“Oh, I see I’ve interrupted. It was the last thing I meant. No, Neville, I’ll go back to my room alone. You go on with your talk with Grandmama. I hate interrupting like this. I hoped you would have let me join. I don’t get much of you in these days, after all. But stay and talk to Grandmama.”
That was the point at which Nan would have sworn to herself and gone down to the beach. Neville did neither. She was gentle and soothing, and Grandmama was infinitely untroubled, and Mrs. Hilary presently picked up her spirits and went back to bed, and Neville spent the evening with her. These little scenes had occurred so often that they left only a slight impression on those concerned and slightest of all on Mrs. Hilary.
When Mrs. Hilary and Grandmama were both settled for the night (old and elderly people settle for the night—other people go to bed) Neville went down to the seashore and lay on the sand, watching the moon rise over the sea.
Beauty was there, rather than in elderly people. But in elderly people was such pathos, such tragedy, such pity, that they lay like a heavy weight on one’s soul. If one could do anything to help....
To be aimless: to live on emotions and be by them consumed: that was pitiful. To have done one’s work for life, and to be in return cast aside by life like a broken tool: that was tragic.
The thing was to defy life; to fly in the face of the fool nature, break her absurd rules, and wrest out of the breakage something for oneself by which to live at the last.
Neville flung her challenge to the black sea that slowly brightened under the moon’s rising eye.
If you have broken off your medical studies at London University at the age of twenty-one and resume them at forty-three, you will find them (one is told) a considerably tougher job than you found them twenty-two years before. Youth is the time to read for examinations; youth is used to such foolishness, and takes it lightly in its stride. At thirty you may be and probably are much cleverer than you were at twenty; you will have more ideas and better ones, and infinitely more power of original and creative thought; but you will not, probably, find it so easy to grip and retain knowledge out of books and reproduce it to order. So the world has ordained that youth shall spend laborious days in doing this, and that middle age shall, in the main, put away these childish things, and act and work on in spite of the information thus acquired.