“Let us go and sit somewhere,” Edgar was saying, and they went into another room.
All of our real indiscretions in life come in the form of generalisations. A name is a warning, and we really give ourselves away in abstract philosophisings applied by an intelligent companion to the particular.
“Why should we accept ready-made standards?” Edgar said. “None of the great governing forces of life can fit into a ditch of conventions.”
“Sometimes you have to set out to sea and turn your back on the old familiar coastline.”
“In a pleasure boat for an excursion.”
“In a sailing ship for distant seas.”
“Argosies have a way of turning into penny steamers.”
“You ought not to say that—you of all people, who sail the seas in a tub with a sunshade.”
“Oh,” she said, “I am at the mercy of the winds. But you have a harbour and an anchor and a flag to fly.”
“You are thinking that I’m a fool.”
“One must sometimes cut one’s losses.”
“One must sometimes cut one’s gains—a much more difficult thing.”
“You can’t throw away light.”
“The world is brighter with your back to the sun.”
“Virginia,” he said, “I have made up my mind.”
“What can I say? I am helpless. I see you going shipwreck on dummy rocks—the water let in by a penknife.”
“You are cruel.”
“Don’t you think I know those frontiers, when paradise seems but a step away, but you know that it is a step you can’t retrace?”
“Why should you want to go backwards?”
She looked past him into space.
“Behind us,” she murmured, “lie so many things—memories of childhood, dim happy echoes, primroses and hoops and peace shot with laughter. When you have taken your step you daren’t look back. Remembering hurts too much. And so you look forward—always forward, knowing that the promised land is behind you.”
Grace was dancing round and round, wondering how one stopped. Away from him she felt restless and nervous and will-less and incomplete, like a frustrated animal lost and impotent, with smouldering rage in her heart and sulky fires in her eyes. Why didn’t he come to release her, to calm the tearing fever of her blood?
Again and again she walked through the library and always he was on the sofa with Virginia—Virginia in her orange haze melting into cushions; and sometimes he was bending right forward, his whole body curved into urgency. And when she passed, he half looked up with the tail end of a smile falling as it were accidentally in her direction.
Estelle laughed and talked, her feet twinkled, her eyes danced. Marriage, she said, was an altogether delightful thing, quite different from what people thought——