Pierson looked down at her with a troubled smile. There was something fantastic to him in this sudden philosophising by one whom he had watched grow up from a tiny thing. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings—sometimes! But then the young generation was always something of a sealed book to him; his sensitive shyness, and, still more, his cloth, placed a sort of invisible barrier between him and the hearts of others, especially the young. There were so many things of which he was compelled to disapprove, or which at least he couldn’t discuss. And they knew it too well. Until these last few months he had never realised that his own daughters had remained as undiscovered by him as the interior of Brazil. And now that he perceived this, he was bewildered, yet could not imagine how to get on terms with them.
And he stood looking at Noel, intensely puzzled, suspecting nothing of the hard fact which was altering her—vaguely jealous, anxious, pained. And when she had gone up to bed, he roamed up and down the room a long time, thinking. He longed for a friend to confide in, and consult; but he knew no one. He shrank from them all, as too downright, bluff, and active; too worldly and unaesthetic; or too stiff and narrow. Amongst the younger men in his profession he was often aware of faces which attracted him, but one could not confide deep personal questions to men half one’s age. But of his own generation, or his elders, he knew not one to whom he could have gone.
Leila was deep in her new draught of life. When she fell in love it had always been over head and ears, and so far her passion had always burnt itself out before that of her partner. This had been, of course, a great advantage to her. Not that Leila had ever expected her passions to burn themselves out. When she fell in love she had always thought it was for always. This time she was sure it was, surer than she had ever been. Jimmy Fort seemed to her the man she had been looking for all her life. He was not so good-looking as either Farie or Lynch, but beside him these others seemed to her now almost ridiculous. Indeed they did not figure at all, they shrank, they withered, they were husks, together with the others for whom she had known passing weaknesses. There was only one man in the world for her now, and would be for evermore. She did not idealise him either, it was more serious than that; she was thrilled by his voice, and his touch, she dreamed of him, longed for him when he was not with her. She worried, too, for she was perfectly aware that he was not half as fond of her as she was of him. Such a new experience puzzled her, kept her instincts painfully on the alert. It was perhaps just this uncertainty about his affection which made him seem more precious than any of the others. But there was ever the other reason, too-consciousness that Time was after her, and this