“But read the letter,” she said at last. “Read the letter again. Would he ever have written as abruptly as that if—if what you suggest is right? He might have asked me to—to think sometimes when I wore it—”
“Why? Is he a sentimentalist?”
“My goodness! No!”
“Well, then, he wouldn’t. That’s a stock phrase of the sentimentalist. The sentimentalist is always thinking, that’s all he does, and he breaks his heart over it if other people don’t act what he thinks.”
“Well, he’s not a sentimentalist, certainly.”
She even smiled when she thought of his exclamations during the fight.
“What are you smiling at?” asked Janet, quickly. “Something he said?”
“That wasn’t sentimental?”
“Well, he certainly wouldn’t have told you to think about him when you wore it. I imagine I can guess exactly what sort he is.”
“How can you guess?”
“Well, because I know what sort you are, and I fancy I know just the type of man whom you’d fall in love with as rapidly as you’ve fallen in love with this Mr. Traill. He’s hard—he can bend you—he can break you—he can crush you to dust, and there’ll still be some wind or other that’ud blow your ashes to his feet. He’s all man—man that’s got the brute in him, too—and you’re all woman, woman that’s got the mating instinct in her, and will go like the lioness across the miles of desert, without food and without water, when once she hears the song of sex in the hungry throat of her mate. Oh, it’s a pretty little story, too strong for a drawing-room; but Darwin’ll tell it you, Huxley’ll tell it you. But you’ll never read Darwin, and you’ll never read Huxley—except in a man’s eyes. Oh, I know you think I’m a beast, I know you think I’ve got no sense of refinement at all, that I might have been a man just as well as a woman. Lord! how your friend Traill would hate me, ’cause he’s got all I’ve got and more—in himself. But I don’t care what you say about that letter—the letter’s nothing. It’s the gift that’s the thing. That’s the song of sex if you like; and whether you return it, or whether you don’t, you’ll answer it, as he meant you to. You’ll go creeping across the desert, and you won’t touch water, and you won’t touch food, till you’ve reached him.”
She stood there, shaking the words out of her, the revolutionary in her eyes and God’s truth fearlessly in her breath. Then she lit a Virginian cigarette and walked out of the room.
There were occasions, as he had said, when Traill met his sister. They were infrequent, as infrequent as he could make them. And they were seldom, if ever, at her house in Sloane Street.
One evening, some three weeks or less after his parting with Sally, he took her out to dinner. He donned evening dress, loudly cursing the formality, and brought her to a fashionable restaurant, where he gently cursed the abject civility of the waiters beneath his breath.