The Sunlight Lay Across My Bed

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Olive Schreiner

Birds sang, turf came to the water-edge, and trees grew from it. Away off among the trees I saw beautiful women walking. Their clothes were of many delicate colours and clung to them, and they were tall and graceful and had yellow hair. Their robes trailed over the grass. They glided in and out among the trees, and over their heads hung yellow fruit like large pears of melted gold.

I said, “It is very fair; I would go up and taste the—”

God said, “Wait.”

And after a while I noticed a very fair woman pass: she looked this way and that, and drew down a branch, and it seemed she kissed the fruit upon it softly, and went on her way, and her dress made no rustle as she passed over the grass. And when I saw her no more, from among the stems came another woman fair as she had been, in a delicate tinted robe; she looked this way and that. When she saw no one there she drew down the fruit, and when she had looked over it to find a place, she put her mouth to it softly, and went away. And I saw other and other women come, making no noise, and they glided away also over the grass.

And I said to God, “What are they doing?”

God said, “They are poisoning.”

And I said, “How?”

God said, “They touch it with their lips, when they have made a tiny wound in it with their fore-teeth they set in it that which is under their tongues: they close it with their lip—that no man may see the place, and pass on.”

I said to God, “Why do they do it?”

God said, “That another may not eat.”

I said to God, “But if they poison all then none dare eat; what do they gain?”

God said, “Nothing.”

I said, “Are they not afraid they themselves may bite where another has bitten?”

God said, “They are afraid. In Hell all men fear.”

Title of volume of first printing
Roberts Brothers
Page numbers in original volume

Schreiner, Olive. Dreams. Author's ed., Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1892. HATHI TRUST,

Schreiner, Olive. "The Sunlight Lay Across My Bed." Dreams. Author's ed., Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1898. Victorian Women Writers Project,