And superstitious dread came to the unsuperstitious Soames; he turned his eyes away lest he should stare the little house into real unreality. He walked on, past the barracks to the Park rails, still moving west, afraid of turning homewards till he was tired out. Past four o’clock, and still an empty town, empty of all that made it a living hive, and yet this very emptiness gave it intense meaning. He felt that he would always remember a town so different from that he saw every day; and himself he would remember — walking thus, unseen and solitary with his desire.
He went past Prince’s Gate and turned. After all he had his work — ten-thirty at the office ! Road and Park and houses stared at him now in the full light of earliest morning. He turned from them into the Park and crossed to the Row side. Funny to see the Row with no horses tearing up and down, or trapesing past like cats on hot bricks, no stream of carriages, no rows of sitting people, nothing but trees and the tan track. The trees and grass, though no dew had fallen, breathed on him; and he stretched himself at full length along a bench, his hands behind his head, his hat crushed on his chest, his eyes fixed on the leaves patterned against the still brightening sky. The air stole faint and fresh about his cheeks and lips, and the backs of his hands. The first sunlight came stealing flat from trunk to trunk, birds did not sing but talked, a wood pigeon back among the trees was cooing. Soames closed his eyes, and instantly imagination began to paint, for the eyes deep down within him, pictures of her. Picture of her — standing passive in her frock flounced to the gleaming floor, while he wrote his initials on her card. Picture of her adjusting with long gloved fingers a camellia come loose in her corsage; turning for him to put her cloak on — pictures, countless pictures, and ever strange, of her face sparkling for moments, or brooding, or averse; of her cheek inclined for his kiss, of her lips turned from his lips, of her eyes looking at him with a question that seemed to have no answer; of her eyes, dark and soft over a grey cat purring in her arms; picture of her auburn hair flowing as he had not seen it yet. Ah ! but soon — but soon ! And as if answering the call of his imagination a cry — long, not shrill, not harsh exactly, but so poignant — jerked the blood to his heart. From back over there it came trailing, again and again, passionate — the lost soul’s cry of peacock in early morning; and with it there uprose from the spaces of his inner being the vision that was for ever haunting there, of her with hair unbound, of her all white and lost, yielding to his arms. It seared him with delight, swooned in him, and was gone. He opened his eyes; an early water-cart was nearing down the Row.
Soames rose and walking fast beneath the trees sought sanity.
John Galsworthy : Cry of Peacock, 1883 from On Forsyte ‘Change