When I think of these two children of nature, sitting opposite to one another in the fashionable restaurant trying to behave like super-civilised dolls, I cannot help smiling. They were both so thoroughly in earnest; and they bored themselves and each other so dreadfully. Conversation patched sporadically great expanses of silence and then they talked of the things that did not interest them in the least. Of course they smiled at each other, the smirk being essential to the polite atmosphere; and of course Jaffery played host in the orthodox manner, and Liosha acknowledged attentions with a courtesy equally orthodox. But how much happier they both would have been on a bleak mountain-side eating stew out of a pot! Even champagne and old brandy failed to exercise mellowing influences. The twain were petrified in their own awful correctitude. Perhaps if they had proceeded to a musical comedy or a farce or a variety entertainment where Jaffery could have expanded his lungs in laughter, their evening as a whole might have been less dismal. But a misapprehension as to the nature of the play had caused Jaffery to book seats for a gloomy drama with an ironical title, which stupefied them with depression.
When they waited for the front door of the house in Queen’s Gate to open to their ring, Liosha in her best manner thanked him for a most enjoyable evening.
“Most enjoyable indeed,” said Jaffery. “We must have another, if you will do me the honour. What do you say to this day week?”
“I shall be delighted,” said Liosha.
So that day week they repeated this extraordinary performance, and the week after that, and so on until it became a grim and terrifying fixture. And while Jaffery, in a fog of theory as to the Eternal Feminine, was trying to do his duty, Liosha struggled hard to smother her own tumultuous feelings and to carry out Barbara’s prescription for the treatment of overgrown babies; but the deuce of it was that though in her eyes Jaffery was pleasantly overgrown, she could not for the life of her regard him as a baby. So it came to pass that an unnatural pair continued to meet and mystify and misunderstand each other to the great content of the high gods and of one unimportant human philosopher who looked on.
“I told you all this artificiality was spoiling her,” Jaffery growled, one day. “She’s as prim as an old maid. I can’t get anything out of her.”
“That’s a pity,” said I.
“It is.” He reflected for a moment. “And the more so because she looks so stunning in her evening gowns. She wipes the floor with all the other women.”
I smiled. You can get a lot of quiet amusement out of your friends if you know how to set to work.
It was a gorgeous April day—one of those days when young Spring in madcap masquerade flaunts it in the borrowed mantle of summer. She could assume the deep blue of the sky and the gold of the sunshine, but through all the travesty peeped her laughing youth, the little tender leaves on the trees, the first shy bloom of the lilac, the swelling of the hawthorn buds, the pathetic immature barrenness of the walnuts.