“A sadly vulgar, untruthful and ill-written book. The sort of autobiography Gilbert’s wife will write when she has time. It reminds me very much of her letters, and is, I am sure, still more like the diary which she no doubt keeps. Poor Gilbert....” Grandmama seemed to be confusing Gilbert momentarily with the Cabinet Minister. “I remember,” she went on, “meeting this young woman at Oxford, in the year of the first Jubilee.... A very bright talker. They can so seldom write....” She dozed again.
“Will this intolerable day,” Mrs. Hilary enquired of the housemaid who came in to make up the fire, “never be over? I suppose it will be bed-time some time....”
“It’s just gone a quarter past six, ma’am,” said the housemaid, offering little hope, and withdrew.
Mrs. Hilary went to the window and drew back the curtains and looked out at Marine Crescent in the gloomy, rainy twilight. The long evening stretched in front of her—the long evening which she had never learnt to use. Psycho-analysis, which had made her so much better while the course lasted, now that it was over (and it was too expensive to go on with forever) had left her worse than before. She was like a drunkard deprived suddenly of stimulants; she had nothing to turn to, no one now who took an interest in her soul. She missed Mr. Cradock and that bi-weekly hour; she was like a creeper wrenched loose from its support and flung flat on the ground. He had given her mental exercises and told her to continue them; but she had always hated mental exercises; you might as well go in for the Pelman course and have done. What one needed was a person. She was left once more face to face with time, the enemy; time, which gave itself to her lavishly with both hands when she had no use for it. There was nothing she wanted to do with time, except kill it.
“What, dear?” murmured Grandmama, as she rattled the blind tassel against the sill. “How about a game of piquet?”
But Mrs. Hilary hated piquet, and all card games, and halma, and dominoes, and everything. Grandmama used to have friends in to play with her, or the little maid. This evening she rang for the little maid, May, who would rather have been writing to her young man, but liked to oblige the nice old lady, of whom the kitchen was fond.
It was all very well for Grandmama, Mrs. Hilary thought, stormily revolting against that placidity by the hearth. All very well for Grandmama to sit by the fire contented with books and papers and games and sleep, unbitten by the murderous hatred of time that consumed herself. Everyone always thought that about Grandmama, that things were all very well for her, and perhaps they were. For time could do little more hurt to Grandmama. She need not worry about killing time; time would kill her soon enough, if she left it alone. Time, so long to Mrs. Hilary, was short now to Grandmama, and would soon be gone. As to May, the little maid, to her time was fleeting, and flew before her face, like a bird she could never catch....