He did not answer.
They were at dinner. She made an elaborate business of reaching for the salt. “If you ask me, it’s because you don’t think they’re good enough for you.”
He thought, “That’s to rouse me. I’m dashed if I’m going to be roused.” He thought, “It’s getting the devil, this. There’s never a subject we start but we work up to something like this. We work on one another like acid on acid. In a minute she’ll have another go at it, and then I shall fly off, and then there we’ll be. It’s my fault. She doesn’t think out these things like I do. She just says what comes into her head, whereas I know perfectly well where we’re driving to, so I’m really responsible. I rile her. I either rile her by saying something in trying not to fly off, or else I let myself go, and off I fly, and we’re at it. Acid on acid. It’s getting the devil, this. But I’m dashed if I’ll fly off. It’s up to me.”
He tried in his mind for some matter that would change the subject. Extraordinary how hard it was to find a new topic when some other infernal thing hung in the air. It was like, in a nightmare, trying with leaden limbs to crawl away from danger.
And then she began:
She resumed precisely at the point where she had left off. While his mind had journeyed in review all around and about the relations between them, her mind had remained cumbrously at the thought of her last words. There, he told himself, was the whole difference between them. He was intellectually infinitely more agile (he did not put it higher than that) than she. She could not get away from things as he could. They remained in her mind and rankled there. To get impatient with her, to proceed from impatience to loss of temper, was flatly as cruel as to permit impatience and anger with one bedridden and therefore unable to join in robust exercises. He thought, “I’ll not do it.”
She said, actually repeating her last words, “Yes, if you ask me, it’s because you don’t think they’re good enough for you. As it happens, there’re all sorts of particularly nice men up there, only you never take the trouble to know them. And clever—the only thing you pretend to judge by; though what you can find clever in Mr. Fargus or those Perches goodness only knows. There’re all sorts of Societies and Circles and Meetings up there that I should have thought were just what would have attracted you. But, no. You prefer that pottering Mr. Fargus with his childish riddles and even that young Perch without spirit enough to go half a yard without that everlasting old mother of his—”
It was longer and fiercer than he had expected. He intercepted. “I say, Mabel, what’s the point of all this, exactly?”
“The point is that it makes it rather hard for me, the way you go on. I’ve made many, many friends up at the Garden Home. Do you suppose it doesn’t seem funny to them that my husband is never to be seen, never comes near the place, never meets their husbands? Of course they must think it funny. I know I feel it very awkward.”