Roots. That was the metaphor that had eluded Nan. To be rooted and grounded in life, like a tree. Someone had written something about that.
“Let your manhood be
Forgotten, your whole purpose seem
The purpose of a simple tree
Rooted in a quiet dream....”
Roots. That was what Neville had, what Pamela had; Pamela, with her sensible wisdom that so often didn’t apply because Pamela was so far removed from Nan’s conditions of life and Nan’s complicated, unstable temperament. Roots. Mrs. Hilary’s had been torn up out of the ground....
“I’m like mother.” That was Nan’s nightmare thought. Not intellectually, for Nan’s brain was sharp and subtle and strong and fine, Mrs. Hilary’s was an amorphous, undeveloped muddle. But where, if not from Mrs. Hilary, did Nan get her black fits of melancholy, her erratic irresponsible gaieties, her passionate angers, her sharp jealousies and egoisms? The clever young woman saw herself in the stupid elderly one; saw herself slipping down the years to that. That was why, where Neville and Pamela and their brothers pitied, Nan, understanding her mother’s bad moods better than they, was vicious with hate and scorn. For she knew these things through and through. Not the sentimentality; she didn’t know that, being cynical and cool except when stirred to passion. And not the posing, for Nan was direct and blunt. But the feverish angers and the black boredom—they were hers.
Nevertheless Nan’s heart sang into the night. For she had made up her mind, and was at peace.
She had held life at arm’s length, pushed it away, for many months, hiding from it, running from it because she didn’t with the whole of her, want it. Again and again she had changed a dangerous subject, headed for safety, raced for cover. The week-end before this last, down at Windover, it had been like a game of hide and seek.... And then she had come away, without warning, and he, going down there this last week-end, had not found her, because she couldn’t meet him again till she had decided. And now she had decided.
How unsuited a pair they were, in many ways, and what fun they would have! Unsuited ... what did it matter? His queer, soft, laughing voice was in her ears, his lean, clever, merry face swam on the rushing tides of night. His untidy, careless clothes, the pockets bulging with books, papers and tobacco, his glasses, that left a red mark on either side of the bridge of his nose, his easily ruffled brown hair—they all merged for her into the infinitely absurd, infinitely delightful, infinitely loved Barry, who was going to give her roots.