The giant lovers 1.
Now it chanced in the days when Caterham was campaigning against the Boom-children before the General Election that was— amidst the most tragic and terrible circumstances— to bring him into power, that the giant Princess, that Serene Highness whose early nutrition had played so great a part in the brilliant career of Doctor Winkles, had come from the kingdom of her father to England, on an occasion that was deemed important. She was affianced for reasons of state to a certain Prince— and the wedding was to be made an event of international significance. There had arisen mysterious delays. Rumour and Imagination collaborated in the story and many things were said. There were suggestions of a recalcitrant Prince who declared he would not be made to look like a fool— at least to this extent. People sympathised with him. That is the most significant aspect of the affair.
Now it may seem a strange thing, but it is a fact that the giant Princess, when she came to England, knew of no other giants whatever. She had lived in a world where tact is almost a passion and reservations the air of one’s life. They had kept the thing from her; they had hedged her about from sight or suspicion of any gigantic form, until her appointed coming to England was due. Until she met young Redwood she had no inkling that there was such a thing as another giant in the world.
In the kingdom of the father of the Princess there were wild wastes of upland and mountains where she had been accustomed to roam freely. She loved the sunrise and the sunset and all the great drama of the open heavens more than anything else in the world, but among a people at once so democratic and so vehemently loyal as the English her freedom was much restricted. People came in brakes, in excursion trains, in organised multitudes to see her; they would cycle long distances to stare at her, and it was necessary to rise betimes if she would walk in peace. It was still near the dawn that morning when young Redwood came upon her.
The Great Park near the Palace where she lodged stretched, for a score of miles and more, west and south of the western palace gates. The chestnut trees of its avenues reached high above her head. Each one as she passed it seemed to proffer a more abundant wealth of blossom. For a time she was content with sight and scent, but at last she was won over by these offers, and set herself so busily to choose and pick that she did not perceive young Redwood until he was close upon her.
She moved among the chestnut trees, with the destined lover drawing near to her, unanticipated, unsuspected. She thrust her hands in among the branches, breaking them and gathering them. She was alone in the world. Then—–
She looked up, and in that moment she was mated.
We must needs put our imaginations to his stature to see the beauty he saw. That unapproachable greatness that prevents our immediate sympathy with her did not exist for him. There she stood, a gracious girl, the first created being that had ever seemed a mate for him, light and slender, lightly clad, the fresh breeze of the dawn moulding the subtly folding robe upon her against the soft strong lines of her form, and with a great mass of blossoming chestnut branches in her hands. The collar of her robe opened to show the whiteness of her neck and a soft shadowed roundness that passed out of sight towards her shoulders. The breeze had stolen a strand or so of her hair too, and strained its red-tipped brown across her cheek. Her eyes were open blue, and her lips rested always in the promise of a smile as she reached among the branches.
She turned upon him with a start, saw him, and for a space they regarded one another. For her, the sight of him was so amazing, so incredible, as to be, for some moments at least, terrible. He came to her with the shock of a supernatural apparition; he broke all the established law of her world. He was a youth of one-and-twenty then, slenderly built, with his father’s darkness and his father’s gravity. He was clad in a sober soft brown leather, close-fitting easy garments, and in brown hose, that shaped him bravely. His head went uncovered in all weathers. They stood regarding one another— she incredulously amazed, and he with his heart beating fast. It was a moment without a prelude, the cardinal meeting of their lives.
For him there was less surprise. He had been seeking her, and yet his heart beat fast. He came towards her, slowly, with his eyes upon her face.
“You are the Princess,” he said. “My father has told me. You are the Princess who was given the Food of the Gods.”
“I am the Princess— yes,” she said, with eyes of wonder. “But— what are you?”
“I am the son of the man who made the Food of the Gods.”
“The Food of the Gods!”
“Yes, the Food of the Gods.”
Her face expressed infinite perplexity.
“What? I don’t understand. The Food of the Gods?”
“You have not heard?”
“The Food of the Gods! No!”
She found herself trembling violently. The colour left her face. “I did not know,” she said. “Do you mean—?”
He waited for her.
“Do you mean there are other— giants?”
He repeated, “Did you not know?”
And she answered, with the growing amazement of realisation, “No!”
The whole world and all the meaning of the world was changing for her. A branch of chestnut slipped from her hand. “Do you mean to say,” she repeated stupidly, “that there are other giants in the world? That some food—?”
He caught her amazement.
“You know nothing?” he cried. “You have never heard of us? You, whom the Food has made akin to us!”
There was terror still in the eyes that stared at him. Her hand rose towards her throat and fell again. She whispered, “No.”
It seemed to her that she must weep or faint. Then in a moment she had rule over herself and she was speaking and thinking clearly. “All this has been kept from me,” she said. “It is like a dream. I have dreamt— have dreamt such things. But waking— No. Tell me! Tell me! What are you? What is this Food of the Gods? Tell me slowly— and clearly. Why have they kept it from me, that I am not alone?”