Quiet life in a rural manor, “old good England.” Reginald Wellard is happy – he is married to a beautiful woman, so beautiful that outsiders, after seeing her, cry out with delight. He is forty years old, she is twenty-five; he adores her, and she seems to him, too. In his youth, Reginald lived hard: he did not have money to study in Cambridge, and he worked in the school, then at the bank, spent four years at the front, the first world war was “an orgy of rumbling, cruelty and dirt.” I met Sylvia and did not dare to ask her for a long time, because what could he offer her, such a beauty? But in the world there are miracles. Reginald received an inheritance, bought the estate of Westaways – a beautiful house, a wonderful garden… Sylvia went with him to the village; she would go everywhere for Reginald, but he did not know that.
Wellard begins to breed bees, just for fun. All year round, he and Sylvia are surrounded by flowers. And butterflies – there are no butterflies in their garden! And the birds: free birds in the trees, doves – black monks, ducks on the pond… Reginald is truly happy, he dares to even think that Sylvia is also happy, but that’s not enough for him, and he begins to write a book. “They say that each of us carries material for at least one book,” he thinks. The novel is called “Convolvulus”; dedication – “Sylvia, who clung to my heart.”
It would seem that nothing should happen: a quiet man, sitting in his own village, wrote a novel, even a good one, and the book is well bought up. However, much is happening. First of all, Reginald perceives disappointment: Sylvia is not very interested in the novel itself, and with the growing fame of her husband. And he becomes part of the literary beau monde, without exerting any effort on him – and that’s nice for him, it’s his self-esteem. Still, he is an ordinary Englishman, belonging to the middle class, the backbone of the country’s backbone, and he, of course, is a member of a respectable London club. There, at the club, at the dinner table, Reginald gets to know the famous critic Raglan – “who does not know Raglan?” – and no less famous lord Ormsby, a newspaper tycoon. Not so long ago, in one of the newspapers owned by Ormsby, Raglan published a laudatory article about Vjunka, announcing the novel “book of the week.” Raglan’s response makes Reginald Wellard famous. Everyone reads his book, acquaintances do not stint on compliments, the mailbox is bursting with letters: requests for interviews, speaking in literary meetings and so on. And the Wellards understand that it’s time to leave their beloved Westways and move to London for the winter.
Another world, a different life: a humble villager has to wear a white tie every day. Lord Ormsby invites the Wellards to dine – this is their first outing into the big world. Sylvia enjoys a huge success there – still, such a beauty, smart, lively! – and Reginald gets acquainted with Coral Bell, the once famous actress, to whom he was in love twenty-five years ago, still a schoolboy. She left the stage a long time ago, now she is an important lady, Countess, but he vividly remembers her singing, and a wonderful laugh, and an extraordinary charm of a face… A few days later they accidentally meet at Piccadilly and talk like old friends about all sorts of nonsense and about serious matters. It turns out that Coral is not a dummy, like most variety divas, she is an intelligent and profound companion. They walk a long time, go to a cafe to have tea, and Wellard returns home late, feeling guilty. She wanted to ask forgiveness from Sylvia, but finds Ormsby in her living room.
Reginald has already known the reputation of Lord Ormsby – an avowed loutwax, openly contains lovers… This time he prefers to remain silent – he is such a person – he does not just love Sylvia, but even feels beside her as a nonentity. Whatever she did, fine. He is silent, but life circumstances seem to take him ever farther from his wife, and a strong push for this is a play. The fact is that a well-known playwright undertakes to write a play on “Convolvulus,” a serious theater accepts this play, and Reginald begins to go to rehearsals. Meanwhile, all the London newspapers extol his novel, critics are eagerly awaiting the performance, the life of Wellard is changing ever more, and he himself is changing. Gets more and more pleasure from conversations with the ladies, clever and subtle individuals – in the theatrical circle there are enough… There is nothing strange about this, but before that Reginald did not do that. And then Coral Bell appears in the theater, because the well-known actress, whose name was associated with the future success of the performance, left the company and had to look for another celebrity. No one could think that Coral would agree to return to the stage, but she agreed and took up the role. Maybe because of Reginald?
Sylvia hardly sees her husband; she is immersed in secular life and often happens with Lady Ormsby; take it, apparently, not without reason, for the lord himself, the “old satyr”, is besieging the lovely Mrs. Wellard with might and main. One day he invites her to a premiere at a fashion theater, and… something strange happens, which, alas, could not see Reginald. Sylvia looks at Ormsby so that he understands: he is seen through, he is defenseless, he looks “ugly and uncouth”. And, putting it in place, Sylvia still goes with him to the theater – after all, she, provincial, had never been to the premiere in London, she was curious to the extreme. As luck would have it, Reginald’s rehearsal drags on until late in the evening, then he invites everyone to dinner at the restaurant, so he returns home at night. And with horror discovers that Sylvia is not. “My God! .. Probably,
They almost quarrel. They can not seriously quarrel, and not only because of English restraint, but because for them the external, London life is really a ghost, a fog, and, apart from their love, there is nothing in the world. And then comes the day of the premiere of Vjunka; The performance seems to be a success, but Reginald does not take much interest in it. He suddenly realizes that he is not in love with Coral Bell, and she is into him even more so. He realizes that he was fatally tired, and not from rehearsals, not from the theater, but from London. Spring has come: it’s time to return home.
In Westaway, they go out to meet three cats to the car. Daffodils, primulas and bells have already blossomed. Imaginary life behind, real life came back. Reginald ponders whether it’s time to have a baby, and decides it’s not time yet – he’s so marvelously alone with Sylvia… But for now, if he needs to create something, he can write a new play.
In the distant forest, the cuckoo’s voice is heard, Sylvia is beautiful, and Reginald is happy, loving her. They are both happy.