John Derringham smiled. “Vivienne Durrend is a most charming woman,” he said. “She has taught me a number of things in the last two years. I am grateful to her. Next season she is bringing a daughter out—and she has a wonderful sense of the fitness of things.” Then he sipped his tea and got up and strolled towards the windows.
“Besides,” he continued, “I do not admit there are any ties to be contracted. The Greeks understood the place of women; all this nonsense of vows of fidelity and exaltation of sentiment in the home cramps a man’s ambitions. It is perfectly natural that he should take a wife if his position calls for it, because the society in which we move has made a figurehead of that kind necessary. But that a woman should expect a man to be faithful to her, be she wife or mistress, is contrary to all nature.”
“We have put nature out of the running now for a couple of thousand years,” Mr. Carlyon announced sententiously; “we have set up a standard of impossibilities and worship hypocrisy and can no longer see any truth. You have got to reckon with things as they are, not with what nature meant them to be.”
“Then you think women are a force now which one must consider?”
“I think they are as deadly as the deep sea—” and Mr. Carlyon’s voice was tense. “When they have only bodies they are dangerous enough, but when—as many of the modern ones have—they combine a modicum of mind as well, with all the cunning Satan originally endowed them with—then happy is the man who escapes, even partially whole, from their claws.”
“Whew—” whistled John Derringham, “and what if they have souls? Not that I personally admit that such a case exists—what then?”
“When you meet a woman with a soul you will have met your match, John,” the Professor said, and opening his Times, which Demetrius had brought in with the second post, he closed the conversation.
John Derringham strolled into the garden. The place had been greatly improved since Halcyone’s first discovery of its new occupant. The shutters were all a spruce green and the paths weeded and tidy, while the borders were full of bedded-out plants and flowers. A famous gardener from Upminster renowned through all the West had come over and given his personal attention to the matter, and next year wonderful herbaceous borders would spring up on all sides. Mr. Johnson’s visits and his council, though at first resented, had at length grown a source of pure delight to Halcyone; she reveled in the blooms of the delicate begonias and salvias and other blossoms which she had never seen before. Mr. Carlyon, although desiring solitude, appreciated a beautiful and cultivated one, and the orchard house was now becoming a very comfortable bachelor’s home.