“And do you send her money?” she asked.
“Ay,” said Aaron. “The house is mine. And I allow her so much a week out of the money in the bank. My mother left me a bit over a thousand when she died.”
“You don’t mind what I say, do you?” said Josephine.
“No I don’t mind,” he laughed.
He had this pleasant-seeming courteous manner. But he really kept her at a distance. In some things he reminded her of Robert: blond, erect, nicely built, fresh and English-seeming. But there was a curious cold distance to him, which she could not get across. An inward indifference to her—perhaps to everything. Yet his laugh was so handsome.
“Will you tell me why you left your wife and children?—Didn’t you love them?”
Aaron looked at the odd, round, dark muzzle of the girl. She had had her hair bobbed, and it hung in odd dark folds, very black, over her ears.
“Why I left her?” he said. “For no particular reason. They’re all right without me.”
Josephine watched his face. She saw a pallor of suffering under its freshness, and a strange tension in his eyes.
“But you couldn’t leave your little girls for no reason at all—”
“Yes, I did. For no reason—except I wanted to have some free room round me—to loose myself—”
“You mean you wanted love?” flashed Josephine, thinking he said lose.
“No, I wanted fresh air. I don’t know what I wanted. Why should I know?”
“But we must know: especially when other people will be hurt,” said she.
“Ah, well! A breath of fresh air, by myself. I felt forced to feel —I feel if I go back home now, I shall be FORCED—forced to love— or care—or something.”
“Perhaps you wanted more than your wife could give you,” she said.
“Perhaps less. She’s made up her mind she loves me, and she’s not going to let me off.”
“Did you never love her?” said Josephine.
“Oh, yes. I shall never love anybody else. But I’m damned if I want to be a lover any more. To her or to anybody. That’s the top and bottom of it. I don’t want to CARE, when care isn’t in me. And I’m not going to be forced to it.”
The fat, aproned French waiter was hovering near. Josephine let him remove the plates and the empty bottle.
“Have more wine,” she said to Aaron.
But he refused. She liked him because of his dead-level indifference to his surroundings. French waiters and foreign food—he noticed them in his quick, amiable-looking fashion—but he was indifferent. Josephine was piqued. She wanted to pierce this amiable aloofness of his.
She ordered coffee and brandies.
“But you don’t want to get away from EVERYTHING, do you? I myself feel so LOST sometimes—so dreadfully alone: not in a silly sentimental fashion, because men keep telling me they love me, don’t you know. But my LIFE seems alone, for some reason—”