“Who is he, Sally?” she asked abruptly. “What’s his name? Where does he live?”
“Who?” She tried to lift her eyebrows in surprise, but the blood rushed to her cheeks and burnt them red. “Who?” she repeated.
“The man you’re in love with. I asked you before if there was some one in the office; it’s silly going on denying it. You’d never have told Mr. Arthur so soon. You’d have hung it on and hung it on for heaven knows how long. No, something’s happened, happened to-day. Do you think I can’t see? You’re bubbling over with it, longing to tell me, and afraid I’ll laugh at you.” She rose to her feet and stuck her needle into the pincushion, then she put her arm round Sally’s waist, and hugged her gently. “Poor, ridiculous, little Sally,” she said, the first soft note that had entered her voice. “I wouldn’t laugh at you. Don’t you know you’re made to be loved—not like me. Men hate thin, bony faces and scraggy hair; they want something they can pinch and pet. Lord! Imagine a man pinching my cheeks—it ’ud be like picking up a threepenny bit off a glass counter. Who is he, Sally?”
Sally lifted up her face and kissed the thin cheek.
“Let’s get into bed,” she whispered.
They undressed in silence. Once, when Sally was not looking, Janet stole a glance at her soft round arms; then gazed contemplatively at her own. They were thin, like the rest of her body—the elbows thick, out of proportion to the arm itself. She bent it, and felt the sharp bone tentatively with her hand. Sally looked up, and she converted the motion of feeling into that of scratching, as though the place had irritated. Then she continued with her undressing.
When once they were in bed and the light was out, Sally told her everything. Janet made no comments. She listened with her eyes glaring out into the darkness, sometimes moistening her lips as they became dry. The unconscious note in Sally’s voice thrilled her; it was like that of a lark thanking God for the morning. She felt in it the pulse of the great force of sex—nature rising like a trembling god of power out of the drab realities of everyday existence.
It wakened a sleeping animal in her. She felt as though its stertorous breaths were fanning across her cheeks and she lay there parched under them.
“What’s that?” exclaimed Sally under her breath when she had finished her relation.
They both listened, breaths held waiting between their lips, their heads raised strainingly from their pillows.
On the other side of the wall was Mr. Arthur’s room, and from their beds they heard muffled sounds as of a person speaking. They waited to hear the other voice in reply. There was none. He must be speaking to himself. Sometimes the voice would stop. Then came one single sound like a groan, only that it was more exclamatory. For a few moments there was silence; then again a clattering noise. That was recognizable—a boot being thrown on to the floor. It came again—the second boot. Then another single sound of the voice, a sudden violent creaking of springs as a heavy body was thrown on to the bed; then silence.