She smiled teasingly. “Ah, poor Marko. I knew you’d simply hate it, my coming in like this. Does it seem terribly unconventional, improper, to you, shut up with me in your office?”
He shook his head. “It seems very nice. That’s all it seems. But it does bring into my mind that you’re the sort of person that doesn’t think tuppence about what’s usually done or what’s not usually done; and that reminded me of things I’ve thought about conventions. Look here, Nona, this really is rather interesting—”
“Yes,” she said. “Yes.”
Just so he used to bring ideas to her; just so, with “Yes—yes,” she used to receive them.
But he went on. “Why, convention, you know, it’s the most mysterious, extraordinary thing. It’s a code society has built up to protect itself and to govern itself, and when you go into it it’s the most marvellous code that ever was invented. All sorts of things that the law doesn’t give, and couldn’t give, our conventions shove in on us in the most amazing way. And all probably originated by a lot of Mother Grundy-ish old women, that’s what’s so extraordinary. You know, if all the greatest legal minds of all the ages had laid themselves out to make a social code they could never have got anywhere near the rules the people have built up for themselves. And that’s what I like, Nona—that’s what I think so interesting and the best thing in life: the things the people do for themselves without any State interference. That’s what I’d encourage all I knew how if I were a politician—”
He broke off. “I say, aren’t I the limit, gassing away like this? I hardly ever get off nowadays and when I do!—Why don’t you stop me?”
She made a little gesture deprecatory of his suggestion. “Because I like to hear you. I like to watch your funny old face when you’re on one of your ideas. It gets red underneath, Marko, and the red slowly comes up. Funny old face! Go on. I want to hear this because I’m going to disagree with you, I think. I think conventions, most of them, are odious, hateful, Marko. I hate them.”
He had been strangely affected by the words of her interruptions: a contraction in the throat,—a twitching about the eyes.... But he was able, and glad that he was able to catch eagerly at her opinion. “Yes, yes, I know, odious, hateful, and much more than that, cruel—conventions can be as cruel, as cruel as hell. I was just coming to that. But they’re all absolutely rightly based, Nona. That’s the baffling and the maddening part of them. That’s what interests me in them. In their application they’re often unutterably wrong, cruel, hideously cruel and unjust, but when you examine them, even at their cruellest, you can’t help seeing that fundamentally they’re absolutely right and reasonable and necessary. Look, take quite a silly example. There’s a convention against going to church in any but your best clothes. It’s easy to conceive wrongness in the application of it. It’s easy to conceive a person wanting to go to church and likely to benefit by going to church, but staying away because of feeling too shabby. But you can’t help seeing the rightness at the bottom of it—the idea of presenting yourself decently at worship, as before princes. That makes you laugh—”