“Devilish stuff!” he repeated. “Just like a cancer—in pathology. You chop the damned thing out, root and branch, and there it pops out again, miles away from where it started. Look at that piece there.”
He attacked the little plant with rather unnecessary severity and dug up a thin, tough, cord-like root which he threw on the fire savagely.
“Louis, do you remember that schoolmaster on the Oriana?” she asked suddenly, staring thoughtfully at the long, thin leaders.
“Oh, that ass who sat in my chair? Yes. Why?”
“He told me a fearful thing about cancer.”
“He would—blighted idiot. What was it?”
She hesitated a minute.
“He said he’d read in some book—he was always reading queer books—that cancer was an elemental that had taken possession of one’s body. A horribly preying, parasitic life—feeding on one’s body—Ugh, it made me feel sick! And it’s so cruel, really, to say things like that. He seemed to suggest that elementals were something unclean that could not come except to unclean people. And—mother died of cancer. And mother was very beautiful.”
“Well, you can tell the footling ass from me that he’s a thumping liar. Elemental grandmother! Let me tell you this much—cancers come from one thing only, and that’s irritation—injury, often. Corsets, sometimes—or a blow—If I were to thump you—”
He laughed, and turned away.
“Yes, I know,” she said quietly. She was thinking of that stormy scene between her father and the two doctors when the faint smell of chloroform crept round her at the farm while she waited outside on the landing.
For nearly five months peace stole round Castle Lashcairn. Marcella was almost incredibly happy and so was Louis. Mrs. Twist and Marcella held long consultations about the baby, but Marcella, afraid of worrying Louis, tried to make him forget all about it. Even when, as time went on, she really began to feel tired and unable to work with him, she fought her tiredness indignantly; she was terrified lest he should get “raked up” and go along to the hotel for solace. So she hid everything from him, arranging all details with Mrs. Twist who promised to “see her through it.” There was no nurse within a hundred miles; there was a dreadful old woman who had brought several bottles of squareface with her when she attended Mrs. Twist at Millie’s birth. They decided to dispense with her services.
Marcella sent money to Mrs. King to buy things for her in Sydney. They spent a whole Sunday evening making out the list. Many of the things he had learnt, from textbooks, to associate with babies, Mrs. Twist thought unnecessary, but Marcella, with no basic opinion of her own, let him have his way, and one day in May he took Gryphon, the Twist pony, to fetch the packages from the station.