“No, don’t say anything against her. I like her so much.”
“Mr. French!—Well, he’s perhaps a little like the princess who felt the pea through three feather-beds. But he can be quite witty, and an excellent conversationalist, too. Oh yes, I like him quite well.”
“Matter of taste,” said Aaron.
They had not much to say to one another. The time passed, in the pauses. He looked at his watch.
“I shall have to go,” he said.
“Won’t you stay?” she said, in a small, muted voice.
“Stay all night?” he said.
“Yes,” he said quietly. Did he not feel the strength of his desire on him.
After which she said no more. Only she offered him whiskey and soda, which he accepted.
“Go then,” he said to her. “And I’ll come to you.—Shall I come in fifteen minutes?”
She looked at him with strange, slow dark eyes. And he could not understand.
“Yes,” she said. And she went.
And again, this night as before, she seemed strangely small and clinging in his arms. And this night he felt his passion drawn from him as if a long, live nerve were drawn out from his body, a long live thread of electric fire, a long, living nerve finely extracted from him, from the very roots of his soul. A long fine discharge of pure, bluish fire, from the core of his soul. It was an excruciating, but also an intensely gratifying sensation.
This night he slept with a deeper obliviousness than before. But ah, as it grew towards morning how he wished he could be alone.
They must stay together till the day was light. And she seemed to love clinging to him and curling strangely on his breast. He could never reconcile it with her who was a hostess entertaining her guests. How could she now in a sort of little ecstasy curl herself and nestle herself on his, Aaron’s breast, tangling his face all over with her hair. He verily believed that this was what she really wanted of him: to curl herself on his naked breast, to make herself small, small, to feel his arms around her, while he himself was remote, silent, in some way inaccessible. This seemed almost to make her beside herself with gratification. But why, why? Was it because he was one of her own race, and she, as it were, crept right home to him?
He did not know. He only knew it had nothing to do with him: and that, save out of complaisance, he did not want it. It simply blasted his own central life. It simply blighted him.
And she clung to him closer. Strange, she was afraid of him! Afraid of him as of a fetish! Fetish afraid, and fetish-fascinated! Or was her fear only a delightful game of cat and mouse? Or was the fear genuine, and the delight the greater: a sort of sacrilege? The fear, and the dangerous, sacrilegious power over that which she feared.