It was now the turn of Arthur’s wife to sing. Arthur seemed to get further away: if it was possible, for he was at the remotest remote end of the room, near the gallery doors. The Colonel became quiet, pensive. The Major’s wife eyed the young woman in white lace, and seemed not to care for lace. Arthur seemed to be trying to push himself backwards through the wall. Lady Franks switched on more lights into the vast and voluminous crystal chandelier which hung like some glory-cloud above the room’s centre. And Arthur’s wife sang sweet little French songs, and Ye Banks and Braes, and Caro mio ben, which goes without saying: and so on. She had quite a nice voice and was quite adequately trained. Which is enough said. Aaron had all his nerves on edge.
Then he had to play the flute. Arthur strolled upstairs with him, arm-in-arm, where he went to fetch his instrument.
“I find music in the home rather a strain, you know,” said Arthur.
“Cruel strain. I quite agree,” said Aaron.
“I don’t mind it so much in the theatre—or even a concert—where there are a lot of other people to take the edge off— But after a good dinner—”
“It’s medicine,” said Aaron.
“Well, you know, it really is, to me. It affects my inside.” Aaron laughed. And then, in the yellow drawing-room, blew into his pipe and played. He knew so well that Arthur, the Major, the Major’s wife, the Colonel, and Sir William thought it merely an intolerable bore. However, he played. His hostess even accompanied him in a Mozart bit.
Aaron was awakened in the morning by the soft entrance of the butler with the tray: it was just seven o’clock. Lady Franks’ household was punctual as the sun itself.
But our hero roused himself with a wrench. The very act of lifting himself from the pillow was like a fight this morning. Why? He recognized his own wrench, the pain with which he struggled under the necessity to move. Why shouldn’t he want to move? Why not? Because he didn’t want the day in front—the plunge into a strange country, towards nowhere, with no aim in view. True, he said that ultimately he wanted to join Lilly. But this was hardly more than a sop, an excuse for his own irrational behaviour. He was breaking loose from one connection after another; and what for? Why break every tie? Snap, snap, snap went the bonds and ligatures which bound him to the life that had formed him, the people he had loved or liked. He found all his affections snapping off, all the ties which united him with his own people coming asunder. And why? In God’s name, why? What was there instead?