“I don’t want you to pretend anything isn’t there, darling,” Neville, between the two generations, had said to Gerda once. “Only it seems to me that some of you children have one particular kind of truth too heavily on your minds. It seems to block the world for you.”
“You mean sex,” Gerda had told her, bluntly. “Well, it runs all through life, mother. What’s the use of hiding from it? The only way to get even with it is to face it. And use it.”
“Face it and use it by all means. All I meant was, it’s a question of emphasis. There are other things....”
Of course Gerda knew that. There was drawing, and poetry, and beauty, and dancing, and swimming, and music, and politics, and economics. Of course there were other things; no doubt about that. They were like songs, like colour, like sunrise, like flowers, these other things. But the basis of life was the desire of the male for the female and of the female for the male. And this had been warped and smothered and talked down and made a furtive, shameful thing, and it must be brought out into the day....
Neville smiled to hear all this tripping sweetly off Gerda’s lips.
“All right, darling, don’t mind me. Go ahead and bring it out into the day, if you think the subject really needs more airing than it already gets. I should have thought myself it got lots, and always had.”
And there they were; they talked at cross purposes, these two, across the gulf of twenty years, and with the best will in the world could not hope to understand, either of them, what the other was really at. And now here was Gerda, in Mrs. Hilary’s bedroom, looking across a gulf of forty years and saying nothing at all, for she knew it would be of no manner of use, since words don’t carry as far as that.
So all she said was “Tea’s ready, Grandmother.”
And Mrs. Hilary supposed that Gerda hadn’t, probably, noticed or understood those very queer things she had come upon while reading “The Breath of Life.”
They went down to tea.
It was a Monday evening, late in July. Pamela Hilary, returning from a Care Committee meeting, fitted her latch-key into the door of the rooms in Cow Lane which she shared with Frances Carr, and let herself into the hot dark passage hall.
A voice from a room on the right called “Come along, my dear. Your pap’s ready.”
Pamela entered the room on the right. A pleasant, Oxfordish room, with the brown paper and plain green curtains of the college days of these women, and Duerer engravings, and sweet peas in a bowl, and Frances Carr stirring bread and milk over a gas ring. Frances Carr was small and thirty-eight, and had a nice brown face and a merry smile. Pamela was a year older and tall and straight and pale, and her ash-brown hair swept smoothly back from a broad white