From Italy Neville went to Greece. Corinth, Athens, the islands, Tempe, Delphi, Crete—how good to have money and be able to see all these! Italy and Greece are Europe’s pleasure grounds; there the cultivated and the prosperous traveller may satisfy his soul and forget carking cares and stabbing ambitions, and drug himself with loveliness.
If Neville abruptly tired of it, and set her face homewards in early April, it was partly because she felt the need of Rodney, and partly because she saw, fleetingly but day by day more lucidly, that one could not take one’s stand, for satisfaction of desire, on the money which one happened to have but which the majority bitterly and emptily lacked. Some common way there had to be, some freedom all might grasp, a liberty not for the bourgeois only, but for the proletariat—the poor, the sad, the gay proletariat, who also grew old and lost their dreams, and had not the wherewithal to drug their souls, unless indeed they drank much liquor, and that is but a poor artificial way to peace.
Voyaging homewards through the spring seas, Neville saw life as an entangling thicket, the Woods of Westermain she had loved in her childhood, in which the scaly dragon squatted, the craving monster self that had to be subjugated before one could walk free in the enchanted woods.
“Him shall change, transforming
Dimly discerning through the thicket the steep path that climbed to such liberty as she sought, seeing far off the place towards which her stumbling feet were set, where life should be lived with alert readiness and response, oblivious of its personal achievements, its personal claims and spoils, Neville the spoilt, vain, ambitious, disappointed egoist, strained her eyes into the distance and half smiled. It might be a dream, that liberty, but it was a dream worth a fight....
February at St. Mary’s Bay. The small fire flickered and fluttered in the grate with a sound like the windy beating of wings. The steady rain sloped against the closed windows of The Gulls, and dropped patteringly on the asphalt pavements of Marine Crescent outside, and the cold grey sea tumbled moaning.
Grandmama sat in her arm-chair by the hearth, reading the Autobiography of a Cabinet Minister’s Wife and listening to the fire, the sea and the rain, and sleeping a little now and again.
Mrs. Hilary sat in another arm-chair, surrounded by bad novels, as if she had been a reviewer. She was regarding them, too, with something of the reviewer’s pained and inimical distaste, dipping now into one, shutting it with a sharp sigh, trying another; flinging it on the floor with an ejaculation of anger and fatigue.
Grandmama woke with a start, and said “What fell? Did something fall?” and adjusted her glasses and opened the Autobiography again.