“Is it love,” she asked of Barry, “that the men feel who want these women?”
Barry laughed shortly. “Love? Good Lord, no.”
“What then, Barry?”
“I don’t know that it can be explained, exactly.... It’s a passing taste, I suppose, a desire for the company of another sex from one’s own, just because it is another sex, though it may have no other attractions.... It’s no use trying to analyse it, one doesn’t get anywhere. But it’s not love.”
“What’s love, then? What’s the difference?”
“Have I to define love, walking down Magpie Alley? You could do it as well as I could. Love has the imagination in it, and the mind. I suppose that’s the difference. And, too, love wants to give. This is all platitude. No one can ever say anything new about love, it’s all been said. Got your latch-key?”
Gerda let herself into the Red House and went up to bed and lay wakeful. Very certainly she loved Barry, with all her imagination and all her mind, and she would have given him more than all that was hers. Very surely and truly she loved him, even if after all he was to be her uncle by marriage, which would make their family life like that in one of Louis Couperus’s books. But why unhappy like that? Was love unhappy? If she might see him sometimes, talk to him, if Nan wouldn’t want all of him all the time—and it would be unlike Nan to do that—she could be happy. One could share, after all. Women must share, for there were a million more women in England than men.
But probably Nan didn’t mean to marry him at all. Nan never married people....
Next morning at the office Barry said he had heard from Nan. She had asked him to come too and bicycle in Cornwall, with her and Gerda and Kay.
“You will, won’t you,” said Gerda.
“Rather, of course.”
A vaguely puzzled note sounded in his voice. But he would come.
Cornwall was illuminated to Gerda. The sharing
process would begin there.
But for a week more she had him to herself, and that was better.
Nan at Marazion bathed, sailed, climbed, walked and finished her book. She had a room at St. Michael’s Cafe, at the edge of the little town, just above the beach. Across a space of sea at high tide, and of wet sand and a paved causeway slimy with seaweed at the ebb, St. Michael’s Mount loomed, dark against a sunset sky, pale and unearthly in the dawn, an embattled ship riding anchored on full waters, or stranded on drowned sands.