Sally laughed again, and then Janet launched her boat of enterprise.
“You’re fond of kiddies, aren’t you, Sally?” she asked suddenly.
A tender look crept into Sally’s eyes. “You know I am,” she replied.
“Well—why don’t you go down to your people at Cailsham and help them for a little while in the school?”
The look of tenderness died out. Her eyes roamed pitiably about the room.
“I couldn’t leave here,” she said powerlessly.
“I couldn’t. It’s all reminding me I know; but I couldn’t be happy anywhere else. I should be miserable away from here.”
The meeting of such obstacles as this, Janet had anticipated. She knew well that slough of the mind which sucks in its own despair, and with all the concentration of her persuasion, she strove to lift Sally out of the morass. Failing on that occasion, she turned the conversation into another channel—let it drift as it pleased; but the next day she led it back again. At all costs Sally must be removed from the association of her surroundings, and no means offered better than these. Yet at the end of three weeks, notwithstanding all the patient persuasion that she employed, her object was as far from being reached as at the beginning.
“If you spoil your life, Sally,” she said, as she was going, “it’ll be the bitterest disappointment to me that I can think of. No man is worth it to a woman—no woman’s worth it to a man. Can’t you get some ambition to do something? All your time’s your own, and you haven’t got to work for your living. He’s been generous enough—I’ll admit that. Let me give you lessons in drawing.”
“I could never learn anything like that,” said Sally, wearily. “Haven’t got it in me.”
This mood of wilful depression, bordering upon melancholia, can be perhaps the most trying test to friendship that exists. To throw life into the balance of chance—to fling it absolutely away in a moment of heroism for a friend one loves, is a simple task compared with the unwearying patience that is needed to face the lightless gloom of another’s misery. It taints all life, discolours all pleasures, tracks one—dogs one, like a shadow on the wall. Yet Janet passed the test with love the greater, even at the end of the gauntlet of those three weeks.
“I’ll be with you all day, the day after to-morrow,” she said, as she departed; “and think about teaching the kiddies—I would if I were you. You’d get awfully fond of them—as if they were your own. Sons of gentlemen! Think of them! Dear little chaps! My God—the mothers bore them, though.”