To get away, to get right away from everything and everyone, with Stephen. Not to have to go back to London alone, to see what she could not, surely, bear to see—Barry and Gerda, Gerda and Barry, always, everywhere, radiant and in love. And Neville, Gerda’s mother, who saw so much. And Rosalind, who saw everything, everything, and said so. And Mrs. Hilary....
To saunter round the queer, lovely corners of the earth with Stephen, light oneself by Stephen’s clear, flashing mind, look after Stephen’s weak, neglected body as he never could himself ... that was the only anodyne. Life would then some time become an adventure again, a gay stroll through the fair, instead of a desperate sickness and nightmare.
Barry, oh Barry.... Nan, who had thought she was getting better, found that she was not. Tears stormed and shook her at last. She crumpled up on the floor among the galley-slips, her head upon the chair.
Those damned proofs—who wanted them? What were books? What was anything?
Mrs. Hilary came in, in her dressing-gown, red-eyed. She had heard strangled sounds, and knew that her child was crying.
Her arms were round Nan’s shoulders; she was kneeling among the proofs.
“My little girl—Nan!”
They held each other close. It was a queer moment, though not an unprecedented one in the stormy history of their relations together. A queer, strange, comforting, healing moment, the fleeting shadow of a great rock in a barren land; a strayed fragment of something which should have been between them always but was not. Certainly an odd moment.
“My own baby.... You’re unhappy....”
“Unhappy—yes.... Darling mother, it can’t be helped. Nothing can be helped.... Don’t let’s talk ... darling.”
Strange words from Nan. Strange for Mrs. Hilary to feel her hand held against Nan’s wet cheek and kissed.
Strange moment: and it could not last. The crying child wants its mother; the mother wants to comfort the crying child. A good bridge, but one inadequate for the strain of daily traffic. The child, having dried its tears, watches the bridge break again, and thinks it a pity but inevitable. The mother, less philosophic, may cry in her turn, thinking perhaps that the bridge may be built this time in that way; but, the child having the colder heart, it seldom is.