“She’s terribly afraid of death,” Francey said. “It’s awful to be so afraid. It must make life itself terrible.”
“They’ll operate soon as they dare—an exploratory operation. If only I could have a say—a real say! It’s maddening to know so much—to be sure of oneself. I don’t believe Rogers would take me out on his private work if he knew I knew all I do. I’m glad we’re on a surgical post together, Francey. I don’t know what I’d do if I hadn’t got you to talk things over with.”
“You daren’t talk of anything else,” she answered unexpectedly. “You’re frightened of our being happy together. You’re always trying to justify yourself.”
“I’m not—what rubbish!”
He tried to laugh at her. It was so like Francey to dash off down a side issue. And yet it was true. He did try to think as much as he could of that side of their common life. It did add an appearance of stability and reason to the splendid unreason of his loving her. It made up to him for those dismaying breaks when her face and body stood like a scorching pillar of fire between himself and his work, to find that when they were together they could be sternly practical, discuss their eases and criticize their superiors as though, beneath it all, there were not this golden, insurgent sea whose high tides swirled over his landmarks. Not destroying them.
In those latter times he loved her humbly, with wonder and passionate self-abasement. But in their work they stood further away from one another. He could criticize her, and that gave him a heady sense of power and freedom. He never forgot the year that she had deliberately thrown away. And even now, when she stood at the beginning of the road which he had already passed over, she seemed to him full of strange curiosities and wayward, purposeless interests. There were days when an ugly Chinese print, picked up in some back-street pawnshop, or the misfortunes of one of her raffish hangers-on, or some wild student rag, appeared to wipe out the vital business of life. She was known to be brilliant, but he distrusted her power of leaping to conclusions over the head of his own mathematical and exact reasoning. He distrusted still more her tendency to be right in the teeth of every sort of evidence to the contrary. It seemed that she took into her calculations factors that no one else found, significant, unprofessional straws in the wind, things she could not even explain.
And yet she understood when he talked about his work, and that alone was like a gift to him. No one else understood—for that matter, no one else had had to listen. He knew that Christine was too tired, and poor overburdened Cosgrave would only have gazed helplessly at him, wondering why this strong, self-sufficient friend should pour out such unintelligible stuff over his own aching head. So he had learnt to be silent. Even now it was difficult to begin. He stammered and was shy and distrustful and eager, sometimes crudely self-confident, like a child who has played alone too long.