From then till eleven o’clock, when he would make himself some cocoa on a little spirit-lamp, the writer of the “Book of Universal Brotherhood” would alternate between his bent posture above his manuscript and his blank consideration of the night....
With a jerk, Hilary came back to his reflections beneath the bust of Socrates.
“Each of us has a shadow in those places—in those streets!”
There certainly was a virus in that notion. One must either take it as a jest, like Stephen; or, what must one do? How far was it one’s business to identify oneself with other people, especially the helpless—how far to preserve oneself intact—’integer vita’? Hilary was no young person, like his niece or Martin, to whom everything seemed simple; nor was he an old person like their grandfather, for whom life had lost its complications.
And, very conscious of his natural disabilities for a decision on a like, or indeed on any, subject except, perhaps, a point of literary technique, he got up from his writing-table, and, taking his little bulldog, went out. His intention was to visit Mrs. Hughs in Hound Street, and see with his own eyes the state of things. But he had another reason, too, for wishing to go there ....
THE LITTLE MODEL
When in the preceding autumn Bianca began her picture called “The Shadow,” nobody was more surprised than Hilary that she asked him to find her a model for the figure. Not knowing the nature of the picture, nor having been for many years—perhaps never—admitted into the workings of his wife’s spirit, he said:
“Why don’t you ask Thyme to sit for you?”
Blanca answered: “She’s not the type at all—too matter-of-fact. Besides, I don’t want a lady; the figure’s to be half draped.”
Blanca knew quite well that he was smiling at this distinction between ladies and other women, and understood that he was smiling, not so much at her, but at himself, for secretly agreeing with the distinction she had made.
And suddenly she smiled too.
There was the whole history of their married life in those two smiles. They meant so much: so many thousand hours of suppressed irritation, so many baffled longings and earnest efforts to bring their natures together. They were the supreme, quiet evidence of the divergence of two lives—that slow divergence which had been far from being wilful, and was the more hopeless in that it had been so gradual and so gentle. They had never really had a quarrel, having enlightened views of marriage; but they had smiled. They had smiled so often through so many years that no two people in the world could very well be further from each other. Their smiles had banned the revelation even to themselves of the tragedy of their wedded state. It is certain that neither could help those smiles, which were not intended to wound, but came on their faces as naturally as moonlight falls on water, out of their inimically constituted souls.