Gerda moaned at last.
“Only a little longer,” said Nan, and laid her hand lightly and coolly on the hot wet forehead.
The little winner... damn her....
The edge of a smile, half-ironic, wholly bitter, twisted at Nan’s lips.
Voices and steps. Barry and a doctor, Barry and a stretcher, Barry and all kinds of help. Barry’s anxious eyes and smile. “Well? How’s she been?”
He was on his knees beside her.
“Here’s the doctor, darling.... I’m sorry I’ve been so long.”
Through the late September and October days Gerda would lie on a wicker couch in the conservatory at Windover, her sprained leg up, her broken wrist on a splint, her mending head on a soft pillow, and eat pears. Grapes too, apples, figs, chocolates of course—but particularly pears. She also wrote verse, and letters to Barry, and drew in pen and ink, and read Sir Leo Chiozza Money’s “Triumph of Nationalisation” and Mrs. Snowden on Bolshevik Russia, and “Lady Adela,” and “Coterie,” and listened while Neville read Mr. W.H. Mallock’s “Memoirs” and Disraeli’s “Life.” Her grandmother (Rodney’s mother) sent her “The Diary of Opal Whiteley,” but so terrible did she find it that it caused a relapse, and Neville had to remove it. She occasionally struggled in vain with a modern novel, which she usually renounced in perplexity after three chapters or so. Her taste did not lie in this direction.
“I can’t understand what they’re all about,” she said to Neville. “Poetry means something. It’s about something real, something that really is so. So are books like this—” she indicated “The Triumph of Nationalisation.” “But most novels are so queer. They’re about people, but not people as they are. They’re not interesting.”
“Not as a rule, certainly. Occasionally one gets an idea out of one of them, or a laugh, or a thrill. Now and then they express life, or reality, or beauty, in some terms or other—but not as a rule.”
Gerda was different from Kay, who devoured thrillers, shockers, and ingenious crime and mystery stories with avidity. She did not believe that life was really much like that, and Kay’s assertion that if it weren’t it ought to be, she rightly regarded as pragmatical. Neither did she share Kay’s more fundamental taste for the Elizabethans, Carolines and Augustans. She and Kay met (as regards literature) only on economics, politics, and modern verse. Gerda’s mind was artistic rather than literary, and she felt no wide or acute interest in human beings, their actions, passions, foibles, and desires.
So, surrounded by books from the Times library, and by nearly all the weekly and monthly reviews (the Bendishes, like many others, felt, with whatever regret, that they had to see all of these), Gerda for the most part, when alone, lay and dreamed dreams and ate pears.