“It’s a change,” he said, smiling.
“Oh, it must be more than that,” she said. “Why, you must feel a whole difference. It’s a whole new life.”
He smiled, as if he were laughing at her silently. She flushed.
“But isn’t it?” she persisted.
“Yes. It can be,” he replied.
He looked as if he were quietly amused, but dissociated. None of the people in the box were quite real to him. He was not really amused. Julia found him dull, stupid. Tanny also was offended that he could not perceive her. The men remained practically silent.
“You’re a chap I always hoped would turn up again,” said Jim.
“Oh, yes!” replied Aaron, smiling as if amused.
“But perhaps he doesn’t like us! Perhaps he’s not glad that we turned up,” said Julia, leaving her sting.
The flautist turned and looked at her.
“You can’t REMEMBER us, can you?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I can remember you.”
“Oh,” she laughed. “You are unflattering.”
He was annoyed. He did not know what she was getting at.
“How are your wife and children?” she asked spitefully.
“All right, I think.”
“But you’ve been back to them?” cried Josephine in dismay.
He looked at her, a slow, half smiling look, but did not speak.
“Come and have a drink. Damn the women,”
said Jim uncouthly, seizing
Aaron by the arm and dragging him off.
The party stayed to the end of the interminable opera. They had agreed to wait for Aaron. He was to come around to the vestibule for them, after the show. They trooped slowly down-stairs into the crush of the entrance hall. Chattering, swirling people, red carpet, palms green against cream-and-gilt walls, small whirlpools of life at the open, dark doorways, men in opera hats steering decisively about-it was the old scene. But there were no taxis—absolutely no taxis. And it was raining. Fortunately the women had brought shoes. They slipped these on. Jim rocked through the crowd, in his tall hat, looking for the flautist.
At last Aaron was found—wearing a bowler hat. Julia groaned in spirit. Josephine’s brow knitted. Not that anybody cared, really. But as one must frown at something, why not at the bowler hat? Acquaintances and elegant young men in uniforms insisted on rushing up and bowing and exchanging a few words, either with Josephine, or Jim, or Julia, or Lilly. They were coldly received. The party veered out into the night.
The women hugged their wraps about them, and set off sharply, feeling some repugnance for the wet pavements and the crowd. They had not far to go—only to Jim’s rooms in Adelphi. Jim was leading Aaron, holding him by the arm and slightly pinching his muscles. It gave him great satisfaction to have between his fingers the arm-muscles of a working-man, one of the common people, the fons et origo of modern life. Jim was talking rather vaguely about Labour and Robert Smillie, and Bolshevism. He was all for revolution and the triumph of labour.