I'm frightened of being so young, and catch looks that make me feel that I ought to be ashamed of myself. It's so long since I quarreled with a girl or flirted with a boy that I can't remember it. I'm forgetting how to laugh. I'm beginning not to care about clothes or whether I look nice."
"One day is exactly like another. I wander about aimlessly with nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to speak to. I've even begun to give up reading novels, because they make me so jealous. It's all wrong, Alice. It's bad and unhealthy. It puts mutinous thoughts into my head. Honestly, the only way in which I can get the sort of thrill that I ought to have now, if ever I am to thrill at all, is in making wild plans of escape, so wild and so naughty that I don't think I'd better write about them, even to you, dear."
"Mother's on her honeymoon. She went away a week ago in a state of self-conscious happiness that left Grandfather and Grandmother snappy and disagreeable. She will be away four months, and every weekly letter that comes from her will make this place more and more unbearable and me more restless and dangerous....