“The one in spectacles.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Are you sure?”
“One can never be sure.”
“Of course if he doesn’t, it proves that I am right in saying that spectacles are fatal. They prevent people from using either their eyes or their imagination. Shall I go up to him and ask him?”
“He would answer: ‘I don’t understand.’”
“And I would explain: ‘Virginia is the only lady in orange,’ and he would look at you for a moment or two and, holding out his hand in an ecstasy of gratitude, he would say: ‘Thank you. Yes, I love her.’”
“Matthew,” she murmured, “what an unsuitable name.”
They sat in silence, interfered with only by the necessity of convincing passers-by that they did not want to be interrupted.
“Matthew,” she said, “do you see that tall fair man?”
“The blond beast?”
“With a very tall woman.”
“With gold hair and eyes like cows in pictures of Christ in a manger?”
“Yes. He loves her.”
“But it isn’t. He has a red-haired wife.”
“Matthew, do be serious. I like him.”
“I told him I hated his air of perfunctory but restrained passion, and he laughed.”
“Any one would have.”
“And we made friends.”
“You always make friends with everybody.”
“You are unsympathetic.”
“I am, I confess, a little bewildered by the situation. Do I understand that you are suffering from an unrequited passion for a man who is illegitimately attached to a magnificent cow and legitimately bound to a bewitching squirrel?”
“Matthew, you really are provoking. What I mean is that he is making a fool of himself.”
“Because he might do something irrevocable.”
She looked at him in desperation—a desperation half exasperation and half enchantment. If only Matthew would sometimes appear serious—there is something so restful about appearances. Instead of which he always remained superlatively unsatisfactory and superlatively irresistible.
“Virginia,” he said, “let us leave all this and drive round the park and I will talk to you like a lover in a bad book and I will mean every word I say.”
“We can’t go yet,” she murmured.
“Virginia,”—his voice was urgent—“I will be divinely pompous.”
That was so like him. He always tried to safeguard the simplest, most sincere moments of his life by inverted commas. It was a little trick that always irritated her.
“What an artist you are,” she remarked acidly.
“Yes, indeed,” he assented, smiling her out of her irritation. And then: “I have known you, Virginia, ever since I can remember.”
“You told me that the first time we met.”