But Hewet need not have increased his torments by imagining that Hirst wa_till talking to Rachel. The party very soon broke up, the Flushings going i_ne direction, Hirst in another, and Rachel remaining in the hall, pulling th_llustrated papers about, turning from one to another, her movement_xpressing the unformed restless desire in her mind. She did not know whethe_o go or to stay, though Mrs. Flushing had commanded her to appear at tea. Th_all was empty, save for Miss Willett who was playing scales with her finger_pon a sheet of sacred music, and the Carters, an opulent couple who dislike_he girl, because her shoe laces were untied, and she did not loo_ufficiently cheery, which by some indirect process of thought led them t_hink that she would not like them. Rachel certainly would not have like_hem, if she had seen them, for the excellent reason that Mr. Carter waxed hi_oustache, and Mrs. Carter wore bracelets, and they were evidently the kind o_eople who would not like her; but she was too much absorbed by her ow_estlessness to think or to look.
She was turning over the slippery pages of an American magazine, when the hal_oor swung, a wedge of light fell upon the floor, and a small white figur_pon whom the light seemed focussed, made straight across the room to her.
"What! You here?" Evelyn exclaimed. "Just caught a glimpse of you at lunch; but you wouldn't condescend to look at _me_."
It was part of Evelyn's character that in spite of many snubs which sh_eceived or imagined, she never gave up the pursuit of people she wanted t_now, and in the long run generally succeeded in knowing them and even i_aking them like her.
She looked round her. "I hate this place. I hate these people," she said. "_ish you'd come up to my room with me. I do want to talk to you."
As Rachel had no wish to go or to stay, Evelyn took her by the wrist and dre_er out of the hall and up the stairs. As they went upstairs two steps at _ime, Evelyn, who still kept hold of Rachel's hand, ejaculated broke_entences about not caring a hang what people said. "Why should one, if on_nows one's right? And let 'em all go to blazes! Them's my opinions!"
She was in a state of great excitement, and the muscles of her arms wer_witching nervously. It was evident that she was only waiting for the door t_hut to tell Rachel all about it. Indeed, directly they were inside her room, she sat on the end of the bed and said, "I suppose you think I'm mad?"
Rachel was not in the mood to think clearly about any one's state of mind. Sh_as however in the mood to say straight out whatever occurred to her withou_ear of the consequences.
"Somebody's proposed to you," she remarked.
"How on earth did you guess that?" Evelyn exclaimed, some pleasure minglin_ith her surprise. "Do as I look as if I'd just had a proposal?"
"You look as if you had them every day," Rachel replied.
"But I don't suppose I've had more than you've had," Evelyn laughed rathe_nsincerely.
"I've never had one."
"But you will—lots—it's the easiest thing in the world—But that's not what'_appened this afternoon exactly. It's—Oh, it's a muddle, a detestable, horrible, disgusting muddle!"
She went to the wash-stand and began sponging her cheeks with cold water; fo_hey were burning hot. Still sponging them and trembling slightly she turne_nd explained in the high pitched voice of nervous excitement: "Alfred Perrot_ays I've promised to marry him, and I say I never did. Sinclair says he'l_hoot himself if I don't marry him, and I say, 'Well, shoot yourself!' But o_ourse he doesn't—they never do. And Sinclair got hold of me this afternoo_nd began bothering me to give an answer, and accusing me of flirting wit_lfred Perrott, and told me I'd no heart, and was merely a Siren, oh, an_uantities of pleasant things like that. So at last I said to him, 'Well, Sinclair, you've said enough now. You can just let me go.' And then he caugh_e and kissed me—the disgusting brute—I can still feel his nasty hairy fac_ust there—as if he'd any right to, after what he'd said!"
She sponged a spot on her left cheek energetically.
"I've never met a man that was fit to compare with a woman!" she cried;
"they've no dignity, they've no courage, they've nothing but their beastl_assions and their brute strength! Would any woman have behaved like that—if _an had said he didn't want her? We've too much self-respect; we're infinitel_iner than they are."
She walked about the room, dabbing her wet cheeks with a towel. Tears were no_unning down with the drops of cold water.
"It makes me angry," she explained, drying her eyes.
Rachel sat watching her. She did not think of Evelyn's position; she onl_hought that the world was full or people in torment.
"There's only one man here I really like," Evelyn continued; "Terence Hewet.
One feels as if one could trust him."
At these words Rachel suffered an indescribable chill; her heart seemed to b_ressed together by cold hands.
"Why?" she asked. "Why can you trust him?"
"I don't know," said Evelyn. "Don't you have feelings about people? Feeling_ou're absolutely certain are right? I had a long talk with Terence the othe_ight. I felt we were really friends after that. There's something of a woma_n him—" She paused as though she were thinking of very intimate things tha_erence had told her, so at least Rachel interpreted her gaze.
She tried to force herself to say, "Has to be proposed to you?" but th_uestion was too tremendous, and in another moment Evelyn was saying that th_inest men were like women, and women were nobler than men—for example, on_ouldn't imagine a woman like Lillah Harrison thinking a mean thing or havin_nything base about her.
"How I'd like you to know her!" she exclaimed.
She was becoming much calmer, and her cheeks were now quite dry. Her eyes ha_egained their usual expression of keen vitality, and she seemed to hav_orgotten Alfred and Sinclair and her emotion. "Lillah runs a home fo_nebriate women in the Deptford Road," she continued. "She started it, manage_t, did everything off her own bat, and it's now the biggest of its kind i_ngland. You can't think what those women are like—and their homes. But sh_oes among them at all hours of the day and night. I've often been with her… .
That's what's the matter with us… . We don't _do_ things. What do yo_do_?" she demanded, looking at Rachel with a slightly ironical smile. Rache_ad scarcely listened to any of this, and her expression was vacant an_nhappy. She had conceived an equal dislike for Lillah Harrison and her wor_n the Deptford Road, and for Evelyn M. and her profusion of love affairs.
"I play," she said with an affection of stolid composure.
"That's about it!" Evelyn laughed. "We none of us do anything but play. An_hat's why women like Lillah Harrison, who's worth twenty of you and me, hav_o work themselves to the bone. But I'm tired of playing," she went on, lyin_lat on the bed, and raising her arms above her head. Thus stretched out, sh_ooked more diminutive than ever.
"I'm going to do something. I've got a splendid idea. Look here, you mus_oin. I'm sure you've got any amount of stuff in you, though you look—well, a_f you'd lived all your life in a garden." She sat up, and began to explai_ith animation. "I belong to a club in London. It meets every Saturday, s_t's called the Saturday Club. We're supposed to talk about art, but I'm sic_f talking about art—what's the good of it? With all kinds of real thing_oing on round one? It isn't as if they'd got anything to say about art, either. So what I'm going to tell 'em is that we've talked enough about art, and we'd better talk about life for a change. Questions that really matter t_eople's lives, the White Slave Traffic, Women Suffrage, the Insurance Bill, and so on. And when we've made up our mind what we want to do we could for_urselves into a society for doing it… . I'm certain that if people lik_urselves were to take things in hand instead of leaving it to policemen an_agistrates, we could put a stop to—prostitution"—she lowered her voice at th_gly word—"in six months. My idea is that men and women ought to join in thes_atters. We ought to go into Piccadilly and stop one of these poor wretche_nd say: 'Now, look here, I'm no better than you are, and I don't pretend t_e any better, but you're doing what you know to be beastly, and I won't hav_ou doing beastly things, because we're all the same under our skins, and i_ou do a beastly thing it does matter to me.' That's what Mr. Bax was sayin_his morning, and it's true, though you clever people—you're clever too, aren't you?—don't believe it."
When Evelyn began talking—it was a fact she often regretted—her thoughts cam_o quickly that she never had any time to listen to other people's thoughts.
She continued without more pause than was needed for taking breath.
"I don't see why the Saturday club people shouldn't do a really great work i_hat way," she went on. "Of course it would want organisation, some one t_ive their life to it, but I'm ready to do that. My notion's to think of th_uman beings first and let the abstract ideas take care of themselves. What'_rong with Lillah—if there is anything wrong—is that she thinks of Temperanc_irst and the women afterwards. Now there's one thing I'll say to my credit,"
she continued; "I'm not intellectual or artistic or anything of that sort, bu_'m jolly human." She slipped off the bed and sat on the floor, looking up a_achel. She searched up into her face as if she were trying to read what kin_f character was concealed behind the face. She put her hand on Rachel's knee.
"It _is_ being human that counts, isn't it?" she continued. "Being real, whatever Mr. Hirst may say. Are you real?"
Rachel felt much as Terence had felt that Evelyn was too close to her, an_hat there was something exciting in this closeness, although it was als_isagreeable. She was spared the need of finding an answer to the question, for Evelyn proceeded, "Do you _believe_ in anything?"
In order to put an end to the scrutiny of these bright blue eyes, and t_elieve her own physical restlessness, Rachel pushed back her chair an_xclaimed, "In everything!" and began to finger different objects, the book_n the table, the photographs, the freshly leaved plant with the stif_ristles, which stood in a large earthenware pot in the window.
"I believe in the bed, in the photographs, in the pot, in the balcony, in th_un, in Mrs. Flushing," she remarked, still speaking recklessly, wit_omething at the back of her mind forcing her to say the things that on_sually does not say. "But I don't believe in God, I don't believe in Mr. Bax, I don't believe in the hospital nurse. I don't believe—" She took up _hotograph and, looking at it, did not finish her sentence.
"That's my mother," said Evelyn, who remained sitting on the floor binding he_nees together with her arms, and watching Rachel curiously.
Rachel considered the portrait. "Well, I don't much believe in her," sh_emarked after a time in a low tone of voice.
Mrs. Murgatroyd looked indeed as if the life had been crushed out of her; sh_nelt on a chair, gazing piteously from behind the body of a Pomeranian do_hich she clasped to her cheek, as if for protection.
"And that's my dad," said Evelyn, for there were two photographs in one frame.
The second photograph represented a handsome soldier with high regula_eatures and a heavy black moustache; his hand rested on the hilt of hi_word; there was a decided likeness between him and Evelyn.
"And it's because of them," said Evelyn, "that I'm going to help the othe_omen. You've heard about me, I suppose? They weren't married, you see; I'_ot anybody in particular. I'm not a bit ashamed of it. They loved each othe_nyhow, and that's more than most people can say of their parents."
Rachel sat down on the bed, with the two pictures in her hands, and compare_hem—the man and the woman who had, so Evelyn said, loved each other. Tha_act interested her more than the campaign on behalf of unfortunate wome_hich Evelyn was once more beginning to describe. She looked again from one t_he other.
"What d'you think it's like," she asked, as Evelyn paused for a minute, "bein_n love?"
"Have you never been in love?" Evelyn asked. "Oh no—one's only got to look a_ou to see that," she added. She considered. "I really was in love once," sh_aid. She fell into reflection, her eyes losing their bright vitality an_pproaching something like an expression of tenderness. "It wa_eavenly!—while it lasted. The worst of it is it don't last, not with me.
That's the bother."
She went on to consider the difficulty with Alfred and Sinclair about whic_he had pretended to ask Rachel's advice. But she did not want advice; sh_anted intimacy. When she looked at Rachel, who was still looking at th_hotographs on the bed, she could not help seeing that Rachel was not thinkin_bout her. What was she thinking about, then? Evelyn was tormented by th_ittle spark of life in her which was always trying to work through to othe_eople, and was always being rebuffed. Falling silent she looked at he_isitor, her shoes, her stockings, the combs in her hair, all the details o_er dress in short, as though by seizing every detail she might get closer t_he life within.
Rachel at last put down the photographs, walked to the window and remarked,
"It's odd. People talk as much about love as they do about religion."
"I wish you'd sit down and talk," said Evelyn impatiently.
Instead Rachel opened the window, which was made in two long panes, and looke_own into the garden below.
"That's where we got lost the first night," she said. "It must have been i_hose bushes."
"They kill hens down there," said Evelyn. "They cut their heads off with _nife—disgusting! But tell me—what—"
"I'd like to explore the hotel," Rachel interrupted. She drew her head in an_ooked at Evelyn, who still sat on the floor.
"It's just like other hotels," said Evelyn.
That might be, although every room and passage and chair in the place had _haracter of its own in Rachel's eyes; but she could not bring herself to sta_n one place any longer. She moved slowly towards the door.
"What is it you want?" said Evelyn. "You make me feel as if you were alway_hinking of something you don't say… . Do say it!"
But Rachel made no response to this invitation either. She stopped with he_ingers on the handle of the door, as if she remembered that some sort o_ronouncement was due from her.
"I suppose you'll marry one of them," she said, and then turned the handle an_hut the door behind her. She walked slowly down the passage, running her han_long the wall beside her. She did not think which way she was going, an_herefore walked down a passage which only led to a window and a balcony. Sh_ooked down at the kitchen premises, the wrong side of the hotel life, whic_as cut off from the right side by a maze of small bushes. The ground wa_are, old tins were scattered about, and the bushes wore towels and apron_pon their heads to dry. Every now and then a waiter came out in a white apro_nd threw rubbish on to a heap. Two large women in cotton dresses were sittin_n a bench with blood-smeared tin trays in front of them and yellow bodie_cross their knees. They were plucking the birds, and talking as they plucked.
Suddenly a chicken came floundering, half flying, half running into the space, pursued by a third woman whose age could hardly be under eighty. Althoug_izened and unsteady on her legs she kept up the chase, egged on by th_aughter of the others; her face was expressive of furious rage, and as sh_an she swore in Spanish. Frightened by hand-clapping here, a napkin there, the bird ran this way and that in sharp angles, and finally fluttered straigh_t the old woman, who opened her scanty grey skirts to enclose it, droppe_pon it in a bundle, and then holding it out cut its head off with a_xpression of vindictive energy and triumph combined. The blood and the ugl_riggling fascinated Rachel, so that although she knew that some one had com_p behind and was standing beside her, she did not turn round until the ol_oman had settled down on the bench beside the others. Then she looked u_harply, because of the ugliness of what she had seen. It was Miss Allan wh_tood beside her.
"Not a pretty sight," said Miss Allan, "although I daresay it's really mor_umane than our method… . I don't believe you've ever been in my room," sh_dded, and turned away as if she meant Rachel to follow her. Rachel followed, for it seemed possible that each new person might remove the mystery whic_urdened her.
The bedrooms at the hotel were all on the same pattern, save that some wer_arger and some smaller; they had a floor of dark red tiles; they had a hig_ed, draped in mosquito curtains; they had each a writing-table and _ressing-table, and a couple of arm-chairs. But directly a box was unpacke_he rooms became very different, so that Miss Allan's room was very unlik_velyn's room. There were no variously coloured hatpins on her dressing-table; no scent-bottles; no narrow curved pairs of scissors; no great variety o_hoes and boots; no silk petticoats lying on the chairs. The room wa_xtremely neat. There seemed to be two pairs of everything. The writing-table, however, was piled with manuscript, and a table was drawn out to stand by th_rm-chair on which were two separate heaps of dark library books, in whic_here were many slips of paper sticking out at different degrees of thickness.
Miss Allan had asked Rachel to come in out of kindness, thinking that she wa_aiting about with nothing to do. Moreover, she liked young women, for she ha_aught many of them, and having received so much hospitality from the Ambrose_he was glad to be able to repay a minute part of it. She looked abou_ccordingly for something to show her. The room did not provide muc_ntertainment. She touched her manuscript. "Age of Chaucer; Age of Elizabeth; Age of Dryden," she reflected; "I'm glad there aren't many more ages. I'_till in the middle of the eighteenth century. Won't you sit down, Mis_inrace? The chair, though small, is firm… . Euphues. The germ of the Englis_ovel," she continued, glancing at another page. "Is that the kind of thin_hat interests you?"
She looked at Rachel with great kindness and simplicity, as though she woul_o her utmost to provide anything she wished to have. This expression had _emarkable charm in a face otherwise much lined with care and thought.
"Oh no, it's music with you, isn't it?" she continued, recollecting, "and _enerally find that they don't go together. Sometimes of course we hav_rodigies—" She was looking about her for something and now saw a jar on th_antelpiece which she reached down and gave to Rachel. "If you put your finge_nto this jar you may be able to extract a piece of preserved ginger. Are yo_ prodigy?"
But the ginger was deep and could not be reached.
"Don't bother," she said, as Miss Allan looked about for some other implement.
"I daresay I shouldn't like preserved ginger."
"You've never tried?" enquired Miss Allan. "Then I consider that it is you_uty to try now. Why, you may add a new pleasure to life, and as you are stil_oung—" She wondered whether a button-hook would do. "I make it a rule to tr_verything," she said. "Don't you think it would be very annoying if yo_asted ginger for the first time on your death-bed, and found you never like_nything so much? I should be so exceedingly annoyed that I think I should ge_ell on that account alone."
She was now successful, and a lump of ginger emerged on the end of the button- hook. While she went to wipe the button-hook, Rachel bit the ginger and a_nce cried, "I must spit it out!"
"Are you sure you have really tasted it?" Miss Allan demanded.
For answer Rachel threw it out of the window.
"An experience anyhow," said Miss Allan calmly. "Let me see—I have nothin_lse to offer you, unless you would like to taste this." A small cupboard hun_bove her bed, and she took out of it a slim elegant jar filled with a brigh_reen fluid.
"Creme de Menthe," she said. "Liqueur, you know. It looks as if I drank, doesn't it? As a matter of fact it goes to prove what an exceptionall_bstemious person I am. I've had that jar for six-and-twenty years," sh_dded, looking at it with pride, as she tipped it over, and from the height o_he liquid it could be seen that the bottle was still untouched.
"Twenty-six years?" Rachel exclaimed.
Miss Allan was gratified, for she had meant Rachel to be surprised.
"When I went to Dresden six-and-twenty years ago," she said, "a certain frien_f mine announced her intention of making me a present. She thought that i_he event of shipwreck or accident a stimulant might be useful. However, as _ad no occasion for it, I gave it back on my return. On the eve of any foreig_ourney the same bottle always makes its appearance, with the same note; on m_eturn in safety it is always handed back. I consider it a kind of char_gainst accidents. Though I was once detained twenty-four hours by an acciden_o the train in front of me, I have never met with any accident myself. Yes,"
she continued, now addressing the bottle, "we have seen many climes an_upboards together, have we not? I intend one of these days to have a silve_abel made with an inscription. It is a gentleman, as you may observe, and hi_ame is Oliver… . I do not think I could forgive you, Miss Vinrace, if yo_roke my Oliver," she said, firmly taking the bottle out of Rachel's hands an_eplacing it in the cupboard.
Rachel was swinging the bottle by the neck. She was interested by Miss Alla_o the point of forgetting the bottle.
"Well," she exclaimed, "I do think that odd; to have had a friend for twenty- six years, and a bottle, and—to have made all those journeys."
"Not at all; I call it the reverse of odd," Miss Allan replied. "I alway_onsider myself the most ordinary person I know. It's rather distinguished t_e as ordinary as I am. I forget—are you a prodigy, or did you say you wer_ot a prodigy?"
She smiled at Rachel very kindly. She seemed to have known and experienced s_uch, as she moved cumbrously about the room, that surely there must be bal_or all anguish in her words, could one induce her to have recourse to them.
But Miss Allan, who was now locking the cupboard door, showed no signs o_reaking the reticence which had snowed her under for years. An uncomfortabl_ensation kept Rachel silent; on the one hand, she wished to whirl high an_trike a spark out of the cool pink flesh; on the other she perceived ther_as nothing to be done but to drift past each other in silence.
"I'm not a prodigy. I find it very difficult to say what I mean—" she observe_t length.
"It's a matter of temperament, I believe," Miss Allan helped her. "There ar_ome people who have no difficulty; for myself I find there are a great man_hings I simply cannot say. But then I consider myself very slow. One of m_olleagues now, knows whether she likes you or not—let me see, how does she d_t?—by the way you say good-morning at breakfast. It is sometimes a matter o_ears before I can make up my mind. But most young people seem to find i_asy?"
"Oh no," said Rachel. "It's hard!"
Miss Allan looked at Rachel quietly, saying nothing; she suspected that ther_ere difficulties of some kind. Then she put her hand to the back of her head, and discovered that one of the grey coils of hair had come loose.
"I must ask you to be so kind as to excuse me," she said, rising, "if I do m_air. I have never yet found a satisfactory type of hairpin. I must change m_ress, too, for the matter of that; and I should be particularly glad of you_ssistance, because there is a tiresome set of hooks which I _can_ faste_or myself, but it takes from ten to fifteen minutes; whereas with your help—"
She slipped off her coat and skirt and blouse, and stood doing her hair befor_he glass, a massive homely figure, her petticoat being so short that sh_tood on a pair of thick slate-grey legs.
"People say youth is pleasant; I myself find middle age far pleasanter," sh_emarked, removing hair pins and combs, and taking up her brush. When it fel_oose her hair only came down to her neck.
"When one was young," she continued, "things could seem so very serious if on_as made that way… . And now my dress."
In a wonderfully short space of time her hair had been reformed in its usua_oops. The upper half of her body now became dark green with black stripes o_t; the skirt, however, needed hooking at various angles, and Rachel had t_neel on the floor, fitting the eyes to the hooks.
"Our Miss Johnson used to find life very unsatisfactory, I remember," Mis_llan continued. She turned her back to the light. "And then she took t_reeding guinea-pigs for their spots, and became absorbed in that. I have jus_eard that the yellow guinea-pig has had a black baby. We had a bet o_ixpence on about it. She will be very triumphant."
The skirt was fastened. She looked at herself in the glass with the curiou_tiffening of her face generally caused by looking in the glass.
"Am I in a fit state to encounter my fellow-beings?" she asked. "I forge_hich way it is—but they find black animals very rarely have coloure_abies—it may be the other way round. I have had it so often explained to m_hat it is very stupid of me to have forgotten again."
She moved about the room acquiring small objects with quiet force, and fixin_hem about her—a locket, a watch and chain, a heavy gold bracelet, and th_arti-coloured button of a suffrage society. Finally, completely equipped fo_unday tea, she stood before Rachel, and smiled at her kindly. She was not a_mpulsive woman, and her life had schooled her to restrain her tongue. At th_ame time, she was possessed of an amount of good-will towards others, and i_articular towards the young, which often made her regret that speech was s_ifficult.
"Shall we descend?" she said.
She put one hand upon Rachel's shoulder, and stooping, picked up a pair o_alking-shoes with the other, and placed them neatly side by side outside he_oor. As they walked down the passage they passed many pairs of boots an_hoes, some black and some brown, all side by side, and all different, even t_he way in which they lay together.
"I always think that people are so like their boots," said Miss Allan. "Tha_s Mrs. Paley's—" but as she spoke the door opened, and Mrs. Paley rolled ou_n her chair, equipped also for tea.
She greeted Miss Allan and Rachel.
"I was just saying that people are so like their boots," said Miss Allan. Mrs.
Paley did not hear. She repeated it more loudly still. Mrs. Paley did no_ear. She repeated it a third time. Mrs. Paley heard, but she did no_nderstand. She was apparently about to repeat it for the fourth time, whe_achel suddenly said something inarticulate, and disappeared down th_orridor. This misunderstanding, which involved a complete block in th_assage, seemed to her unbearable. She walked quickly and blindly in th_pposite direction, and found herself at the end of a _cul_ _de_ _sac_.
There was a window, and a table and a chair in the window, and upon the tabl_tood a rusty inkstand, an ashtray, an old copy of a French newspaper, and _en with a broken nib. Rachel sat down, as if to study the French newspaper, but a tear fell on the blurred French print, raising a soft blot. She lifte_er head sharply, exclaiming aloud, "It's intolerable!" Looking out of th_indow with eyes that would have seen nothing even had they not been dazed b_ears, she indulged herself at last in violent abuse of the entire day. It ha_een miserable from start to finish; first, the service in the chapel; the_uncheon; then Evelyn; then Miss Allan; then old Mrs. Paley blocking up th_assage. All day long she had been tantalized and put off. She had now reache_ne of those eminences, the result of some crisis, from which the world i_inally displayed in its true proportions. She disliked the look of i_mmensely—churches, politicians, misfits, and huge impostures—men like Mr.
Dalloway, men like Mr. Bax, Evelyn and her chatter, Mrs. Paley blocking up th_assage. Meanwhile the steady beat of her own pulse represented the ho_urrent of feeling that ran down beneath; beating, struggling, fretting. Fo_he time, her own body was the source of all the life in the world, whic_ried to burst forth here—there—and was repressed now by Mr. Bax, now b_velyn, now by the imposition of ponderous stupidity, the weight of the entir_orld. Thus tormented, she would twist her hands together, for all things wer_rong, all people stupid. Vaguely seeing that there were people down in th_arden beneath she represented them as aimless masses of matter, floatin_ither and thither, without aim except to impede her. What were they doing, those other people in the world?
"Nobody knows," she said. The force of her rage was beginning to spend itself, and the vision of the world which had been so vivid became dim.
"It's a dream," she murmured. She considered the rusty inkstand, the pen, th_sh-tray, and the old French newspaper. These small and worthless object_eemed to her to represent human lives.
"We're asleep and dreaming," she repeated. But the possibility which no_uggested itself that one of the shapes might be the shape of Terence rouse_er from her melancholy lethargy. She became as restless as she had bee_efore she sat down. She was no longer able to see the world as a town lai_ut beneath her. It was covered instead by a haze of feverish red mist. Sh_ad returned to the state in which she had been all day. Thinking was n_scape. Physical movement was the only refuge, in and out of rooms, in and ou_f people's minds, seeking she knew not what. Therefore she rose, pushed bac_he table, and went downstairs. She went out of the hall door, and, turnin_he corner of the hotel, found herself among the people whom she had seen fro_he window. But owing to the broad sunshine after shaded passages, and to th_ubstance of living people after dreams, the group appeared with startlin_ntensity, as though the dusty surface had been peeled off everything, leavin_nly the reality and the instant. It had the look of a vision printed on th_ark at night. White and grey and purple figures were scattered on the green, round wicker tables, in the middle the flame of the tea-urn made the air wave_ike a faulty sheet of glass, a massive green tree stood over them as if i_ere a moving force held at rest. As she approached, she could hear Evelyn'_oice repeating monotonously, "Here then—here—good doggie, come here"; for _oment nothing seemed to happen; it all stood still, and then she realise_hat one of the figures was Helen Ambrose; and the dust again began to settle.
The group indeed had come together in a miscellaneous way; one tea-tabl_oining to another tea-table, and deck-chairs serving to connect two groups.
But even at a distance it could be seen that Mrs. Flushing, upright an_mperious, dominated the party. She was talking vehemently to Helen across th_able.
"Ten days under canvas," she was saying. "No comforts. If you want comforts, don't come. But I may tell you, if you don't come you'll regret it all you_ife. You say yes?"
At this moment Mrs. Flushing caught sight of Rachel.
"Ah, there's your niece. She's promised. You're coming, aren't you?" Havin_dopted the plan, she pursued it with the energy of a child.
Rachel took her part with eagerness.
"Of course I'm coming. So are you, Helen. And Mr. Pepper too." As she sat sh_ealised that she was surrounded by people she knew, but that Terence was no_mong them. From various angles people began saying what they thought of th_roposed expedition. According to some it would be hot, but the nights woul_e cold; according to others, the difficulties would lie rather in getting _oat, and in speaking the language. Mrs. Flushing disposed of all objections, whether due to man or due to nature, by announcing that her husband woul_ettle all that.
Meanwhile Mr. Flushing quietly explained to Helen that the expedition wa_eally a simple matter; it took five days at the outside; and the place—_ative village—was certainly well worth seeing before she returned to England.
Helen murmured ambiguously, and did not commit herself to one answer rathe_han to another.
The tea-party, however, included too many different kinds of people fo_eneral conversation to flourish; and from Rachel's point of view possesse_he great advantage that it was quite unnecessary for her to talk. Over ther_usan and Arthur were explaining to Mrs. Paley that an expedition had bee_roposed; and Mrs. Paley having grasped the fact, gave the advice of an ol_raveller that they should take nice canned vegetables, fur cloaks, and insec_owder. She leant over to Mrs. Flushing and whispered something which from th_winkle in her eyes probably had reference to bugs. Then Helen was reciting
"Toll for the Brave" to St. John Hirst, in order apparently to win a sixpenc_hich lay upon the table; while Mr. Hughling Elliot imposed silence upon hi_ection of the audience by his fascinating anecdote of Lord Curzon and th_ndergraduate's bicycle. Mrs. Thornbury was trying to remember the name of _an who might have been another Garibaldi, and had written a book which the_ught to read; and Mr. Thornbury recollected that he had a pair of binocular_t anybody's service. Miss Allan meanwhile murmured with the curious intimac_hich a spinster often achieves with dogs, to the fox-terrier which Evelyn ha_t last induced to come over to them. Little particles of dust or blossom fel_n the plates now and then when the branches sighed above. Rachel seemed t_ee and hear a little of everything, much as a river feels the twigs that fal_nto it and sees the sky above, but her eyes were too vague for Evelyn'_iking. She came across, and sat on the ground at Rachel's feet.
"Well?" she asked suddenly. "What are you thinking about?"
"Miss Warrington," Rachel replied rashly, because she had to say something.
She did indeed see Susan murmuring to Mrs. Elliot, while Arthur stared at he_ith complete confidence in his own love. Both Rachel and Evelyn then began t_isten to what Susan was saying.
"There's the ordering and the dogs and the garden, and the children coming t_e taught," her voice proceeded rhythmically as if checking the list, "and m_ennis, and the village, and letters to write for father, and a thousan_ittle things that don't sound much; but I never have a moment to myself, an_hen I got to bed, I'm so sleepy I'm off before my head touches the pillow.
Besides I like to be a great deal with my Aunts—I'm a great bore, aren't I, Aunt Emma?" (she smiled at old Mrs. Paley, who with head slightly drooped wa_egarding the cake with speculative affection), "and father has to be ver_areful about chills in winter which means a great deal of running about, because he won't look after himself, any more than you will, Arthur! So it al_ounts up!"
Her voice mounted too, in a mild ecstasy of satisfaction with her life and he_wn nature. Rachel suddenly took a violent dislike to Susan, ignoring all tha_as kindly, modest, and even pathetic about her. She appeared insincere an_ruel; she saw her grown stout and prolific, the kind blue eyes now shallo_nd watery, the bloom of the cheeks congealed to a network of dry red canals.
Helen turned to her. "Did you go to church?" she asked. She had won he_ixpence and seemed making ready to go.
"Yes," said Rachel. "For the last time," she added.
In preparing to put on her gloves, Helen dropped one.
"You're not going?" Evelyn asked, taking hold of one glove as if to keep them.
"It's high time we went," said Helen. "Don't you see how silent every one'_etting—?"
A silence had fallen upon them all, caused partly by one of the accidents o_alk, and partly because they saw some one approaching. Helen could not se_ho it was, but keeping her eyes fixed upon Rachel observed something whic_ade her say to herself, "So it's Hewet." She drew on her gloves with _urious sense of the significance of the moment. Then she rose, for Mrs.
Flushing had seen Hewet too, and was demanding information about rivers an_oats which showed that the whole conversation would now come over again.
Rachel followed her, and they walked in silence down the avenue. In spite o_hat Helen had seen and understood, the feeling that was uppermost in her min_as now curiously perverse; if she went on this expedition, she would not b_ble to have a bath, the effort appeared to her to be great and disagreeable.
"It's so unpleasant, being cooped up with people one hardly knows," sh_emarked. "People who mind being seen naked."
"You don't mean to go?" Rachel asked.
The intensity with which this was spoken irritated Mrs. Ambrose.
"I don't mean to go, and I don't mean not to go," she replied. She became mor_nd more casual and indifferent.
"After all, I daresay we've seen all there is to be seen; and there's th_other of getting there, and whatever they may say it's bound to be vilel_ncomfortable."
For some time Rachel made no reply; but every sentence Helen spoke increase_er bitterness. At last she broke out—
"Thank God, Helen, I'm not like you! I sometimes think you don't think or fee_r care to do anything but exist! You're like Mr. Hirst. You see that thing_re bad, and you pride yourself on saying so. It's what you call being honest; as a matter of fact it's being lazy, being dull, being nothing. You don'_elp; you put an end to things."
Helen smiled as if she rather enjoyed the attack.
"Well?" she enquired.
"It seems to me bad—that's all," Rachel replied.
"Quite likely," said Helen.
At any other time Rachel would probably have been silenced by her Aunt'_andour; but this afternoon she was not in the mood to be silenced by any one.
A quarrel would be welcome.
"You're only half alive," she continued.
"Is that because I didn't accept Mr. Flushing's invitation?" Helen asked, "o_o you always think that?"
At the moment it appeared to Rachel that she had always seen the same fault_n Helen, from the very first night on board the _Euphrosyne_ , in spite o_er beauty, in spite of her magnanimity and their love.
"Oh, it's only what's the matter with every one!" she exclaimed. "No on_eels—no one does anything but hurt. I tell you, Helen, the world's bad. It'_n agony, living, wanting—"
Here she tore a handful of leaves from a bush and crushed them to contro_erself.
"The lives of these people," she tried to explain, the aimlessness, the wa_hey live. "One goes from one to another, and it's all the same. One neve_ets what one wants out of any of them."
Her emotional state and her confusion would have made her an easy prey i_elen had wished to argue or had wished to draw confidences. But instead o_alking she fell into a profound silence as they walked on. Aimless, trivial, meaningless, oh no—what she had seen at tea made it impossible for her t_elieve that. The little jokes, the chatter, the inanities of the afternoo_ad shrivelled up before her eyes. Underneath the likings and spites, th_omings together and partings, great things were happening—terrible things, because they were so great. Her sense of safety was shaken, as if beneat_wigs and dead leaves she had seen the movement of a snake. It seemed to he_hat a moment's respite was allowed, a moment's make-believe, and then agai_he profound and reasonless law asserted itself, moulding them all to it_iking, making and destroying.
She looked at Rachel walking beside her, still crushing the leaves in he_ingers and absorbed in her own thoughts. She was in love, and she pitied he_rofoundly. But she roused herself from these thoughts and apologised. "I'_ery sorry," she said, "but if I'm dull, it's my nature, and it can't b_elped." If it was a natural defect, however, she found an easy remedy, fo_he went on to say that she thought Mr. Flushing's scheme a very good one, only needing a little consideration, which it appeared she had given it by th_ime they reached home. By that time they had settled that if anything mor_as said, they would accept the invitation.