Cousin Rosamund

Free Cousin Rosamund by Rebecca West

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Authors: Rebecca West
world of sound. It would take vanity of a sort incompatible with real music, incompatible with the self-criticism of Beethoven and Mozart, to suppose that musicians are the only servants of meaning, and that the process of art has no analogue in life. Mary and I were supremely happy in our work at that time. I had found a special happiness in having acquired a power, mastered by Mary a long time before, of putting myself in a bland and trance-like state of mind before I played, so that my hands and arms were controlled by my intellectual conception of what I was playing, without giving a chance of intervention to that treacherous element in the soul which hates the will and incites the muscles to frustrate it. Also we were both playing a great deal of Russian music, which had the charm for us that it represented a kind of music misunderstood by Beethoven and Mozart for a reason which cast a bright light on their greatness. For their Turkish marches showed that they had heard Asiatic music (as how should they not, since the Turks had been encamped outside Vienna less than a century before they were born, and had left the countryside encumbered with their camp-followers?), and that they had made not so much of it as we can, simply because they had not listened to their own music as much as we had, and were therefore not sufficiently aware of the definitive character of Western music to know what the dissimilarity of Asiatic music signifies. Infinitely less than Beethoven and Mozart, we were yet more than they were, because of the passage of time, the century and a half during which their music had spread through the world and entered into the very constitution of human beings.
    That musical happiness would have been ours in any case, for our mother had given it to us; but we enjoyed it more because we knew these people at the Dog and Duck so well that in talking to them we fell into an analogue of the bland and trance-like condition which we found favourable to our playing. When we talked to them we always expressed the love we felt for them and never made the chilling remarks which the part of us undesirous of friendship sometimes tricked us into making to those who might possibly have become our friends. But we were also much better with strangers because of our beloved familiars. Our mother’s light had made us understand that our father’s darkness was not mere absence of light; even so the certainties of the Dog and Duck enabled us to be unperturbed by a world that was at that time always announcing its uncertainty. We never feared that our kind was dying, we did not doubt that the sacred patterned snake was still turning and twisting in the heat of the unexhausted sun.
    But we might have lost the Dog and Duck had not Rosamund come to us that night to explain Oswald. Without knowledge of what his mother had done to him we would not have been prepared for his tiresomeness, and we might have shown our impatience and so lost Nancy wholly, and the others in part. For Oswald was very tiresome. It was not an exceptional event when, one November afternoon, Nancy having gone up to town to shop with Aunt Clara, I came into the parlour and found Uncle Len and Aunt Lily sitting by the fire, their eyes fixed, and their feet circling on their ankles, while Oswald, with uplifted forefinger, told a cosmic story.
    I thought it as well to continue with the task which had been laid on me by Aunt Milly and search the garden for flowers. After I had cut some laurestinus I went to take some of the winter jasmine that was showing yellow round the bar windows, and as I put my scissors on the black and substanceless stalks I heard someone come into the bar, though it was still afternoon. One window was open, and I put my head in; and I saw Uncle Len, his red dewlaps heavy about him, take down a bottle of port from the shelf and select an appropriate glass from the tray below it, look at it, shake his head, and replace it with one of the few

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