He told her, and they were happy talking, and forgot how they thought differently on marriage. But always the difference lay there in the background, coiled up like a snake, ready to uncoil and seize them and make them quarrel and hurt one another. Always one was expecting the other at any moment to throw up the sponge and cry “Oh, have it your own way, since you won’t have it mine and I love you.” But neither did. Their wills stood as stiff as two rocks over against one another.
Gerda grew thinner under the strain, and healed more slowly than before. Her fragile, injured body was a battle-ground between her will and her love, and suffered in the conflict. Barry saw that it could not go on. They would, he said, stop talking about it; they would put it in the background and go on as if it were not there, until such time as they could agree. So they became friends again, lovers who lived in the present and looked to no future, and, since better might not be, that had to do for the time.
THAT WHICH REMAINS
Through September Neville had nursed Gerda by day and worked by night. The middle of October, just when they usually moved into town for the winter, she collapsed, had what the doctor called a nervous breakdown.
“You’ve been overworking,” he told her. “You’re not strong enough in these days to stand hard brain-work. You must give it up.”
For a fortnight she lay tired and passive, surrendered and inert, caring for nothing but to give up and lie still and drink hot milk. Then she struggled up and mooned about the house and garden, and cried weakly from time to time, and felt depressed and bored, and as if life were over and she were at the bottom of the sea.
“This must be what mother feels,” she thought. “Poor mother.... I’m like her; I’ve had my life, and I’m too stupid to work, and I can only cry.... Men must work and women must weep.... I never knew before that that was true.... I mustn’t see mother just now, it would be the last straw ... like the skeletons people used to look at to warn themselves what they would come to.... Poor mother ... and poor me.... But mother’s getting better now she’s being analysed. That wouldn’t help me at all. I analyse myself too much already.... And I was so happy a few months ago. What a dreadful end to a good ambition. I shall never work again, I suppose, in any way that counts. So that’s that.... Why do I want to work and to do something? Other wives and mothers don’t.... Or do they, only they don’t know it, because they don’t analyse? I believe they do, lots of them. Or is it only my horrible egotism and vanity, that can’t take a back seat quietly? I was always like that, I know. Nan and I and Gilbert. Not Jim so much, and not Pamela at all. But Rodney’s worse than I am; he wouldn’t want to be counted out, put on the shelf, in the forties;