he was seeing—a something to be passed
over, a very nothing. Yes, his was the face
of one looking at what was unintelligible, and therefore
negligible; at that which had no soul; at something
of a different and inferior species and of no great
interest to a man. His face was like a soundless
avowal of some conclusion, so fixed and intimate that
it must surely emanate from the very core of him—be
instinctive, unchangeable. This was the real
he! A man despising women! Her first thought
was: And he’s married—what a
fate! Her second: If he feels that, perhaps
thousands of men do! Am I and all women really
what they think us? The conviction in his stare—
its through-and-through conviction—had infected
her; and she gave in to it for the moment, crushed.
Then her spirit revolted with such turbulence, and
the blood so throbbed in her, that she could hardly
lie still. How dare he think her like that—a
nothing, a bundle of soulless inexplicable whims and
moods and sensuality? A thousand times, No!
It was he
who was the soulless one, the dry,
the godless one; who, in his sickening superiority,
could thus deny her, and with her all women!
That stare was as if he saw her—a doll
tricked out in garments labelled soul, spirit, rights,
responsibilities, dignity, freedom—all so
many words. It was vile, it was horrible, that
he should see her thus! And a really terrific
struggle began in her between the desire to get up
and cry this out, and the knowledge that it would
be stupid, undignified, even mad, to show her comprehension
of what he would never admit or even understand that
he had revealed to her. And then a sort of cynicism
came to her rescue. What a funny thing was married
life— to have lived all these years with
him, and never known what was at the bottom of his
heart! She had the feeling now that, if she went
up to him and said: “I am in love with that
boy!” it would only make him droop the corners
of his mouth and say in his most satiric voice:
“Really! That is very interesting!”—would
not change in one iota his real thoughts of her; only
confirm him in the conviction that she was negligible,
inexplicable, an inferior strange form of animal,
of no real interest to him.
And then, just when she felt that she could not hold
herself in any longer, he got up, passed on tiptoe
to the door, opened it noiselessly, and went out.
The moment he had gone, she jumped up. So, then,
she was linked to one for whom she, for whom women,
did not, as it were, exist! It seemed to her
that she had stumbled on knowledge of almost sacred
importance, on the key of everything that had been
puzzling and hopeless in their married life.
If he really, secretly, whole-heartedly despised
her, the only feeling she need have for one so dry,
so narrow, so basically stupid, was just contempt.
But she knew well enough that contempt would not
shake what she had seen in his face; he was impregnably
walled within his clever, dull conviction of superiority.
He was for ever intrenched, and she would always
be only the assailant. Though—what
did it matter, now?