“Ah, he’s not so innocent as all that,” said Tanny roughly. “Those young young men, who seem so fresh, they’re deep enough, really. They’re far less innocent really than men who are experienced.”
“They are, aren’t they, Tanny,” repeated Julia softly. “They’re old— older than the Old Man of the Seas, sometimes, aren’t they? Incredibly old, like little boys who know too much—aren’t they? Yes!” She spoke quietly, seriously, as if it had struck her.
Below, the orchestra was coming in. Josephine was watching closely. Julia became aware of this.
“Do you see anybody we know, Josephine?” she asked.
“No,” she said, looking at her friends quickly and furtively.
“Dear old Josephine, she knows all sorts of people,” sang Julia.
At that moment the men returned.
“Have you actually come back!” exclaimed Tanny to them. They sat down without answering. Jim spread himself as far as he could, in the narrow space. He stared upwards, wrinkling his ugly, queer face. It was evident he was in one of his moods.
“If only somebody loved me!” he complained. “If only somebody loved me I should be all right. I’m going to pieces.” He sat up and peered into the faces of the women.
“But we ALL love you,” said Josephine, laughing uneasily. “Why aren’t you satisfied?”
“I’m not satisfied. I’m not satisfied,” murmured Jim.
“Would you like to be wrapped in swaddling bands and laid at the breast?” asked Lilly, disagreeably.
Jim opened his mouth in a grin, and gazed long and malevolently at his questioner.
“Yes,” he said. Then he sprawled his long six foot of limb and body across the box again.
“You should try loving somebody, for a change,” said Tanny. “You’ve been loved too often. Why not try and love somebody?”
Jim eyed her narrowly.
“I couldn’t love YOU,” he said, in vicious tones.
“A la bonne heure!” said Tanny.
But Jim sank his chin on his chest, and repeated obstinately:
“I want to be loved.”
“How many times have you been loved?” Robert asked him. “It would be rather interesting to know.”
Jim looked at Robert long and slow, but did not answer.
“Did you ever keep count?” Tanny persisted.
Jim looked up at her, malevolent.
“I believe I did,” he replied.
“Forty is the age when a man should begin to reckon up,” said Lilly.
Jim suddenly sprang to his feet, and brandished his fists.
“I’ll pitch the lot of you over the bloody rail,” he said.
He glared at them, from under his bald, wrinkled forehead. Josephine glanced round. She had become a dusky white colour. She was afraid of him, and she disliked him intensely nowadays.
“Do you recognise anyone in the orchestra?” she asked.