Nan stayed at the empty little town to be alone. But she was not alone all the time, for at Newlyn, five miles away, there was the artist colony, and some of these artists were her friends. (In point of fact, it is impossible to be alone in Cornwall; the place to go to for that would be Hackney, or some other district of outer London, where inner Londoners do not go for holidays.) Had she liked she could have had friends to play with all day, and talk and laughter and music all night, as in London. She did not like. She went out by herself, worked by herself; and all the time, in company, or alone, talking or working, she knew herself withdrawn really into a secret cove of her own which was warm and golden as no actual coves in this chill summer were warm and golden; a cove on whose good brown sand she lay and made castles and played, while at her feet the great happy sea danced and beat, the great tumbling sea on which she would soon put out her boat.
She would count the days before Barry would be with her.
“Three weeks now. Twenty days; nineteen, eighteen...” desiring neither to hurry nor to retard them, but watching them slip behind her in a deep content. When he came, he and Gerda and Kay, they would spend one night and one day in this fishing-town, lounging about its beach, and in Newlyn, with its steep crooked streets between old grey walls hung with shrubs, and beyond Newlyn, in the tiny fishing hamlets that hung above the little coves from Penzance to Land’s End. They were going to bicycle all along the south coast. But before that they would have had it out, she and Barry; probably here, in the little pale climbing fishing-town. No matter where, and no matter how; Nan cared nothing for scenic arrangements. All she had to do was to convey to Barry that she would say yes now to the question she had put off and off, let him ask it, give her answer, and the thing would be done.
Meanwhile she wrote the last chapters of her book, sitting on the beach among drying nets and boats, in some fishing cove up the coast. The Newlyn shore she did not like, because the artist-spoilt children crowded round her, interrupting.
“Lady, lady! Will you paint us?”
“No. I don’t paint.”
“Then what are you doing?”
“Writing. Go away.”
“May we come with you to where you’re staying?”
“No. Go away.”
“Last year a lady took us to her studio and gave us pennies. And when she’d gone back to London she sent us each a doll.”
“Lady, if we come with you to your studio, will you give us pennies?”
“No. Why should I?”
“You might because you wanted to paint us. You might because you liked us.”
“I don’t do either. Go away now.”
They withdrew a little and turned somersaults, supposing her to be watching. The artistic colony had a lot to answer for, Nan thought; they were making parasites and prostitutes of the infant populace. Children could at their worst be detestable in their vanity, their posing, their affectation, their unashamed greed.