“I love it,” said Lilly. “I love this place, I love the cathedral and the tower. I love its pinkness and its paleness. The Gothic souls find fault with it, and say it is gimcrack and tawdry and cheap. But I love it, it is delicate and rosy, and the dark stripes are as they should be, like the tiger marks on a pink lily. It’s a lily, not a rose; a pinky white lily with dark tigery marks. And heavy, too, in its own substance: earth-substance, risen from earth into the air: and never forgetting the dark, black-fierce earth—I reckon here men for a moment were themselves, as a plant in flower is for the moment completely itself. Then it goes off. As Florence has gone off. No flowers now. But it HAS flowered. And I don’t see why a race should be like an aloe tree, flower once and die. Why should it? Why not flower again? Why not?”
“If it’s going to, it will,” said Aaron. “Our deciding about it won’t alter it.”
“The decision is part of the business.”
Here they were interrupted by Argyle, who put his head through one of the windows. He had flecks of lather on his reddened face.
“Do you think you’re wise now,” he said, “to sit in that sun?”
“In November?” laughed Lilly.
“Always fear the sun when there’s an ‘r’ in the month,” said Argyle. “Always fear it ‘r’ or no ‘r,’ I say. I’m frightened of it. I’ve been in the South, I know what it is. I tell you I’m frightened of it. But if you think you can stand it—well—”
“It won’t last much longer, anyhow,” said Lilly.
“Too long for me, my boy. I’m a shady bird, in all senses of the word, in all senses of the word.—Now are you comfortable? What? Have another cushion? A rug for your knees? You’re quite sure now? Well, wait just one moment till the waiter brings up a syphon, and you shall have a whiskey and soda. Precious—oh, yes, very precious these days—like drinking gold. Thirty-five lire a bottle, my boy!” Argyle pulled a long face, and made a noise with his lips. “But I had this bottle given me, and luckily you’ve come while there’s a drop left. Very glad you have! Very glad you have.”