By: John Cheever

It had rained hard early in August so the leaves were off all the trees. In the sunlight the hills were like scorched pastry and when there was no sun the meadows were gray and the trees were black and the clean sky parted in firm lines down onto the smooth horizon. Most of the guests had gone away but some of the guests remained.
In the evening Richard and Fred walked down to the formal pond in the sand pit and watched the swans drift in the wind. Richard woke early every morning and looked at the hills. Then he shook off his pyjamas and caught his body swinging past the glass panes in the small win dow. His body was a lined angular whiteness passing the small panes in the window when he was not looking.
Fred did not get up until noon and the sun was hot on the roofs or the rain had stopped and the foliage was brittle with water. The coals in the small hearth were black and he had to heat his coffee. Amy told him that if he would come down sooner he would not have to drink cold coffee. Amy ran her eyes down the length of red carpet and laughed like a gramophone. Some of the guests were walking up and down the veran dah wondering if it were going to rain, and the ducks came out of the gray shed and went to the small pool in the bottom of the sand pit.
A lady with a staff of black hair pulled back from her forehead and broken over the round of her skull spent most of the afternoons and a great many of the evenings eating sandwiches and telling everyone how beautiful Switzerland was.
"You have never really seen the fields I have. You do not know what a flowered meadow is. You have never walked into fields that were blue and white and yellow and every flower as perfect as the nipples on your breast. Curved just so, colored so lightly, and you have never heard the sound of running water. Oh no, you have never heard the sound of running water.
"You have never lived by a little stream that made a sound all day and all night. You do not know what it is to go away and not hear the little stream any more. It is like silence to you. Yes, it is like silence to you.
"And the stars? No. You do not know what stars are like. You have never been near enough to the stars to see the long streaming continuation of one line into another. You have never been so high that from your verandah the birds were like level wheels in the meadow and the mead ows like patches of juniper. Oh no. You do not know. Enormous meadows like mere patches of juniper up on the hillside where there are no trees.
"And perhaps you have lived so high on a hill that the mist came up from the patched meadows like a pitted fruit and gathered in circles and little whirlpools? You have never seen a thick mist stream through the doorway and flatten on the ceiling." She would tap her foot on the flowered linoleum and lift up the corner of a sandwich. "You do not know how enormous things can be and I am afraid that you will never know."
Fred and Richard went for walks together in the hills and often stayed all day. They took their books and sandwiches and sometimes bread and cheese and bad wine. They bent their backs over the round of the hill and watched the clouds and, when there were no clouds, the trees break along the wind. There was no need of speaking. A gramophone was a great responsibility. Resting on their backs against the flank of a broken hill they instinctively felt that the silence was going to lapse into the scratching of a gramophone needle and someone would have to crank the machine. There was an enormous responsibility in choosing one side or another of the disk.
Sitting on the top of the hill they could see Amy lean from the cross windows and shout at the cows. The foliage was dead and the flagpole had been taken down because of the strong wind. In the long vacant drawing room the stiff twigs of the bridal veil* pulled and scuttled over the clean glass.
On the other side they could see hills drop ping onto hills dropping into the ocean. They could see Chestnut Hill and Break Hill ram one another and push the small scrub pines down * This is probably a reference to bridal wreath", a flowering bush of the spiraea family. -Ed. over the beach. In the empty weather when there was no sun they could hear the ocean make a great noise on the rocks and speculate on the color and the formation of the waves. Often they did not know how they spent whole days in the hills lying on the sharp grass wondering about one another.
Amy said the Russian lady with the broken hair had never been to Switzerland but that she had seen a great many milk chocolate advertise ments. Amy said that the Russian lady with the vacant eyes was simply waiting for her son to come from a college out west and take her back to Cambridge. People began to wonder if she even had a son who was coming from out of the west to take her back to Cambridge. She sat in her black brocade pyjamas on the verandah and de scribed the milk chocolate advertisements and everyone listened to her because she was so very, very beautiful.
In the delicate light of the early evening Fred and Richard came down from out of the hills and said good afternoon to everyone. Fred traced a white iris with the toe of his boot on the flowered linoleum. Richard bent over the whitewashed railing and said how beautiful everything was. Amy was in the corner talking to Jack and asking him not to bring down any more gin because she didn't like to start drinking down here because down here it was not like in the city and in the city people could not stand the pace and it was all right to drink but down here there was a pace that people could adjust themselves to and there was no need of drinking and it was going to be one place where sensitive people could come and stand the realization of being sober.
When Ruth played the piano it was very nice also and Fred and Richard dusted the white wash from their trousers and stood close to one another listening to the music roll out of the doorway and heave over the stubble of unkempt lawn. Because the leafless trees made it look much later in the season than it really was, the awning had been taken down from the verandah and the black metal skeleton shot off the roof and hung between the floor and the railing like a vacant elbow. Such muscle in the awning frame Ruth would say and drag her fingers over the dry ivory like little white rakes.
Fred and Richard felt that a clock was running down somewhere and that someone would have to wind up the clock in a little while. Amy sat on the blue wooden balcony with Jack and talked about how fine and lovely everything had been before people started to go to the city and get drunk.
"People who used to come out here eight years ago and find the place restful now want to get drunk after their first meal. They find the tempo of nature almost more unbearable than the tempo of New York. Instead of finding rest in the country they become nervous wrecks. I do not understand it, no I do not understand it."
When Richard undressed, his body was warm like a well-lit room and he spent a lot of time jumping up and down before the oval mirror. He could hear Fred walking down the corridor in his leather slippers and he crossed his legs and lit a cigarette. Fred came in and said good night and went away again. Richard noticed sharp colors, brilliant shadows and the manner in which the boards were placed in the floor. He remembered a great many numbered forms and objects with names on them so that he could tell them that it was half past eleven when the Huntington Avenue trolley car crashed into the one roaring down Massachusetts Avenue in the direction of the river. In this way he went to sleep and often when he dressed in the morning it was raining and the window was running with the ugly shapes of flat water.
Ruth got a letter from her brother at the farm saying that he would have to close up be cause the deer had destroyed whole sections of his orchard. Fred thought it was all very beau tiful with the slender arched animals eating the delicate boughs and Amy put on an evening gown and came down to supper after everyone had been working all day.
There were so few guests now that they could all be seated in the dining room and Amy carved the roast at the table. Everyone talked and the meat fell away under the knife. In the dining room the curtains had not been hung yet but someone had started to put back the pictures on the yellow plaster. Amy asked Richard if he would have more meat and looked out of the window. It would be a month now and the dry snows would be coming in from the frozen har bor. Then she remembered that it was not as late as she thought it was but that the rain had driven the leaves from the trees and it was really only the beginning of the autumn.
In the middle of the meal a car came up the drive and Amy rose in her ball dress and ran to the door. A lot of people came in and she kissed them and took their coats off. Then they sat down at the table and she was busy carving the meat and keeping the coffee percolators full.
That night Amy told Richard that there were not enough beds and that he would either have to sleep with Fred or go out to the bungalow. The Russian lady told him that he had better sleep in the bungalow and he said that he would sleep in the bungalow'.
Amy wrote her name on the window and kept reminding herself that it really was only the beginning of autumn even if the trees were bare.

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