“No, you must look at me,” he said.
She very slowly turned her body towards him. He thought her most beautiful and the expression of her beautiful face was most terrible to him in all his emotions.
She spoke very slowly; almost with a perceptible pause between each word. She said, “Well, I’ll tell you. I said ‘flotsam’, didn’t I? If I explain that—you know what flotsam is, Marko. Have you ever looked it up in the dictionary? The dictionary says it terribly. ’Goods shipwrecked and found floating on the sea.’ I’m twenty-eight, Marko. I suppose that’s not really very old. It seems a terrible age to me. You see, you judge age by what you are in contrast with what you were. If you’re very happy I think it can’t matter how old you are. If you look back to when you were happy and then come to the now when you’re not, it seems a most terrible and tremendous gulf—and you see yourself just floating—drifting farther and farther away from the happy years and just being taken along, taken along, to God knows where, God knows to what.” She put out the palms of her hands towards where misty evening banked sombrely across the park. “That’s very frightening, Marko.”
The live thing ran beneath the leaves banked at their feet. A stronger gust came in the air. A scattering of leaves clustered together and moved with sudden agitation across the sward before them; paused and seemed to be trying to flutter a hold into the ground; rushed aimlessly at a tangent to their former direction; paused again; and again seemed to be holding on. Before a sudden gust they were spun helplessly upward, sported aloft in mazy arabesques, scattered upon the breeze.
“Those leaves!” she said. And as if she had not made the interjection she went on, “Most awfully frightening. Well, all the time there was you, Marko. You were always different from anybody I ever knew. Long ago I used to chaff you because you were so different. In those two years when we were away it got awful. In those two years I knew I was flotsam. One day—in India—I went and looked at it in the little dictionary in my writing case, and I knew I was. Do you know what I did? I crossed out flotsam in the dictionary and wrote Nona. There it was, and it was the most exact thing—’Nona: goods shipwrecked and found floating in the sea.’ I meant to have torn out the page. I forgot. I left it there and Tony saw it.”
Sabre said, “What did he say?” In all she had told him there was something omitted. He knew that his question approached the missing quantity. But she did not answer it.
She went on, “Well, there was you. And I began to want you most awfully. You were always such a dear, slow person; and I wanted that most awfully. You were so steady and good and you had such quiet old ideas about duty and rightness and things, and you thought about things so, and I wanted that most frightfully. You see, I’d known you all my life—well, that’s how it was, Marko. That explains all the things you asked. I said ‘There’; and I said I had to come; because I’d wanted it so much, so long. And I wanted you to write to me because I did want to go on having the help I had from you—”