It seems to myself, as if I had not laughed once since we set off!—yes —once I did, at the recollection of an old joke of Bobby’s, that we all thought very silly at the time, but that strikes me as irresistibly funny now that it recurs to me in the midst of strange scenes, and of jokeless foreigners.
After forty, people do not laugh at absolutely nothing. They may be very easily moved to mirth, as, indeed, to do him justice, Sir Roger is; but they do not laugh for the pure physical pleasure of grinning. The weight of the absolute tete-a-tete of a honey-moon, which has proved trying to a more violent love than mine, is oppressing me.
At home, if I grew tired of talking to one, I could talk to another. If I waxed weary of Bobby’s sea-tales, I might refresh myself with listening to the Brat’s braggings about Oxford—with Tou Tou’s murdered French lesson:
J’aime, I love.
Tu aimes, Thou lovest.
Il aime, He loves.
How many thousand years ago, the labored conjugation of that verb seems to me!
Now, if I do not converse with Sir Roger, I must remain silent. And, somehow, I cannot talk to him now as fluently as I used. Before—during our short previous acquaintance—where I used to pester the poor man with filial aspirations that he could not reciprocate, there seemed no end to the things I had to say to him. I felt as if I could have told him any thing. I bubbled over with silly jests.
It never occurred to me to think whether I pleased him or not; but now —now, the sense of my mental inferiority—of the gulf of years and inequalities that yawns between us—weighs like a lump of lead upon me.
I am in constant fear of falling below his estimate of me. Before I speak, I think whether what I am going to say will be worth saying, and, as very few of my remarks come up to this standard, I become extremely silent. Oh, if we could meet some one we knew—even if it were some one that we rather disliked than otherwise: some one that would laugh and have as few wits as I, and be young.
But it is too early in the year for many people to be yet abroad, and, so far, we have fallen upon no acquaintances. Once, indeed, at Antwerp, I see in the distance a man whose figure bears a striking resemblance to that of “Toothless Jack,” and my heart leaps—detestable as I have always thought Barbara’s aspirant; but on coming nearer the likeness disappears, and I relapse into depression.